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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| August 6, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 123) |


Clinton Buddy & Adviser Takes Over CNN; Al Gore's Calls Ignored

  1. The new President of CNN: Rick Kaplan, a FOB who crossed the line to strategize in 1992 with candidate Bill Clinton on how to overcome the Gennifer Flowers story.
  2. Al Gore made many more fundraising calls than he previously admitted from federal property, but the networks are silent.
  3. MSNBC's InterNight focused on Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's sex life, but last week instead of mentioning Kathleen Willey the show asked Mike McCurry about the Air Force One movie.

1) CNN has tapped Rick Kaplan, a Friend of Bill who advised him on how to overcome the Gennifer Flowers revelation and was rewarded with a stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, to take control of its news operation. A top ABC News producer who has run Nightline, Prime Time Live and World News Tonight, Kaplan was named President of CNN on Tuesday. And who picked Kaplan? Tom Johnson, a Democratic activist turned President of CNN who now has the title of Chairman of the CNN News Group. Tom Johnson served as Deputy Press Secretary and later Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson the late 1960s.

CNN brought Kaplan in to try to pump up its sagging ratings. The AP noted: "CNN's average daily audience has shrunk from 526,000 households in July 1995 to 341,000 last month and is heavy on older viewers that many advertisers shy away from."

So what background does Kaplan bring to CNN? Shortly after he took over World News Tonight, this is how Knight-Ridder's Marc Gunther opened a profile story that ran in the February 8, 1994 Detroit News:

"When ABC News installed Rick Kaplan as Executive Producer of World News Tonight, the network put an FOB -- friend of Bill, President Clinton, that is -- in charge of America's most watched evening newscast.

"Kaplan and Clinton have know each other since the late 1970s, and last year the ABC producer played golf with the President and spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom....

"But conservative media critics [that's the MRC] say Kaplan went beyond friendship during the 1992 campaign when he operated as an occasional and informal adviser to Clinton, while working as Executive Producer of Prime Time Live."

From the March, 1997 MediaWatch, an excerpt from the Revolving Door column detailing how Kaplan crossed the line during the 1992 campaign:

Clinton's Slumber Party

The names of several media executives were sprinkled among the 831 names made public of overnight White House guests in Clinton's first term: CNN founder Ted Turner, CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, and Rick Kaplan, a long-time ABC News executive recently in charge of specials in ABC's entertainment division....

Kurtz noted that Kaplan was the Executive Producer of World News Tonight when he "stayed at the White House with his wife in the summer of 1993." So, is there anything wrong with accepting an invitation from Clinton, whom Kaplan calls a longtime "friend"? Not as long as you keep it secret, Kaplan suggested in the March 3 Electronic Media: "It's nobody's business." Kurtz summarized Kaplan's view: "Kaplan said his visit did not create an appearance problem because it was never made public until now. He said his ties to Clinton had no impact on his work." He assured Kurtz: "The idea that you could suddenly decide to gild the lily or twist the news, it's a non-starter."

Kaplan is more than just a one-night guest. While Executive Producer of Prime Time Live in 1992 he provided Clinton campaign strategy when the Gennifer Flowers story broke. "Clinton called Kaplan for advice," Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Rosenstiel recounted in his campaign book Strange Bedfellows. On the way to the airport, Clinton made another call to Kaplan and the "night ended for Kaplan at 4am, when Clinton called one last time."

Two months later as Clinton's campaign floundered in New York, aides suggested an appearance on the Don Imus show. "The appearance was clinched," CNN producer Matthew Saal recalled in the January 1993 Washington Monthly, "when Rick Kaplan...called the radio show host to see if he could get the pair together. The answer was yes."

In the overnight calls after the Flowers story broke, Gunther noted that Rosenstiel quoted Kaplan as telling Clinton: "Do the toughest interview you can. If you want to prove your credibility, you don't want to do it on Good Morning America or the Today show. And you don't won't get ratings in the morning. You have to go for the largest audience." After Clinton decided to go on 60 Minutes, during the 4am call, Rosenstiel learned, Kaplan advised Clinton to face down a famous name like Mike Wallace or Morley Safer. Voters "are going to remember that you stood up to Mike Wallace." [The Clinton's went on with Steve Kroft.]

Of course, if Kaplan were acting as a newsman and not a political adviser he would have used his friendship to get Clinton to appear on an ABC show.

News stories on the Fox News Channel frequently emphasize that FNC President Roger Ailes was a campaign strategist to Republicans and George Bush in 1988. Check the stories you read today on Kaplan to see how many mention Kaplan's Clinton connection. The AP story by David Bauder did not.

And CNN better make sure its libel insurance is paid up. Kaplan was Executive Producer of Prime Time Live when it aired the Food Lion story. In addition to assessing a judgment against ABC News, the North Carolina jury assessed a $35,000 judgment personally on Kaplan.

