Arlington Buried; Babies
Before Baghdad; No Liberal Teamster Tie
Arlington Cemetery has Washington abuzz. Papers are running stories.
McCurry is lashing out in anger. Talk radio is talking about it. Local
TV news is leading with it. One gap: Network TV.
2) Babies Beat
Baghdad. Three networks led with the sextuplets Wednesday night. CBS
gave 12 times more time over the past week to Nixon's 25 year-old
tapes than to any Clinton scandal.
3) The networks
missed another hook for the Democratic involvement in money-laundering
with the Teamsters.
>>>> This Just
Into the CyberAlert Newsroom: CNN President Rick Kaplan is canning
three on-air anchors and a correspondent. In today's Washington Post
(November 21) John Carmody reported: "Departing will be the
Washington-based medical correspondent Jeff Levine and Atlanta-based
staffers Kitty Pilgrim, Kathleen Kennedy and Linden Soles."
"Uproar Arises Over Allocation of Arlington Burial Plots,"
read the headline over a November 20 Washington Post story buried in
the Metro section. The Washington political world and talk radio
across the country may reflect the uproar, but not the networks.
Through Thursday night's evening shows the broadcast networks have yet
to mention the erupting scandal.
story broke Wednesday with the pre-release of an upcoming Insight
magazine scoop. Editor Paul Rodriguez's lead: "Burial plots in
the national war cemeteries, including Arlington, allegedly have been
'bought' by fat-cat donors to Clinton's re-election committee and the
DNC who aren't even veterans." On Wednesday talk radio hosts,
including Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, alerted their listeners
to the potential scandal.
Thursday morning (November 20) the Post story cited above appeared, as
well as pieces the New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Times.
"Panel Probes Waivers at Arlington Cemetery," declared the
USA Today headline. The New York Times headline emphasized doubts:
"White House Denies Report of Burial Plots Traded for
Washington Times played the story on the front page: "Politics
Suspected in Arlington Burials." Reporter Rowan Scarborough
provided this overview of the situation as well as some background
information which explains why the charge is being taken so seriously
by everyone but the networks:
"A House probe has uncovered cases of
suspected 'favoritism' by the Clinton administration in granting
burial in the restricted Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to
people who never served in the military.
"Rep. Terry Everett, Alabama Republican
and chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on oversight
and investigations, said Army Secretary Togo West has granted an
unprecedented 60 waivers to the burial rules since 1993.
"Of those, he said, 10 have 'no rhyme
nor reason' for the honor of burial in what war veterans revere as
sacred ground. In all 10 cases, the Congressman's spokesman said, the
Arlington superintendent recommended denial but was overruled by Mr.
"Mr. West issued waivers based on
recommendations from Assistant Army Secretary Sara Lister, who said in
a June 12 letter to Mr. Everett that Arlington burial policy 'falls
under my purview.' Mrs. Lister resigned last week after her remark
that Marines are 'extremists' angered veterans and members of
"The Army Times reported in June that
Mr. West has waived the burial rules at Arlington almost triple the
rate of the two previous administrations under Ronald Reagan and
George Bush and has granted the highest number since the exception
process began 30 years ago...."
White House counsel Lanny Davis denied any wrongdoing and revealed
only one name and three descriptions of who got waivers: former
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the wife of another justice,
a DEA agent killed in the line of duty and a former Marine killed
while a DC police officer.
Wednesday night the networks were silent, even CNN. But not all the
television media failed to probe the matter. Washington DC's ABC
affiliate, WJLA-TV, ran an "I-Team" report Wednesday night
on its "News 7 at 11." None of the print stories were able
to cite any of the ten names or so in question since the Army keeps
the waiver records confidential, but WJLA reporter Kim Skeen moved the
story forward by discovering one name:
"Sources tell the I-Team San Diego
businessman Larry Lawrence, a major contributor to the Clinton
campaign, received a waiver in 1996. Laurence was a Swiss Ambassador
and merchant marine, but not a member of the armed services while
veterans who were are routinely turned away" because limited
space has led to very tight rules on who qualifies for burial.
