Thompson's Drug Scandal; Clinton as Human Rights Crusader
- Evidence of
Clinton calls and Wednesday's hearings ignored by the networks,
but NBC did tie Fred Thompson to a drug scandal.
Wednesday morning on fundraising; CNN and MSNBC ignore hearings
portrayed as a human rights crusader; Gary Bauer tagged as
"far right" by ABC but Richard Gere just an
"activist." And Captain Picard comes as whose date to
the State Dinner?
- In 1997
networks didn't blame Clinton for market fall, but in 1987 the
"chickens were coming home to roost" for "Herbert
Reagan's" refusal to raise taxes.
networks refuse to jump on evidence that Clinton made fundraising
calls from the White House. "Records Show Clinton Made White
House Calls to Donors" announced a New York Times headline last
Friday, October 24. Reporter John Cushman began his story:
- "The Clinton
Administration has turned over to federal investigators
telephone records showing that President Clinton made telephone
calls about campaign fundraising from the White House, including
one from the Oval Office and others from his residence, White
House officials said today."
Coverage: In the
morning: a brief item read by Good Morning America news reader Kevin
Newman, but not a syllable on This Morning or Today. Zilch Friday
night on CNN's The World Today and the broadcast network evening
Now, jump ahead to yesterday.
On Wednesday, October 29, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
heard from Richard Jenrette, the former CEO of Equitable Insurance who
actually does recall getting fundraising calls from both Bill Clinton
and Al Gore. He appeared in the morning. In the afternoon the
committee questioned White House counsels Lanny Breuer, Charles Ruff
and Michael Imbroscio about the delays in the release of documents and
Coverage: Not a word
about fundraising or the hearings Wednesday night on ABC's World News
Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. CBS can at least say it
earlier reported the Jenrette revelation, but not ABC or NBC. As
detailed in the October 21 CyberAlert, on the October 20 CBS Evening
News Dan Rather read a 30 second item about Jenrette confirming a call
from Clinton -- the totality of broadcast network time for the
disclosure which appeared in the October 27 Newsweek.
(Two more days have passed
since Monday's Los Angeles Times story in which the "Indonesian
gardener" contradicted the White House line and said that his
contributions came from an Indonesian national tied to the Lippo
Group. Through Wednesday night still nothing on the networks about
this latest evidence of illegal foreign money.)
But Senator Fred Thompson has
received some airtime in a story about a scandal -- the scandal of
legislation to benefit drug companies. The October 28 NBC Nightly News
featured a "Between the Lines" segment about a bill that
would prevent the sale of some generic drugs, including a generic of
the popular anti-allergy drug Claritin, by extending for five
additional years the exclusive rights to the formula granted to
companies which create a new drug. NBC reporter Lisa Myers explained:
"...At stake: billions
of dollars. First, the special deal was pushed by Senator Fred
Thompson, Chairman of the investigation into money and politics. But
when reporters started asking questions, Thompson quickly backed
morning and day time. Once again, what hearings? Good Morning America,
This Morning and Today were dominated by the nanny murder trial, the
stock market and the visit of Chinese honcho Jiang Zemin. CBS's This
Morning, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski noted, managed time to teach
viewers how to knit a sweater with dog hairs. A whole new way to look
at Fido the next time you get cold.
Neither CNN or MSNBC offered
any live hearings coverage Wednesday as each showed events with the
Chinese leader and offered constant updates on how the nanny murder
jury was still deliberating. From 10am through 5pm ET, in fact, CNN
did not even offer a hearings update. And the Jiang/Clinton press
conference bumped Inside Politics as the show has yet to air this
week. (Bumped Monday and Tuesday for stock market news.) But CNN did
find time during the day for some less than pressing news, including
the usual ShowBiz Today features from Jim Moret and, at about 2:48pm
ET, a whole story about the wonders of a new margarine made without
any trans fats.
night the networks portrayed Clinton as a great human rights crusader,
emphasizing how he took on Jiang Zemin face to face. But only NBC
noted that Clinton's new tough line on human rights contradicts his
policies of the past few years. And on ABC, the political spectrum of
the protesters went from "far right" Gary Bauer to the
"Hollywood activism" of Richard Gere. Here's a rundown of
the October 29 Chinese visit coverage and the stories run instead of
ABC's World News Tonight.
