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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| October 3, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 157) |


State Scheme Skipped; PK's Enemies; Gumbel's Back

  1. Another big revelation about an illegal maneuver by the Clinton team, another story for the networks to ignore.
  2. ABC ran a story on how the government refuses to pay Sheila Heslin's legal bills. But if you watch ABC you'd ask "Who is she?"
  3. CNN labeled an anti-Promise Keepers group as "traditional," but a closer look shows otherwise. So far, the Promise Keepers rally has generated less media than the Million Man March.
  4. GMA's Charlie Gibson asked the new lawyer for Paula Jones: "For the sake of the presidency" shouldn't she settle out of court.
  5. Gumbel's back. In his premiere viewers learn that going on trial for murder is better for you than opposing campaign finance reform.

1) Thursday morning brought another fundraising scandal disclosure, but it was virtually ignored by the networks. "Democrats Used the State Parties to Bypass Limits: $32 Million Sent to Local Level -- Paid for Ads Aiding Clinton," announced the lead headline in the October 2 New York Times. Reporters Jill Abramson and Leslie Wayne began:

"The Democratic National Committee quietly transferred at least $32 million to state Democratic parties in the last election as part of an elaborate plan to spend more money than federal election law appeared to allow on a huge advertising campaign that indirectly helped re-elect President Clinton.
"The plan was conceived and coordinated by the Clinton-Gore campaign staff and Democratic Party officials as an end-run around legal spending limits, according to documents and interviews with Democratic officials."

Coverage: Not a word on Thursday's This Morning on CBS (8am hour) or NBC's Today. During the 8am news on ABC's Good Morning America, Ann Compton reported in from the White House and highlighted three developing stories: the state party maneuver, plus Reno looking at extending the probe of Gore and an expected announcement that day from Clinton about more food regulation.

In the evening: Zilch on the Times revelation on any of the three broadcast network evening shows, though CNN's Brooks Jackson did a full story earlier for CNN's Inside Politics.

2) ABC's World News Tonight on Thursday highlighted a development in what has happened to a fundraising committee witness since she testified, but ABC viewers would not know anything about her since ABC skipped her original appearance. Sam Donaldson began an October 2 WNT story by noting that "there's a saying that no good deed goes unpunished." Donaldson asked viewers to recall a fundraising witness:

"Remember Sheila Heslin, the former White House National Security Council official who told the Senate committee how she did her best to keep the notorious oil pipeline entrepreneur, and big bucks Democratic contributor, Roger Tamraz, from obtaining a private meeting with President Clinton?"

Well, how could you remember if you are a loyal World News Tonight viewer? As the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, ABC didn't find her testimony worth mentioning that night on World News Tonight. As reported in the September 18 CyberAlert, of the three broadcast network evening shows, only NBC Nightly News ran a story on September 17 about Heslin's testimony, which NBC's Lisa Myers described as "the most dramatic testimony so far."

Now back to Donaldson's disclosure. He showed Senator Susan Collins calling Heslin "a hero," but then revealed that the Justice Department has decided to not pay her legal bill "which amounts to tens of thousands of dollars." She's not wealthy, Donaldson added. But, if necessary, Collins said she will introduce a private bill to force the government to pick up the tab. Donaldson concluded:

"It is said that virtue is its own reward. But having to pay for the honor of possessing it would probably strike most people as grossly unfair and the betting here is that one way or the other Uncle Sam will eventually pick up the tab."

A few more people might have known about her virtue had ABC bothered to air a few seconds of her testimony.

3) As promised in yesterday's CyberAlert, here's a bit more on the Promise Keepers from CNN. Back on the September 21 Impact, CNN's 9pm ET Sunday night magazine show, the network ran two pieces on the Promise Keepers, one favorable and one focusing on critics. But CNN mischaracterized one group set up specifically to attack the Promise Keepers.

CNN's Stephen Frazier asserted:

"Promise Keepers gather for spiritual revival, but some critics predict they'll become a political force."

Reverend David Dyson, Equal Partners in Faith: "We've seen it very much as a stealth operation."

Frazier: "Presbyterian Pastor David Dyson heads Equal Partners in Faith, a collection of leaders from traditional Christian and Jewish groups who believe Promise Keepers threaten the separation of church and state in America by pushing legislation based on their interpretation of God's law."

