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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| October 16, 1997 (Vol. Two; No. 165) |


Herpes Before Video; Fred "Oliver Stone" Thompson

1) Reno and the tapes topped ABC and CBS, but NBC went with genital herpes and aired a full story on Clinton's "bad luck."
2) ABC finally interviewed a member of the Senate committee; Katie Couric compared Fred Thompson to Oliver Stone.
3) An ABC sit-com tells viewers that we fought the Vietnam war so businessmen would have "another place to sell sody pop."

1) Wednesday night ABC and CBS led with Janet Reno's appearance before Henry Hyde's House Judiciary Committee and the release of more tapes. But, NBC put genital herpes at the top of the show and then portrayed Clinton as the victim of bad luck since his overseas trips are always overshadowed by scandal back home.  Here's a show by show rundown for October 15. All quotes and summaries provided to me by MRC news analyst Eric Darbe who stayed late to track the coverage:

      -- ABC's World News Tonight led with the release of more tapes followed by a story on Janet Reno's testimony. Jennings' first concern: not what the tapes showed of Clinton but how they revealed the way "political fundraisers" in general "get into the pockets of the well to do." He opened the show:
       "We begin tonight with the under belly of American politics. Today 90 more hours of video tape released by the White House which show in even greater detail how political fundraisers try to get into the pockets of the well to do, and what access the well to do have. On the surface of it the tapes appear to support what the President has said: that he did not break the law. But in almost every other sense the tapes certainly show a President zealously in search of money."

      Reporter Linda Douglass reviewed the tapes, noting that the quest for money led Clinton "into some questionable situations." She showed video of Clinton at the Jefferson hotel with foreign nationals before whom he boasted about his decision to send the Navy to help protect Taiwan. After a soundbite from Lanny Davis on how the tapes show nothing improper, Douglass showed video of Clinton hugging Johnny Chung in the Oval Office, noting that Chung paid $50,000 to get his Chinese business associates into the White House. Douglass concluded:        "White House officials insist the video tapes will provide no evidence of anything illegal, but Republicans hope the tapes will give them a fresh chance to try to get the public interested in this issue."

      Jennings then led into the second ABC story:
       "In fact Republicans were quick to point to the tapes today as yet another reason why Attorney General Janet Reno should appoint an independent counsel to investigate the President. And today they had the opportunity to say this to her in person, as she testified before the House Judiciary Committee."
     John Cochran filed the report on the hearing. Before pouncing on the Clinton tapes, Cochran began, the committee showed a tape of Reno back in 1993 insisting that the Attorney General should not investigate the President or high officials do to the conflict of interest. "You were right four years ago said Hyde," the Chairman of the committee. Viewers next saw an exchange between Reno and Congressman James Sensenbrenner in which he asked her reaction to video showing Clinton praising fundraiser John Huang. Cochran ended with a spin favorable to Reno's opponents:
       "Even Republicans who give Janet Reno credit for integrity feel she takes too narrow a view of when an independent counsel is needed. And they fear that in the end she will not ask for one."  

      -- The CBS Evening News also led with fundraising, but put Reno first followed by the new tapes. In the top of the show tease, Rather declared: "Attorney General Janet Reno gets grilled on Capitol Hill, and fires back. Face to face, and in your face, she defends her investigation of Clinton campaign fundraising."

      Seconds later, Rather intoned: "On Capitol Hill, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was under oath and under fire today. She fired back at Republican claims of cover up and incompetence over Clinton campaign fundraising. As she testified live, new batches of White House fundraiser video tapes were pumped out by the dozens."

       Bob Schieffer covered the hearing and began with Chairman Henry Hyde's declaration that she should appoint an independent counsel. Like ABC, CBS showed the testy exchange between Sensenbrenner and Reno over what video of Clinton praising John Huang proves. Schieffer noted: "Democrats cried foul and there was a lot of partisan bickering but in the end Reno told the committee almost nothing."

      Next CBS went to Phil Jones on the newly released videos. Jones a few clips including one in which he thanked contributors for helping pay for television ads and another in which Clinton points out Charlie Trie in the audience. Jones explained that Trie was raising big bucks from illegal donors, though Jones also relayed the Clinton line: "The White House spin on the tapes, they prove that everything was legal and appropriate."  