John Donvan opened his top of the show story:
"While the Chinese
leader was getting the full measure of a White House welcome -- the
cannons, the fifes and drums -- demonstrators were unfurling a full
menu of protests. China's behavior on Taiwan, its record on human
rights, its suppression of independence in Tibet. That rally briefly
allied speakers from the far right."
Gary Bauer, Family Research
Council, at a Lafayette Park protest: "We will keep the
pressure on the Chinese leadership and the Chinese government."
Richard Gere, actor, at
same protest: "This is not a cuddly new China we're talking
missed all of that. He was in talks with Mr. Clinton. But then Mr.
Clinton turned part of this news conference into an unscheduled
debate on human rights..."
Donvan showed clips of the
Clinton/Jiang Zemin exchange and described the deals signed on
aircraft and nuclear technology. Next, ABC aired a full story from
John McWethy on the nuclear power plant deal followed by a piece from
Dean Reynolds in Kansas on how Americans are hoping to get more
business with China:
- "Here in Kansas,
as in many parts of America, the old hostility toward the Red
Chinese is giving way to the realization China is a huge market
that must be tapped..."
Other stories covered by ABC:
the day on Wall Street, trip by Prince Charles to Africa, the nanny
murder trail, more on the drug dealer with AIDS in New York who had
sex with teenagers, and how the Mars Rover has been out of
communication for weeks.
Evening News. "President Clinton in private and
finally in public today made pointed remarks about China's
record on human rights," Dan Rather announced at
the start of the show.
- Reporter Scott Pelley
began: "A short time ago we witnessed a remarkable and
very public split between the two Presidents on the subject of
human rights. At a news conference Mr. Clinton called for a
truly free China."
Pelley showed soundbites from
Clinton and Jiang, noting that Jiang "justified the killing"
in Tiananmen Square. Pelley ended by listing the agreements made.
CBS didn't mention the
protests, but ended the show with a look at the U.S./China trade
deficit driven by the toy industry which takes advantage of China's
low production costs. In between, viewers saw stories on the stock
market, the New York AIDS scandal, a study that found DDT did not
cause breast cancer and an Eye on America on new recruits to organized
Also in the mix: An excerpt
of Bryant Gumbel's "exclusive" interview with parents of the
baby in the nanny murder case, an interview which aired on Wednesday
night's Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel. See the October 29 CyberAlert
for how Gumbel promised his show would avoid tabloid topics.
- Rather signed off by
asserting: "Washington, DC is decked out in red today in
honor of that close and growing partnership with communist
China, but all the decorations can't hide the discomfort that
was evident in this picture [Jiang and Clinton] at today's news
conference and the knowledge that in major areas, particularly
human rights, these two partners do still have irreconcilable
Nightly News opened with a report from David Bloom on how
Jiang got the red carpet treatment in the morning
"until this afternoon when President Clinton pulled the
rug out from under Jiang as the two men engaged in a
surprisingly forceful, extraordinary public debate over
China's brutal repression of human rights and religious
NBC showed soundbites of the
press conference as Bloom highlighted how Jiang was
"unapologetic" over Tiananmen Square. Bloom also summarized
the agreements made.
Next, NBC went to Bob Faw for
a look at the protests and human rights in China. Faw began:
- "As Washington
was rolling out the red carpet for President Jiang, Jiang's
government was rolling over a Protestant church group in the
northeastern city of [some place I can't imagine how to spell,
but something like Ging Do]..."
Faw explained how 2,000 are
jailed for political views and how thousands came to DC to protest,
including actor Richard Gere. Faw ran a soundbite from the actor who
stars in a movie about China's "repressive legal system."
Then Faw raised an angle
skipped by ABC and CBS:
- "Despite Mr.
Clinton's tough talk today to the Chinese leader, some Chinese
watchers doubt that the words will bring about change."
- Ross Munro, China
scholar: "Because he took such a strong stand in 1992
through 1994 and then totally retreated on the issue. So the
Chinese do not take him seriously."
Other topics covered by
Nightly News: DDT/breast cancer, the nanny murder trial and an
"In Depth" segment on the Au Pair system, plus a story on
researchers who attached electrodes to people's hands as they flashed
the word "God" on a computer screen to learn if human brains
are "hard-wired to God."