2) A Tuesday New York Daily News story revealed that Vice President Al Gore placed many more fundraising call than previously admitted, but the broadcast networks skipped the disclosure. MRC development associate David Young alerted me to the story highlighted on the Drudge Report Web site. In a story headlined "Veep Gore Dials for Dollars," Washington reporter Thomas Galvin began his August 5 piece:

"When Vice President Gore called philanthropist Ann Getty from his White House office in late 1995 to ask her for campaign cash, it took a minute to squeeze $50,000 out of her. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos took a little longer. Gore stayed on the phone for 4 and a half minutes before Angelos agreed to fork over $100,000, according to fund-raising documents obtained by the Daily News....

"Gore contends the calls were legal, but his phone solicitations defied White House lawyer Abner Mikva's admonition to keep fund-raising activities off federal property.

"The documents, which compile calls billed to a Clinton-Gore campaign credit card, show that he made phone solicitations on nine different occasions....

"In all, the documents show Gore made at least 48 phone calls suggesting he was far busier on the phone than he indicated when his fund-raising calls became public in March."

Coverage: Zilch on Tuesday's ABC Good Morning America, This Morning on CBS and NBC's Today. Same wipe-out in the evening as ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News all ignored the development.

MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught this related exchange on last Wednesday's (July 30) Larry King Live on CNN:

Larry King: "How about some, mostly on the political right, who say that we are not giving enough attention to this finance story?"

Tom Brokaw: "I think that the highlights certainly have been there. We did another big story tonight on NBC Nightly News about Charlie Trie. We did one last night about where his money came from. When there has been something new and interesting that advances the story, we put it right on the air...."

Right on the air? Really? The night Brokaw appeared on King's show, NBC Nightly News had failed to tell its viewers that the White House had released papers showing that Trie's contact, Mr. Wu, had attended ten White House functions. Both ABC and CBS highlighted this and Fred Thompson's anger over how the White House had delayed releasing the documents. Nightly News and Today have yet to report anything about this example of White House obstructionism.

Then Tuesday night Nightly News didn't bother with "highlights" of the Gore news. But that matches how NBC Nightly News handled the last fundraising calls revelation. "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..." Neither NBC Nightly News or ABC's World News Tonight uttered a word about it.

3) As detailed in the August 5 CyberAlert, CNN's Inside Politics allocated barely two minutes to the Kathleen Willey story last week and has yet to update it with the new details provided by the August 11 Newsweek. But on Monday CNN dedicated half of Inside Politics to allegations that New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is having an affair with his Communications Director.

MSNBC's InterNight has now also found Giuliani more newsworthy than Clinton. The cable network devoted half of the August 5 InterNight to an interview with the Vanity Fair writer who broke the story of Giuliani and how the New York press had failed to report his supposed affair, Jennet Conant, followed by a discussion with three New York City reporters. This all came a day after Giuliani denied the story.

But last Wednesday, InterNight host David Bloom did not ask his guest, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, a thing about the Willey story which broke earlier in the day.

Bloom began by inquiring about handling crisis news such as that day's bombing in Israel, then moved on to Clinton's popularity: "Approval rating of 56 percent. This is virtually as high as he was ever. In January of 1994, he was a tick higher, 60 percent, but, I mean, in the midst of all these campaign finance hearings, and all this, the American people seem to be saying what, in your estimation?"

Next, Bloom challenged McCurry "You have been described, and I can say this from personal testimony as White House correspondent for NBC News, as combative, as the most partisan press secretary ever, some say. How do you respond to that charge?"

Bloom spent the rest of the interview posing seven questions about the movies "Air Force One" and "Contact," about Leno and Letterman jokes and whether McCurry pushed Chelsea to attend his alma mater, Princeton. Here are a few of Bloom's questions:

  • "A clip from Air Force One, America's number one movie starring Harrison Ford. The person who gets to actually fly on the plane day in and day out is sitting next to me. White House Spokesman Mike McCurry. Talk to me about the reality of flying on Air Force One versus this movie, which I know has quickly become a presidential favorite."
  • "You're laughing right now, but do you sit around with the President and watch Leno or Letterman and laugh at these jokes?"
  • "Let me ask you this: You are known for, generally I would say, your candor and also for your sense of humor. I mean, there's, there are a lot of people who think that, that you can jibe with the best of them, and that's what makes you an effective spokesman. You said, when you first took this job, 'Working here everyday ought to be a joyful experience and not endless drudgery.' Is it, in fact, a combination of both?"

I'd put this in the "joyful" category -- being interviewed by a major network White House correspondent, but he doesn't raise an issue that you want to avoid.

-- Brent Baker




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