Campaigning for Campaign Reform; MSNBC Priorities
- All three
broadcast networks ran full stories on Tamraz, but ABC and CBS
promoted campaign finance "reform." CBS tagged Tamraz
"a walking ad for campaign reform."
- Four weeks
after the story broke, CBS got around to the donation for access
charge against Hazel O'Leary, but that's sooner than ABC.
- The morning
shows ignored the hearings, but CNN provided some live coverage of
Tamraz. MSNBC stuck to discussing bi-sexuality.
1) For the
first time since September 4 stories on testimony from nuns on the
Buddhist temple event, Thursday night the three broadcast network
evening shows all aired full reports on the fundraising hearings. The
testimony from Roger Tamraz topped the ABC and NBC shows.
But, instead of focusing on
wrongdoing and who did what, both ABC and CBS skipped over the details
so they could emphasize how the testimony demonstrated the need for
campaign finance reform. A former Energy Department official and a
current Energy Department official also testified about who said and
did what to Sheila Heslin in an effort to get Tamraz into the White
House. All three networks skipped their testimony and since only NBC
covered Heslin on Wednesday night, ABC and CBS viewers have no idea
about the dispute over pressure put on Heslin.
ABC's World News Tonight.
Peter Jennings opened the September 18 show by focusing on a corrupt
"We begin tonight with
the kind of cynicism that turns so many Americans off politics.
We've heard a lot about how money was raised for the last
presidential campaign, but nothing quite as blatant as from the
witness who appeared at the Senate fundraising hearings today. He's
an international businessman and unlike so many people who dodged
questions and even skipped the country, this man said yes I gave
money and a lot of it to get the President's attention."
Reporter Linda Douglass
"Democrats were as
outraged as Republicans by the tale of Roger Tamraz, a
Lebanese-American businessman wanted for financial crimes in three
countries, who admitted buying his way into the White House with
$300,000 in campaign contributions."
Douglass showed an exchange
between Michigan Democrat Carl Levin and Tamraz about how he gave
solely to gain access. She went on to explain that when blocked from
getting in, Tamraz turned to fundraisers who got him into the White
House four more times. Asked if he got his money's worth, Tamraz told
Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman that he'd give $600,000 next time.
"Today, for the first
time, several Democratic Senators were openly critical of White
House fundraising practices." Levin: "This country is in
danger when people are offered access in exchange for
Next, instead of informing
viewers of who in the Clinton team may have violated which law, a
subject many Senators spent much of the day exploring with the Energy
officials (and with Tamraz about what CIA official "Bob"
did), Peter Jennings portrayed the Republicans as out of touch on the
need for campaign reform:
"Well even with all
this cynicism about fundraising, some people would even say disgust,
Republicans have been unwilling to bring any campaign finance reform
bill to the floor."
Reporter John Cochran
explained that Senate Republicans are working on bill to ban soft
"What happened is that
the Republicans suddenly realized it is politically incorrect to be
seen as stonewalling against campaign reform."
Jennings then asked
Cochran: "I was going to say, getting it to the floor is one
thing, getting legislation is another, right?"
right. The Majority Leader of the Senate, Trent Lott, still says
there will be no campaign reform this year. Everyone agrees he is
right, unless one thing happens. Unless the public, which has been
pretty apathetic so far, suddenly decides it wants campaign reform
and it wants it now and tells its elected members it wants it."
A not very subtle message
from ABC News to its viewers.
The CBS Evening News led
Thursday night with a story on how the Justice Dept. is about to
declare war on Mexican drug gang. Second, a report on how the FBI
recovered $18 million in North Carolina from biggest ever armored car
robbery. Third, CBS got to the hearings.
Reporter Bob Schieffer opened
by contending that Tamraz proved the need for "reform"
instead of by telling viewers which of the current laws were broken:
"Roger Tamraz is an
American businessman with shady international connections who's been
sentenced to prison in Jordan, faces embezzlement charges in
Lebanon, a $56 million dollar court judgment in Paris and is wanted
by Interpol. But he became a walking ad for campaign reform as he
told Senators how he got in to see President Clinton at four White
House socials after giving Democrats $300,000, even so he said it
was not always easy to corner the President for serious talk."
Tamraz: "First the
President is surrounded by the ladies, because they swoon around
Senator Susan Collins:
"This one doesn't"
Schieffer also played the
Lieberman/Tamraz exchange about how he would donate more next time.