(Top media figures were among
the guests at Wednesday night's White House State Dinner for Jiang
Zemin. In addition to congressional leaders and more than 30 business
leaders, the October 30 Washington Post listed these guests: Dan
Rather, Tom Brokaw, Diane Sawyer, CNN President Tom Johnson, Mortimer
Zuckerman, New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and former
Washington Post Publisher Katherine Graham. "Winning the odd
couple of the evening award," the Post suggested, "were
[Secretary of State] Albright and her escort, Star Trek: The Next
Generation's bald Captain Picard -- actor Patrick Stewart.")
4) What a
difference a President makes. In Monday's stock market plunge the Dow
Jones fell 7 percent compared to a 22 percent drop in the 1987 crash.
That difference dissuaded me from comparing coverage of the two
downturns, but Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, went
back to the records from the MRC's first days and discovered a big
difference worth highlighting.
This year on Monday night
none of the networks blamed Clinton for the stock market fall. In
fact, ABC, CBS and NBC all made time for stories on Clinton touting
how the annual deficit had fallen to the lowest level in 23 years.
(None mentioned how falling defense spending was the primary factor or
how the GOP Congress had prevented many huge Clinton spending
But ten years ago, the media
delivered a no confidence message on President Reagan's economic
leadership. The media line: Stock market plunge proves Reaganomics is
a failure and it's time to finally raise taxes. Some examples:
From the October 20, 1987
NBC Nightly News. The late John Chancellor's commentary:
"...America has been borrowing its prosperity, not creating it.
Borrowing a lot of it from foreigners while Wall Street had a boom
the USA became the world's biggest debtor nation. It was like the
Chinese water torture, drop after drop of bad news. Everybody knew
these chickens were coming home to roost. Investors had begun to
loose confidence in the future, and that's why a little scare became
a big panic. The party was nice while it lasted, but this was the
week when the bill arrived. Which is the commentary for this
From the October 21, 1987
NBC Nightly News. John Chancellor's commentary: "...Ronald
Reagan said a tax increase 'over my dead body' and that was popular
with the voters. In 1984 Fritz Mondale said he'd raise taxes and
carried only Minnesota and the District of Columbia. So, without
enough money coming in, government had to borrow to pay its way,
which drove up the deficit and the deficit was one of the main
reasons for this week's disaster, which raises and interesting
question, which would have been better: a stock market disaster or a
tax increase which might have prevented the disaster? The answer,
which is clear, is already changing the vocabulary of the 1988
election. Even President Reagan said today he's willing to talk
about taxes, sort of..."
From the October 21, 1987
CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "New questions were raised
today about President Reagan's ability, willingness and clout to
help calm the shock waves still reverberating from Wall
Bill Plante, picking up
after a soundbite of Senator Lloyd Bentsen calling for a tax hike:
"That idea, that a tax increase is all but inevitable was also
advanced today by this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in
Robert Solow: "I
would like to see the President stop this nonsense of we are never
going to have a tax increase, over my dead body."
Reagan may still be saying that, but now a lot of people both inside
and outside the administration are betting the President will be
forced to accept some kind of new taxes under the threat of another
Wall Street disaster. Bill Plante, CBS News, the White House."
From the October 22, 1987
CBS Evening News. Bill Plante: "...Despite today's
assurances, some in financial circles are afraid that President
Reagan will repeat his pledge of no new taxes tonight and further
upset the markets."
"Analysts say stocks won't go up until Wall Street knows which
way Washington is going. Wall Street's been talking about the
optimistic statements issued by President Hoover during the 1929
stock crash and comparing them to President Reagan's upbeat messages
"All the business indices are up. There is nothing wrong with
the economy." [Just what Clinton said]
Pierre Rimfert, economist:
"He cannot walk away from this and say don't blame me. I'll
tell you what we call him in private. We call him Herbert
Brady: "One big
brokerage house today told clients to sell ten percent of their
stocks and get into bonds. Advice that was taken by giant investors
and small investors who lined up at banks to buy. Bonds are what you
buy if you think there's trouble ahead and that's just what some
economists are predicting...So Wall Street finished the day relieved
it will have time to clean up al that paperwork, but worried that
for the economy and the stock market, there seems no relief in
sight. Ray Brady, CBS News, New York."
No relief in sight? As noted
in the October 29 USA Today, going back to the early 1960s the best
ten year period in the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index: up 444
percent between June 30, 1982 and June 30, 1992.
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