WH Solicitation; Hearings Important; Media Reporter Scolds Nets
- Four big
revelations in papers over the past week, but two are ignored and
Sunday's LA Times report on how Maggie Williams solicited a check
in the White House gets a full story on just one network.
- ABC aired an
interview with Charlie Trie in which "he scoffs at the notion
that he might be working as an agent for the Chinese."
Barbour's testimony led to two morning interview segments. With
both sides dirty, NBC's Sara James hoped: "Does it end
- A poll found
that 80 percent find the hearings important. And, a leading media
reporter declared: "The real significant failure here has
been by NBC and ABC which has simply blown off these
1) Three big newspapers, over
the past week, broke four big revelations on the Democratic
fundraising front. Two were ignored by all the broadcast networks plus
CNN, two of the three broadcast networks skipped a third big story,
and the fourth, which appeared Sunday, generated the first full
evening show story. To review, in date order:
-- REVELATION #1: A
front page headline in the Sunday July 20 Los Angeles Times announced
"White House Helped Boost Trie Onto Asia Trade Panel." The
"Newly available records
obtained by The Times show that the White House went to extraordinary
lengths to promote and place Trie...on the Presidential Commission on
U.S. Trade and Investment Policy. 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 'highly confidential.'"
Coverage: Nothing that
night or since on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's
The World Today or NBC Nightly News nor the morning shows on Monday or
since: ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning or NBC's Today.
(See the July 22 CyberAlert for details)
-- REVELATION #2: "Clinton
Sought Role as Fundraiser, Memo Says" announced a front page New
York Times headline on Thursday, July 24. Contradicting earlier White
House recollections, the New York Times revealed that "President
Clinton personally requested a list of potential contributors whom he
offered to call..."
Coverage: In the
morning, only NBC's Today ran a story -- in the 8am news. By evening,
NBC had lost interest and only the CBS Evening News touched it,
devoting half a story to the disclosure. That was it. Nothing then or
since on ABC's World News Tonight or GMA, or on NBC Nightly News or on
CNN's The World Today. (See the July 25 CyberAlert for more details)
-- REVELATION #3: "5
in Lippo Deal Got a Meeting at the White House," declared a July
26 Washington Times front page headline. Washington Times reporter
Warren Strobel began:
businessmen who were part of a $1 billion energy deal involving
Indonesia's Lippo Group were given a tour of the White House and held
a meeting that may have included campaign finance figure John Huang,
according to White House documents." The group met with Mark
Middleton, a top aide to Chief-of-Staff Mack McLarty. Strobel
explained the implication: "The meeting is the latest revelation
of an instance in which Mr. Huang and others apparently traded on
their easy access to the White House in order to impress business
Coverage: Zilch on
Saturday's Today, though news anchor Bob Kur found time to report that
during Friday's hearings former RNC Chairman Richard Richards had
"refuted" testimony from Haley Barbour. Also skipping the
latest Huang revelation: ABC's World News Tonight Saturday, CBS
Evening News, NBC Nightly News and CNN's The World Today.
All did, however, air stories
on Clinton and Gore going to Lake Tahoe to promise more federal
spending to clean up the lake. NBC Nightly News ran two stories. They
began the first with this on-screen chyron about the Clinton/Gore
trip: "To the Rescue."
On Sunday, the only mention
was generated by Senator Specter who raised the issue on Fox News
Sunday. But ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows Sunday night continued to
ignore the story.
-- REVELATION #4: A
front page headline in the July 27 Los Angeles Times: "First
Lady's Aide Solicited Check to DNC, Donor Says" Another Sunday,
another big LA Times story, but unlike the July 20 item this one got
some attention. Maybe because a short version appeared in Sunday's
Washington Post. But first, the story. Reporters William Rempel and
Alan Miller's opening:
by the Clinton administration, one of the Democratic Party's biggest
campaign donors says he gave a $50,000 check to the first lady's chief
of staff on White House grounds in 1995 in direct response to
solicitations by aides of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
entrepreneur Johnny Chien Chuen Chung said he was seeking VIP
treatment for a delegation of visiting Chinese businessmen when he was
asked to help the first lady defray the cost of White House Christmas
receptions billed to the Democratic National Committee.
"Chung, who has refused
to cooperate with investigators unless granted immunity from
prosecution, told The Times during interviews that he realized such
special treatment hinged on his willingness to make a political
contribution. 'I see the White House is like a subway: You have to put
in coins to open the gates,' Chung said in his first public comments
on the controversial episode."
Later, referring to Hillary
Clinton's Chief-of-Staff Maggie Williams, the Times reporters
emphasized: "Chung's detailed version of White House events,
combined with other newly available information, challenges the
President's insistence that Williams played 'a completely passive'
role in relaying an unsolicited $50,000 check to the DNC."
Coverage: Not a word
on Sunday's Good Morning America or Today, but the interview shows all
raised the story, or at least Chung's subway analogy. On ABC's This
Week, Linda Douglass read the subway quote to Senator Tom Daschle.