Tamraz labeled that "the American system."
Schieffer concluded with this
perversely twisted spin:
who've been defending the White House made no effort to defend
Tamraz, saying his testimony just showed the system must be
Instead of showing how the
system needs reforming maybe the Tamraz testimony points to who needs
to be prosecuted for violating current laws, or at least who in the
Clinton administration violated standard ethics rules.
NBC Nightly News, like ABC,
put Tamraz at the top of the broadcast. But unlike the other two
networks, NBC refrained from liberal advocacy of more regulation and
free speech restrictions.
Tom Brokaw opened the show:
"It was a rare moment
in Washington. A big donor to the Democratic Party who was willing
to admit -- indeed he was eager to tell his story -- of how he gave
hundreds of thousands of dollars with one purpose in mind: to get in
the President's face and tell him how much help he needed in
building an oil pipeline in the Middle East. He didn't get what he
wanted, but when he testified today, the Senate Republicans
Reporter Lisa Myers showed
the Levin/Tamraz exchange in which Tamraz admitted buying access to
Clinton followed by Tamraz explaining how hard it was to actually talk
to Clinton because of all the ladies swooning around him.
"In fact, Tamraz
managed to talk to Clinton twice, even though national security
officials fought to ban him from the White House because he was
wanted for embezzlement in Lebanon. The staff barred him from a
breakfast with Al Gore, but he got around them and sat that week
with Gore at a fundraising dinner..."
To learn if any of the Friday
morning shows mentioned Tamraz, check Friday's Media Reality Check fax
report. It will be posted Friday afternoon on the MRC Web site.
Immediately after Bob Schieffer completed his plea for campaign
"reform," anchor Dan Rather announced:
"Also tonight, a move
that could lead to a special prosecutor to investigate another
aspect of political fundraising. CBS News has been told that Justice
Department prosecutors now are urging Attorney General Reno to
investigate Hazel O'Leary, President Clinton's former Energy
Secretary. At issue, whether O'Leary met with an Energy official
from China in return for a donation to her favorite charity. It's
important to note that O'Leary denies any wrongdoing."
Sound familiar? Check the
August 20 and August 21 CyberAlerts. NBC Nightly News first reported
the allegation from Johnny Chung about trading money for a meeting. It
came in an interview with Tom Brokaw excerpted on the August 19
Nightly News and Dateline. But, it quickly died. In fact, it never
went anywhere as ABC, CNN and, until this Thursday night mention, CBS
ignored the charge. Even NBC's own Today show never bothered to tell
morning viewers about it. So, the CBS Evening News has now given more
time to NBC's scoop than has Today.
morning, CNN and Thursday daytime:
As usual, the morning shows
on Thursday all ignored the hearings.
As noted by Tim Graham in the
September 18 Media Reality Check fax report, introducing a September
17 World Today story on the testimony of Sheila Heslin, anchor Leon
Harris labeled it "shocking and emotional." But, neither ABC
or CBS aired a story that night. Catching up with CNN, MRC news
analyst Clay Waters also reports that though CNN's World Today was
bumped on Tuesday night, Prime News made time for a full report from
Candy Crowley on Karl Jackson's testimony.
CNN went live to Roger Tamraz
at about 10:20am ET Thursday and stayed with him with only a few
interruptions through to the lunch break shortly before 12:30pm ET.
The few interruptions were for an Air Force ceremony at Arlington
Cemetery, analysis from Brooks Jackson and for local cable ad breaks.
CNN dropped its regular ad schedule.
Adding Thursday's two hours
to last Tuesday's 1:40 of live coverage for Don Fowler and CNN is
approaching the amount of time (four and a half hours) it devoted July
24 to Haley Barbour.
MSNBC really makes you
appreciate CNN. MSNBC, which allocated more than four hours to live
coverage of Barbour, but which skipped Fowler, on Thursday again
failed to provide any live coverage of testimony. MSNBC did have a few
updates from Joe Johns. Instead, while CNN viewers saw Tamraz, from
11am to 12pm ET MSNBC spent the entire hour interviewing Kitty Kelley.
When I flipped over at about
11:30am Kelley was in the middle of explaining how most of the Windsor
men are bi-sexual. If Fred Thompson could add a little something about
bi-sexuality to the hearings maybe MSNBC would become interested.
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