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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| September 23, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 150) |


Reno Leads, But Law Archaic; UPN's Murdering Businessmen

  1. All the networks led Monday with Reno's decision to investigate Clinton and Gore, but ABC and CBS described the apparently-violated law as arcane and archaic. ABC finally got to the DNC ad scheme.
  2. Reno's action the main topic on Monday's morning shows.
  3. Clinton partied with stars while on vacation; a prime time UPN drama portrayed businessmen killing people and the environment.

1) What Fred Thompson dreamed of for months Janet Reno did in a day: make all the networks lead their newscasts with stories about Clinton fundraising. Many a hearing went unnoticed by the networks, but the decision by the Attorney General to open an inquiry into the phone calls placed by the President and Vice President led all the broadcast networks Monday night.

And ABC stumbled across a big story broken last week by a newspaper but ignored by all the networks. Here's a rundown of September 22 coverage:

ABC's World News Tonight led with a story from Linda Douglass on Reno's action. After noting that Clinton said he did nothing wrong and will cooperate, Douglass asserted:

"ABC News has obtained records showing that as early as 1994, political aides had plans for the President to phone contributors. It's not clear whether those plans reached the President...."

Douglass went on to say that a later e-mail message from a staffer reported that Clinton and Gore had offered to make calls.

Next, Peter Jennings explained the Pendleton Act of 1883, the law that Clinton and Gore may have broken. Jennings claimed the intent of the law is in dispute: was it meant to bar all solicitation of anyone or just asking federal employees for a donation?

White House reporter John Donvan offered a brief look at how the White House fears an independent counsel is inevitable followed by Cokie Roberts, who confirmed:

"The White House should be worried because the truth is once you get an independent counsel named with the President and Vice President as targets, you're no longer talking about something as arcane and archaic as the Pendleton Act, you're talking about a whole, what appears to be, pattern and practice of campaign corruption, of money going into accounts that it didn't belong in, going to ads for the President and Vice President which were supposed to be just ads about issues, all kinds of things that could get very, very dicey for them indeed."

As Eric Engberg would shout, TIME OUT! Rewind the tape. What money "going to ads for the President and Vice President which were supposed to be just ads about issues?" This is news to network viewers. Roberts seemed to be referring to a September 18 Washington Post story ignored last Thursday by the broadcast morning and evening shows, and even by CNN's The World Today. "Papers Show Use of DNC Ads to Help Clinton," read the Post headline. Reporters Bob Woodward and Ruth Marcus disclosed:

"The massive TV advertising campaign by the Democratic Party before last year's elections was designed explicitly to boost President Clinton's bid for a second White House term and to circumvent strict spending limits faced by presidential candidates, according to dozens of internal campaign documents....

"The new documents -- obtained from Republican and Democratic sources -- provide stark new evidence of how closely linked the DNC advertising and Clinton-Gore reelection efforts were and how the DNC ad drive was focused almost exclusively on Clinton's reelection, giving additional ammunition to those who contend the party advertising scheme was illegal."

Dan Rather opened Monday's CBS Evening News by explaining Reno's move before intoning:

"Today the President said both he and the Vice President had always stayed within quote' the letter of the law.' Mr. Clinton was responding to questions put to him by CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley, who has now obtained new and potentially damaging documents in the case."

Of course, these are the same documents both ABC and NBC highlighted, but without the hype. CBS reporter Scott Pelley began:

"The fundraising investigation seemed to grow around the President even as he was meeting with world leaders at the United Nations. Today, documents obtained by CBS News indicate the White House prepared lists of dozens of donors for the President to call, four times more than the White house previously acknowledged...."

Next Rather colorfully portrayed the antiquity of the law in question:

"For his part today Vice President Gore was able to get out of town, leave the country and change the subject. But, he'll be coming home to face accusations that fundraising phone calls he made from the White House violate a law so old it was enacted less than a decade after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone."

Phil Jones proceeded to explain the differing interpretations of what kinds of calls the law covered, but did note that if they raised hard money that would be illegal.

NBC Nightly News put the Reno move at the top of the show with an overview from David Bloom followed by Tom Brokaw asking Tim Russert about the impact on Clinton and on Al Gore's political future.

2) Miracle of miracles, Reno's decision even moved CBS's This Morning on Monday to cover some political news, with the show's first 8am hour fundraising story since July 9. (Since most CBS affiliates carry only small portions of This Morning's first hour, the widely carried second hour is the show's most watched and always features their biggest-named guests.)