Dyson: "They have a view of government based on theocratic and not Democratic principles. Theocratic government is Iran. Theocratic government is Afghanistan. Theocratic government is not the United States of America and the United States Constitution."

"A collection of leaders from traditional Christian and Jewish groups." Really? MRC analyst Clay Waters went digging and found that's not quite accurate. In a September 7 op-ed piece for the Washington Post NOW's Patricia Ireland wrote: "In response to the emergence of Promise Keepers, 40 leaders from mainstream denominations created Equal Partners in Faith..." And who are among these "traditional" groups? On the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) home page Waters found an update touting Equal Partners in Faith (EPF) which described EPF as "a national multi-racial coalition of faith based activists and other critics of the Right" which is "working in part to expose an anti-gay agenda in Promise Keepers' hidden messages....According to the openly lesbian Rev. Meg Riley, Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Washington, DC office and a founding member of the EPF coalition, the gay community knows PK founder Bill McCartney's radical religious politics better than most Americans."

To read this item in the "GLAADLines" report, go to: http://www.glaad.org/glaad/glaad-lines/19970915.html

(Promise Keepers (PK) vs. Million Man March (MMM). Through Thursday night, neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News had aired a story previewing Saturday's big PK rally in DC which should be as large if not larger than the MMM. A search with the MRC's Media Tracking System determined that the CBS Evening News aired its first MMM story six days before the October 16, 1995 march and ABC's World News Tonight aired two pieces three days beforehand.)

4) Good Morning America on Thursday brought on one of lawyers from a Dallas firm just retained by Paula Jones in her sexual harassment complaint against the President. But though many news reports have made it clear that Jones would forgo any monetary settlement if Clinton would acknowledge he did wrong and apologize, Charlie Gibson put the burden -- for causing the nation embarrassment -- on Jones.

Gibson introduced the October 2 interview by explaining:

"There's a new twist in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton. You may recall a couple of weeks ago the two lawyers that were representing Paula Jones withdrew from the case. Ms. Jones has now retained a Dallas firm to handle her case with her legal fees being paid for by the Rutherford Institute in Virginia, a group which is generally described as a conservative group, and joining us now from Dallas is one of her new attorneys, Donovan Campbell, Jr."

Amongst Gibson's questions, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen caught this one: "For the sake of the presidency, maybe even for the sake of your client, for the sake of decorum, would it not be better to settle this case out of court?"

That could have been done long ago, as Stuart Taylor reported in his November 1996 American Lawyer article, if Clinton had just apologized instead of having aides disparage Jones.

5) Gumbel's back! Yes, if you missed it, Wednesday at 9p ET Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel premiered on CBS. I couldn't bring myself to watch, but MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski must watch every CBS show, so he couldn't avoid it. And he did find bias as only Gumbel could deliver.

One weekly segment is called "People Stocks." Gumbel and a couple of others he brings on for the segment offer their brief assessments of who is up and down that week. Gumbel asserted:

"Winnie Mandela's stock is on the rebound now that South Africa is giving her a public hearing on charges she's facing. But let the buyer beware here: those charges still include abduction, assault, sabotage, and murder."

Next, famed author Gail Sheehy offered two picks:

"Bill McCartney's stock will rise. He's the founder of the all-male evangelical movement the Promise Keepers. He is calling tens of thousands of men to Washington this weekend to enlist in a right-wing army dedicated to a war to restore Biblical values which some people believes means male supremacy all over again. His stock will fall out of bed with feminists, they plan a no surrender campaign."

"You might have thought Newt Gingrich's stock could go no lower. But, I think, over the next couple of weeks he may become the tar baby for campaign finance reform. He vows there is no chance the House will pass any bipartisan bill. You'd think he might have learned from having his stock drop out of sight when he tried to shut down the federal government."

Of course, Gumbel had no time for a conservative to make picks. Lesson from day one of the Gumbel Institute for Liberal Learning: go on trial for kidnapping kids and then murdering them and yes, you are on the "rebound." But do anything to block more regulation of U.S. campaigns and you deserve to plummet.

Time and space limitations preclude me from reviewing, as promised in yesterday's CyberAlert, the two Dateline segments on Anita Hill. I will get to those next week.

-- Brent Baker




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