During the Meet the Press roundtable Tim Russert asked NBC reporter
Lisa Myers to comment on it. On Face the Nation CBS reporter Rita
Braver asked Senator John Glenn for his reaction to the
An explosive story according
to a CBS reporter, but here's all it got on the July 27 CBS Evening
News, in full:
Anchor John Roberts: "A
California businessman claims he handed a $50,000 check to a top aide
of Hillary Clinton on White House grounds. Johnny Chung told the Los
Angeles Times that the White House is like a subway, quote 'you have
to put in the coins to open up the gates.' The White House says Chung
did not receive any special treatment for his donation."
ABC's Bob Zelnick squeezed in
a couple of sentences about Chung at end the of a story about Sunday
morning interview show comments from Trent Lott, Pete Domenici and Tom
Daschle about immunity, the independent counsel and Janet Reno.
NBC Nightly News, however,
devoted its lead story by Joe Johns to the LA Times discovery, the
first and only full story over the past eight days on any of the four
Democratic fundraising scandal revelations.
2) Bob Zelnick's story aired
second on ABC's World News Tonight Sunday. Up first: what anchor
Carole Simpson billed as an exclusive interview with Charlie Trie who
Simpson asserted "is speaking for the first time tonight,
exclusively to ABC News." Linda Douglass narrated story from
Washington, explaining that Trie is living in China but may return
because his lawyers say he will be indicted and should come back to
Douglass continued: "Trie,
a former Little Rock restaurant owner and friend of President
Clinton's stands accused of giving more that $640,000 in possibly
illegal foreign contributions to the Democrats. Trie told ABC News
Democratic officials never asked him where the money was coming from
or explained the campaign finance laws, but he scoffs at the notion
that he might be working as an agent for the Chinese government."
Trie: "I have nothing to
hide. But I don't know how become this about spying. This kind of
thing totally is false."
Douglass then concluded:
"Another reason Trie is considering returning, is that the State
Department has asked the Chinese government to help locate Trie. Last
week Chinese officials said they didn't know if he was in China even
though he's been in Beijing for weeks living in a hotel registered
under his own name."
He may "scoff at the
notion," but why would a U.S. citizen with nothing to hide flee
to communist China?
3) Friday coverage.
Haley Barbour's testimony prompted ABC's first weekday GMA interview
segment on the hearings since the first week. Charles Gibson asked
Cokie Roberts: "How serious are the charges against Haley
Barbour? Very serious, or simply a chance for Democrats to say, 'A-ha,
you Republicans do it, too'?" Cokie Roberts replied: "I
think more the second."
That's just the opposite of
what Linda Douglass told World News Tonight viewers on Thursday night,
as she concluded: "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
Gibson followed the liberal
campaign finance reform line, later inquiring of Roberts: "Cokie,
everyone agrees this is a horrible system that we have, the campaign
finance system. Do you see reform coming out of these hearings, or are
we going to be left with the same system that everybody agrees doesn't
Friday's Today also featured
the first interview segment since the first week. Here's a humorous
exchange caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens. As transcribed by MRC
intern Jessica Anderson, NBC anchor Sara James seems to think that
since both sides did the same thing it's time to end the hearings.
Tim Russert: "It was
Republican Fred Thompson who scored the points by saying, 'Will you at
least acknowledge, Mr. Barbour, that you owe some money to a gentleman
in Hong Kong, who you took, borrowed money from and never repaid the
loan?' But overall, the Democrats got their poster boy. Haley Barbour
was not hurt all that much."
Sara James: "Does it end
Russert: "No, it will
continue on today and then next week, Sara, the Democrats go back in
the witness stand. The country right now still believes they all do
it, although even some Democrats are willing to acknowledge the
excesses by the Clinton Administration were much worse than the
Republican Party thus far."
Now if only a few more
journalists would acknowledge that.
Friday evening only the CBS
Evening News of the broadcast networks ran a story. Dan Rather
announced: "Today's session of the Senate's dirty campaign money
hearings was not easy listening for Republicans. It featured the
spectacle of one party Chairman openly refuting the testimony of
another on questions of foreign money."
Bob Schieffer explained:
"Barbour claimed yesterday the loan had nothing to do with
politics, but that too was contradicted by Richards who said Barbour
clearly had politics on his mind when he asked him to arrange the
loan." Schieffer ended with the usual everybody's equally guilty
spin: "It's not clear if Barbour will be called back to the
committee to re-explain all this, but John Glenn, the committee's top
Democrat says, it just show the influence of foreign money on both
parties and that it ought to stop."
4) No one cares about the
hearings? So say reporters. ABC"s Forrest Sawyer asserted on the
April 10 Nightline: "The first week has now drawn to a close, and
it's fair to say that this highly-touted, much-anticipated examination
of a problem most Americans consider critical, is so far a bust.
Little public interest, no headlines, and no focus."
Really? Here are the results
of a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll announced on the July 27 Fox News
"How important are the
Senate campaign finance hearings?"
Somewhat Important: 20%
Not that Important: 20%
Recognition that the networks
are failing to fulfill their responsibilities has spread to the
mainstream press. Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz rejects
the notion of liberal media bias, but on CNN's Reliable Sources on
Sunday Kurtz charged:
"The real significant
failure here has been by NBC and ABC which has simply blown off these
hearings, just blotted them out of their evening newscasts, which is
their front page, on many, many days of the hearings so far and I just
think that is just giving the back of your hand to an important
We've been saying that for
three weeks, but we welcome Kurtz's agreement.
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