This Morning opened the 8am hour with a full story from Bill Plante. But news anchor Jane Robelot, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski noticed, couldn't help from portraying Republicans as the unreasonable ones:

Robelot :"Bill, will Janet Reno's 90 day investigation satisfy the Republicans?"

Plante replied: "No, because they say there is enough evidence to appoint an Independent Counsel/Special Prosecutor right now and they're going to keep harping on that, you can count on it."

ABC's Good Morning America ran full stories at 7am and 8am on the implications of Reno's probe. And, MRC analyst Eric Darbe noted, during the 7am half hour the show, which has yet to interview a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, brought on Senator John McCain to discuss his campaign finance reform bill.

NBC's Today also featured a full story at 7am followed a few minutes later by a discussion segment amongst Matt Lauer, Tim Russert and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.

3) An entertainment meets politics update: Clinton parties with Hollywood and media stars; a television series portrays evil businessmen murdering locals during breaks from burning down the rain forest.

The weekend accounts of the Clintons accompanying Chelsea to Stanford University reminded me that I never updated the August 19 CyberAlert on how the Clintons were going to vacation with celebrities. That CyberAlert noted that Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson met their plane when it landed on Martha's Vineyard.

Sylvester Stallone flew to Martha's Vineyard for a party with Clinton, reported the August 27 USA Today: "The star delivered a surprise birthday gift to Clinton pal Vernon Jordan...at a Monday night party. The Clintons and others at the dinner at the Farm Neck Golf Club roared when Miramax Films honcho Harvey Weinstein announced Jordan's secret desire to act and produced Stallone to give a few tips.

"A Miramax spokesman says Stallone led Jordan through a scene from Cop Land, with Jordan playing Stallone's character..."

The Thursday, August 28 Boston Globe reported: "The Clintons had another late night Tuesday when they stayed until the end of the party at the home of former Washington Post Publisher Katherine Graham -- until around 1am yesterday. There were 15 to 20 guests, including members of the Graham family, writers William and Rose Styron, film director Mike Nichols and his wife, TV personality Diane Sawyer, and former Time magazine publisher Henry Grunwald."

UPN's Wednesday night drama, The Sentinel, should carry a businessman beware warning. After viewing the September 10 season premiere, MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell provided a summary of the show's liberal plot:

The Sentinel's premise is that the main character, the sentinel, Jim, was in the jungles of Peru while in the army where he developed exceptionally keen senses. He now uses that power to solve crimes for the NYPD.

The premiere episode focused on a fictitious oil company, Cyclops, that goes into the rain forests of Peru, in violation of international environmental law, in order to tap the rich oil fields. The company clear cuts large areas, killing any natives that get in the way. And of course, because it's Hollywood, there is a psychotic businessman that goes on a killing spree in order to keep people quiet about the operation, as well as a noble savage that dies defending the rain forest.

The episode is replete with anti-business, anti-industrialism, environmentalist propaganda, such as the following exchange:

"The great eye [Cyclops Oil] has been responsible for the death of several of his tribesmen. It's been cutting down the forest, and killing the water and the land with its black poison. He's afraid the Chopec are going to vanish forever."

Or this one, between the President of Cyclops Oil, Spalding and the psychotic Vice President, Yeager:

Spalding: "Don't worry Ger, no one will ever tie her murder to us. I made it seem like the same Indians that got Bud."

Yeager: "You killed Janet Meyers?"

Spalding: "She was taking the files to the cops, that would have cost you, me, and a few dozen other people a long stretch behind bars."

Yeager: "Whatever you did, you did on your own. I am not involved in murder."

Spalding: "Not unless the victim's skin is brown, he lives in a hut, and he's standing in the way of one of your bulldozers."

One of the leads, Blair, a modern day hippy who meditates while listening to Aborigine chants, discusses his college days with an old friend, when he used to chain himself to redwoods, and go to anti-nuke rallies.

This program represents Hollywood at its tree-hugging, business hating best.

Just another day at the office, murdering brown-skinned South Americans who get in the way of the quarterly earnings statement. This episode highlights how in television shows businessmen commit more murders than any other profession, a point quantified earlier this year in a study completed by Tim Lamer of the MRC's Free Market Project. To read the study, Businessmen Behaving Badly, go the FMP's home page: http://www.mediaresearch.org/freemarket/

-- Brent Baker




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