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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| September 10, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 141) |


ABC Ignored Fowler; Gumbel: Conservatives Don't Care

  1. All three networks figured out angles for multiple Diana stories, but none ran a full report on Mother Teresa.
  2. New documents detail Don Fowler's effort to circumvent the system in order to give access to a donor and Fowler just can't recall any of it, but ABC skipped the Democratic misdeed.
  3. Bryant Gumbel asserted: "It's hard to be defined as a conservative if you're a black man and care about black people."

1) Mother Teresa almost completely disappeared from the broadcast networks Tuesday night, but the tenth night after her death Diana got more time than any other topic as all three networks led with multiple Diana-related stories:

ABC's World News Tonight led with two stories lasting 4:30. The first updated the crash investigation, the second looked at money pouring into her memorial fund. Mother Teresa got one-ninth as much time as Peter Jennings took 30 seconds to report that the deteriorating condition of Mother Teresa's body led officials to make Tuesday the last day for viewing and that the Pope may move up the timetable for making her a saint.

Diana topped the September 9 CBS Evening News, giving the same amount of time as ABC, four and a half minutes. CBS viewers saw stories on the crash investigation and continuing mourning in London. About twenty minutes later the show ended with a 2:30 story on the PR battle between Prince Charles and the Earl Spencer. In between viewers heard about Mother Teresa for 20 seconds as Dan Rather highlighted how the Senate has made Saturday a National Day of Recognition for her.

NBC Nightly News began with a 2:25 story on Diana matters, followed later by a 2:20 In Depth report on a surge of contributions into her memorial fund. A second story in NBC's In Depth segment took three minutes to highlight the charities visited by Diana on her trips to the U.S. While NBC aired no update on Mother Teresa, about a third of this story looked at a couple of the charities set up by the nun.

2) Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler's appearance Tuesday before the Senate fundraising hearings generated full stories on CBS and NBC, but not ABC which instead highlighted how Fred Thompson supposedly pulled back from his Chinese connection claim.

On the September 9 NBC Nightly News reporter Lisa Myers opened the toughest piece of the night: "Don Fowler's biggest problem today was not Republicans, but his own memory." Then, as viewers saw video boxes showing Fowler roll across their screen they heard these comments from him:

"I have no memory of that."
"It does not refresh my memory."
"I do not recall that Senator."
"And I have no memory."

Myers explained that donor Roger Tamraz wanted help on a pipeline project he hoped to build in Turkey, but the man accused of embezzlement in Lebanon ran into a problem:

"He first went to the President's national security advisers, and got nowhere. So, in July 1995 he turned to Fowler, checkbook in hand. Today Fowler insisted he does not recall this staff memo, which warned of Tamraz's 'significant financial and ethical troubles' and urged Fowler to reject a $300,000 contribution. Nor did Fowler remember twice calling the CIA to help get Tamraz into the White House, calls detailed in newly released CIA documents."

Myers showed an exchange between Thompson and Fowler, then noted that the NSC had placed Tamraz on a list of people that should not be allowed into the White House. But, Myers informed viewers, he got in six times, twice to meet with the President.

Myers concluded her story by telling how that happened: "So, how did Tamraz get into the White House when the President's national security team thought they had him banned. Well, believe it or not, the White House says anyone Democratic fundraisers put on the list to see the President got in. No questions asked."

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather introduced Bob Schieffer's report by declaring:

"In Washington, on Capitol Hill, the campaign fundraising investigation zeroed in today on a former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. On the stand and under heavy fire Don Fowler said he just couldn't recall, even when confronted with memos and other evidence."

Bob Schieffer explained how Fowler could not remember memos, even from own staff warning about Tamraz. After Fowler denied that he enlisted the CIA to get Tamraz cleared into the White House, Schieffer showed a clip of Thompson holding up a memo from the CIA which said just the opposite. Schieffer concluded:

"Democrats offered no real defense of Fowler's action, but did manage to show that even after all the bad publicity Tamraz got a written invitation from Republican Senator Trent Lott inviting him to join a Republican fundraising group. Lott called it a mix up and was trying to figure out how it happened."

Schieffer made the invitation appear to be a serious matter, a rare personal invitation from Lott to an important person. Not quite. As CNN's Brooks Jackson explained on Inside Politics, the "written invitation" was just a direct mail letter sent to over 100,000 people. As any conservative knows, it's hardly unusual to get a fundraising appeal signed by Lott or any other GOP leader.

ABC's World News Tonight. The top Democratic official has a sudden case of amnesia about every critical detail about how a donor bought access and the investigating committee releases documents showing the official's efforts, but ABC skipped it all Tuesday night. Instead, anchor Peter Jennings intoned:

"At the Senate hearings into campaign fundraising today what appears to be a change of heart by the committee's Republican Chairman Fred Thompson."

ABC showed a soundbite from the opening day in which Thompson raised the China-connection issue followed by a clip from Tuesday in which Thompson said he didn't mean to blame just one party.

Jennings then turned to Linda Douglass, asking her what prompted Thompson's remarks. Douglass explained that he just got "tired of taking a beating from the Democrats who every single day point out the fact that he's failed to prove there's any Chinese plot."

Douglass elaborated: "Today one Democratic Senator held out an olive branch to Senator Thompson. He said, 'look, forget the Chinese plot, the hearings are important because they're exposing the evil influence of money in politics.' At that moment Senator Thompson's face relaxed, he said then he was sorry if he left the wrong impression. And it's clear that many of the Senators now want to diffuse the partisan warfare and get this whole messy issue behind them."

Jennings agreed: "That will be a relief to the public."

And to ABC which seems to avoid covering the actual content of the hearings. During the first round, ABC aired the fewest stories of the Big Three. As for "exposing the evil influence of money in politics," ABC didn't Tuesday night since the network ignored Fowler's actions on behalf of a donor.

This isn't the first time ABC has tried to discredit the Chinese influence claim. As detailed in the July 21 CyberAlert, Linda Douglass opened a July 18 World News Tonight piece: "At the very outset Republican Chairman Fred Thompson announced dramatically what he hoped to expose, a Chinese plot to subvert American elections with illegal contributions." Douglass countered: "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 plot..."

Along the same lines, 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 July 15 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."

3) As if we needed any more proof, Bryant Gumbel has again shown hostility toward conservatism and deliberately distorted its policy positions. In an interview in the September 5-7 edition of USA Weekend Gumbel told interviewer Jill Nelson:

"It's hard to be defined as a conservative if you're a black man and care about black people. I think it's very difficult. Basically...'conservative' says the status quo is good. I mean, how can you look out there at the vast majority of people of color and say, 'Oh, yes. This is something I can applaud. It's a situation I'd like to keep. This is obviously working.' I don't see that. There are some conservatives of great character and some conservatives with great caring who would argue that proper conservatism says, 'Oh, no, do want to change the status quo, but we want to do it in a different fashion than liberals want to do it'; ie:, Jack Kemp. I don't have a problem with that."

Very reassuring that Gumbel does not have a "problem" with "some conservatives." In the modern world charging that "conservative says the status quo is good" can only be characterized as a deliberate distortion. The entire range of conservative thought, from paleo-conservatives to libertarian conservatives, advocates major changes to the status quo: cutting taxes, shutting down government agencies, eliminating regulations, reforming welfare, de-monopolizing education etc. The entire Contract with America promised to cause change.

Meanwhile, Gumbel's ideological soulmates have been the defenders of the status quo welfare state, fighting any effort to give one less dollar to a bureaucrat or implement any reform opposed by a union.

-- Brent Baker




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