      -- NBC Nightly News. Instead of Reno or videotapes, NBC led with news about genital herpes. Brokaw asserted: "It is a major public health problem, the kind people don't like to talk about but now it has reached proportions that cannot be ignored." After that piece Brokaw read an item about the risk of viruses being transmitted to humans from organs transplanted from pigs.

       Following an ad break, NBC got to fundraising. NBC ran two stories: one on Reno and the tapes and another on how the DC news is obscuring the President's trip to South America. Brokaw introduced the first story: "
      The Attorney General of the United States says it is a matter of law, a leading House Republican tells her it is a conflict of interest. They were going face to face today over the question of whether someone, from outside the Justice Department, should be assigned to investigate the President's White House fundraising activity. The issue that has been dominating Washington without any resolution for weeks now, an independent counsel. And today new fuel for the controversy. Still more videos of the President at fundraisers and these clearly show his relationship with some very controversial figures."
      Pete Williams opened his report by showing video clips of Clinton praising Huang and greeting Chung. Making it three for three, NBC also ran the Sensenbrenner-Reno exchange. Williams also showed one Clinton visitor ABC and CBS missed: James Riaddy.

      Clinton as victim was the theme of NBC's subsequent story. Brokaw announced that one of Clinton's "bad luck streaks is holding. Almost every time he tries to take a major foreign trip, a major problem blows up back home."
      From South America, Claire Shipman explained White House frustration over how the tapes are getting more attention than fast track trade issues, before concluding:

      "Now, whatever the short term frustration and fall out, White House aides are arguing that these tapes will prove, yet again, a temporary blip, and indeed one advisor today pointed some recent polls...that showed the President's approval rating higher than ever, and Congress's popularity at the other end of the spectrum."


2) Notes from Wednesday morning and day time cable coverage:

      -- CNN and MSNBC went live with Reno's appearance at about 9:30am ET. MSNBC cut out at noon, CNN a few minutes later. Neither showed any of he afternoon session. Instead, MSNBC spent a good portion of the afternoon showing live coverage of a nanny on trial for murder in Massachusetts.

      -- Wednesday morning, the new tapes led ABC's Good Morning America to bring on Senators Don Nickles and Robert Torricelli, both members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Their appearance marked the first GMA interview with a member of the Senate investigating committee since the hearings convened in July.

      Tim Russert appeared on NBC's Today. After noting that the Senate committee had hired a specialist to see if the tapes had been improperly edited, Couric asked Russert: "Well do you think Fred Thompson is being a little Oliver Stone-ish about this?"

      Russert didn't think Thompson was so nuts: "I think at this point, you know, he wants to take nothing for granted. You just never know. Let's be careful. He lived through Watergate."

       But later, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Russert returned to the system made them do it spin: "Katie, five people have fled the country, twenty people have taken the Fifth. $4 million have been returned. This was a massive undertaking to raise money to help guarantee the reelection of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. The Republicans did it to a lesser extent. The whole system reeked this campaign cycle."


3) Liberal bias and attacks on businessmen as the root cause of evil are not confined to network news shows. MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell caught an example in a family hour sit-com from last week. She reported that ABC's new family hour sit-com Dharma and Greg, which airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm ET/PT, provided an example of how Hollywood's political agenda comes through in its humor.

      On the October 8 episode of the sit-com about a couple, Dharma's radically left wing father meets Greg's conservative father. Entering Greg's country club locker room, Larry, (Dharma's father) announces: "This is a truly righteous Country Club you got here...Of course if you Republicans have your way on immigration, you'll be parking your own cars."
       Shortly thereafter, Larry gets into a heated discussion with Greg's father about the Vietnam War. When Greg's father says "It's not a lie if it's for the greater good," Larry responds "Oh, where have we heard that before? A little place called Vietnam, my friend." When Greg's father asks "What do you know about Vietnam, you weren't even there" Larry matter-of-factly replies "I know it wasn't about communism, it was about Mr. Corporate America looking for another place to sell sody pop and tobaccy."  

       No where is safe from liberal diatribes, not even a silly relationship sit-com in the family hour.

-- Brent Baker




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