(Lawrence died last year.)
Thursday morning, however, the network shows failed to pick up the
developing story, not even ABC's Good Morning America which could have
capitalized on its own affiliate's scoop. Instead, GMA spent most of
the first half hour interviewing people related to the Iowa
sextuplets. Charlie Gibson also talked to UN weapons inspector Richard
Butler. Today didn't bother with Iraq until the 7:30 half hour. The
NBC show, MRC analyst Eric Darbe noted, spent the entire first half
hour interviewing doctors and family connected to the sextuplets.
CBS's This Morning aired three interviews in a row on the sextuplets
during its prime 8am half hour, observed MRC analyst Steve Kaminski.
time Thursday brought a flurry of activity as everyone from Senator
Arlen Specter to White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry commented on
the story. AP relayed that "McCurry on Thursday said the charges
were 'absurd.'" He went on to issue a very mean-spirited attack
on talk radio for daring to mention the allegation: "This is a
story that appeared, largely uncorroborated, with anonymous sources,
in a conservative right-wing publication. It was picked up on the hate
radio talk circuit and inflamed yesterday."
But still, the networks
refused to tell their viewers about the brewing scandal or even just
about the controversy surrounding it. Not a syllable about it on
Thursday's ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly
News. On CNN it couldn't break through the instant infant infatuation.
CNN dumped Inside Politics at 4pm ET to carry live coverage of two Des
Moines press conferences and the network bumped the 10p ET World Today
so it could run a one hour special on the sextuplets.
The networks remained asleep,
but another DC affiliate considered the story newsworthy as the
possible cemetery sale led the 11pm news on Washington's CBS
let's compare network news judgment to that of their journalistic
colleagues. Network producers may argue the story is not solid, that
they are not sure of the accuracy of the allegation. Indeed, no one
has provided conclusive evidence that anything improper occurred. But,
the story is swirling around the networks: Not only has talk radio
picked it up, but mainstream national papers, such as the New York
Times and USA Today, considered it newsworthy. The ABC and CBS
affiliated stations in DC made it their top story. And the Press
Secretary to the President commented on it as well as the Army
Secretary and several Senators and Congressmen.
Network reporters are the only people not mentioning the charge, not
even raising it in order to emphasize the lack of evidence. They
appear to be the ones out of touch. Out of touch with both official
Washington and middle America.
Babies Beat Baghdad. The three broadcast network shows led Wednesday
night with the sextuplets, putting the babies before the Iraq crisis.
But NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw managed to intertwine the
stories as he opened the November 19 broadcast:
"Good evening. It was a day of great
contrasts. While world leaders continued to worry about a merchant of
death in the Middle East, in the Middle West of America there was a
new celebration of new life..."
Thursday night, the networks reversed order with all three leading
with the apparent Iraqi agreement followed by the Iowa births. Tom
Brokaw again got both stories into one sentence: "Good evening.
Baghdad and babies remain the two most compelling and contrasting
stories of the day..."
before you get the idea that the Iraqi deal dominated the newscasts
and thus eliminated any time for the Arlington Cemetery story, take a
look at what the networks had time to air Thursday night. NBC featured
an "In Depth" segment on septuplet doctors and another story
on the controversy over fertility drugs. Plus, land scams played on
elderly in which they send $500 to someone in another state who
promises to advertise and sell land owned by the elderly, but pocket
the money instead. They even had time for a piece on adults who go to
college at night.
ran a full report on Clinton's proposal for a health care bill of
rights, a story on a weather satellite to be launched from Japan which
will better track Dan Rather's favorite weather pattern, El Nino and
an Eye on America about telemarketing scams aimed at seniors. If you
missed the telemarketing story, don't worry. NBC is doing the same
story Friday night.
CBS Evening News has not run a word about any Clinton-related scandal
since Dan Rather gave 29 seconds last Friday to Bob Woodward's
discovery that the Justice Department had evidence of a Chinese effort
to influence U.S. elections. But, CBS has found a scandal worth almost
12 times as much airtime: Transcripts of Nixon tapes, tapes that offer
no new revelations. MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski timed the two Eye
on America segments from Eric Engberg. On November 18 CBS gave the
story 2 minutes and 48 seconds; on November 19 CBS allocated 2 minutes
and 50 seconds.
It's not only scandals with weak evidence that the networks avoid.
They also ignore ones where the evidence is overwhelming in which
people have admitted their guilt or been found guilty.
the money laundering scheme involving Democratic officials and the
Teamsters. On Monday, the court appointed overseer of the Teamster
election disqualified Teamster President Ron Carey from running again.
The official determined that Carey knew about improper
money-laundering. But none of the network stories mentioned the
Democratic/Clinton connection or that of some liberal groups in the
money laundering scheme.
news analyst Geoffrey Dickens reported that Tom Brokaw gave the
development 21 seconds on November 17:
"In other news tonight, when he was
elected Teamsters President six years ago Ron Carey was a working
class hero in a union with a history of scandal. Well tonight Carey is
a victim of his own scandal. A court appointed overseer has ruled he
knew of an illegal fundraising scheme in last year's union elections.
Carey has been disqualified from running again."
Evening News anchor Dan Rather took 30 seconds to read this item:
"A federal court appointed union monitor
today disqualified Teamsters President Ron Carey from running again.
Former federal judge Kenneth Conboy ruled Carey 'tolerated and engaged
in' violations of political and union campaign spending. This is a big
victory for James Hoffa, Jr., the son of the late Jimmy Hoffa, Carey's
chief rival for the union presidency. Late today, Carey denied
wrongdoing, he said though Teamster reform 'does not depend on one man
ABC's World News Tonight even did a full story, as did CNN. But
neither mentioned the Democratic angle. As transcribed by MRC news
analyst Gene Eliasen, ABC's John Martin alluded to the outside
involvement, but failed to cite names: "Today's decision said
that just one month before this rally, Carey had personally approved
donations of $735,000 from the Teamsters treasury to groups that were
to funnel the money back to his campaign. Election officer Kenneth
Conboy ruled that was a clear and serious violation of the election
rules. In Washington, Carey vowed to appeal."
Martin went on to paint the situation as a
loss for everyone, concluding his piece: "One analyst called the
day a disastrous set back for the union and the nation. Despite his
recent UPS strike victory, Carey's status is in shambles and so is the
effort to clean up the Teamsters."
isn't the first time the networks have missed a hook for the
Democratic/Clinton/Citizen Action angle:
-- As detailed in the October 15 CyberAlert,
when the House held a hearing the networks didn't bother attending.
-- The October 9 CyberAlert explained how
only NBC's Lisa Myers told viewers how Harold Ickes, before the Senate
committee, was asked about money laundering with the Teamsters.
-- The Senate fundraising committee recalled
Richard Sullivan on October 9 to probe his knowledge of a Ron Carey-DNC
money swap plan. Only ABC's World News Tonight ran a story. See the
October 10 CyberAlert.
-- Back on September 18 three Democratic
consultants, including one who worked for the Clinton campaign, plead
guilty to subverting campaign finance laws. As explained in the
September 25 CyberAlert, zilch on any of the broadcast network evening
shows, but it captured a few seconds on GMA and a story on CNN.
For more on Teamster coverage over the past few months, read the
latest edition of the MRC's Media Reality Check fax report. In the
issue sent on Thursday the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, Tim
Graham, gives a numerical rundown of what the networks haven't
considered worth reporting and contrasts that with the focus given to
the strike. The report is now posted on the MRC Web site, right at the
top of the page: http://www.mrc.org
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