1) The appearances of Janet Reno and Louis Freeh before the House
Government Reform and Oversight Committee led both the ABC and CBS
newscasts Tuesday night, but not NBC's which put top priority on a
press conference held by suspended NBA player Latrell Sprewell. NBC
did, however, air a story on the delayed release of more White House
notes, but dismissed their importance. CBS also looked at the notes,
but not ABC.
Both CNN and
MSNBC picked up the hearing live at about 9:45am ET and continued to
12:30pm ET. When Freeh appeared at about 3:45pm ET both networks again
went live, cutting out just before 5pm, about 40 minutes before the
Here are some
highlight's from the December 9 shows:
World News Tonight. Reporter Linda Douglass began the first story
of the show: "Much to the disappointment of Republicans, the
Attorney General and the FBI Director presented a united front. Louie
Freeh made a point of arriving at the hearing with Janet Reno even
though he wasn't scheduled to testify until later in the day..."
showed clips of Chairman Dan Burton, Reno and Freeh. Then ABC went to
Sprewell. Not a word about any newly released noted or how the White
House had failed to cooperate with a subpoena for them.
Evening News. Rather opened by mentioning both the notes and the
House testimony. Up first: Bob Schieffer on Reno and Freeh. He began
by showing Burton accusing Reno of protecting the President, adding:
"Reno turned back most questioning by saying it was improper to
comment on how an investigation is being conducted, but it got so
heated at one point a Democrat said Reno's critics should see a
this from Democrat Tom Lantos: "In some cases only quick medical
advice may be helpful in dealing with the degree of pathological
hatred that permeates portions of this town."
continued: "For all the invective from both sides, Republicans
could not shake Reno who revealed little beyond the investigation
highlighted what ABC didn't find newsworthy. He introduced a full
report from Scott Pelley:
that was happening as some potentially damaging revelations about the
Clinton camp were coming out, taken from its own words. These
disclosures were in secret diaries just turned over to Congress. They
contain blunt talk from private sessions before the 1996
that the White House was "holding onto these diaries for eight
months" before their late Monday disclosure. Taken down by a
secretary, Pelley explained, they were "edited heavily" but
do reveal that two weeks before the election then White House
chief-of-staff Leon Panetta asked about illegal foreign contributions.
Pelley elaborated: "Later, Panetta describes a presidential
fundraiser as 'another one of those events where people come through
the back door.'" Pelley also relayed how the notes of meetings
referred to "political coffees or money coffees." He
were the diaries eight months late? Lawyers here say that the
secretary didn't understand that Congress's subpoena also applied to
her computer notes."
Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's top of the broadcast tease: "Latrell
Sprewell, the banned basketball star, says he's sorry for the attack
on his coach, PJ Carlesimo. Was there a rush to judgment?"
first ad break NBC got to the notes, but treated their delayed
disclosure as just routine. Brokaw asserted:
White House tonight, a familiar scenario. Documents demanded months
ago by congressional investigators, looking into campaign financing,
have suddenly surfaced..."
Shipman explained that the White House put out 200 pages of computer
notes. After a soundbite from Burton denouncing the delay, Shipman
noted that White House counsel Lanny Davis called the problem a
No big deal
anyway, Shipman implied, explaining:
notes don't contain much more than a few titillating details --
discussions of the difference between 'political' and 'money' coffees,
a former chief-of-staff wondering why convicted felons were given
access to the White House. But the real problem this time around isn't
the substance, it's the now tattered White House reputation. Behind
the scenes aides admit that though they believe it this explanation
for the delay does seem flimsy. As one staff member put it, 'it's
another screw up and it sure doesn't make us look very good.'
Well, if they
believe it I guess that means it's good enough for everyone else. NBC
did not run a full story on the House hearing. Instead Brokaw showed a
soundbite each from Reno and Freeh.
morning only NBC's Today told viewers about the notes released Monday
night which showed that high-level staffers referred to the coffees as
"money coffees" and that Leon Panetta knew unsavory types
were invited to DNC fundraisers with the President. Though the
December 9 Los Angeles Times showcased the note release in a front
page story headlined, "White House Forwards More Donor
Records," neither ABC's Good Morning America or CBS's This
Morning mentioned them, reported MRC news analysts Gene Eliasen and
Steve Kaminski. The New York Times and USA Today included the notes in
page one stories on Freeh and Reno refusing to release Freeh's memo to
Reno on an independent counsel.
Claire Shipman who dismissed the disclosure by claiming "the
notes don't contain much more than a few titillating details," on
Today earlier in the day Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Tim Russert took
them quite seriously. Lauer opened the December 9 Today:
morning. The White House released dozens of campaign fundraising
documents last night after saying for months they didn't exist. With
more congressional hearings scheduled for this morning the White House
has some explaining to do today, Tuesday December 9th, 1997."
in: "And I'm Katie Couric. It looks like members of the Clinton
administration might be in the hot seat again today. They handed in
their homework late, again."
appeared a few minutes later and, as transcribed by MRC news analyst
Geoffrey Dickens, told Couric of their importance:
they show Katie is that people at the White House were very aware that
they were raising money off of political coffees and in fact were
taking advantage of campaign finance loopholes. Leon Panetta, the
former White House Chief of Staff kept saying, 'Well what if there is
an investigation by the Federal Election Commission? What will
happen?' 'Oh don't worry. We'll get the results of that after the
"And then for him to say, Tim, 'This will move campaign finance
reform forward.' Ouch!"
"Absolutely an acknowledgment that there were abuses or at least
taking extreme advantage of loopholes and Katie also the
acknowledgment that there were quote, 'Criminals running through the
White House. Or people coming in the backdoor.' This was not an
innocent bunch of folks who were saying, 'Gee we were taken advantage
of by these grubby fundraisers.' Those folks were invited into the
inquired: "Alright, so will these matters prove embarrassing,
highly embarrassing perhaps or illegal?"
replied: "Embarrassing. And the timing Katie. You know once again
it is the White House dribbling this out after the evening news shows
on the night before Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis
Freeh are going before Congress."
that "they're trying to tuck it in under the wave of Reno and
Freeh, hoping it's a one day wonder story and it all goes away. They
can't explain why these records were delayed in terms of being turned
over. There is no explanation."
said "they hope we're gonna focus on Janet Reno and Louis Freeh
today and this story will be over," Couric declared: "Well
obviously we are not letting them do that. And much of the media
already have, including ABC's World News Tonight and GMA, to say
nothing of Today which didn't bother mentioning the Senate hearings
most days over the summer.
night Ted Koppel devoted Nightline to discrediting an anti-global
warming treaty ad campaign. Koppel also jumped on a conservative
guest, equating scientists who don't buy into liberal claims that man
is causing warming with those who once didn't realize the Earth was
from those on both sides of the global warming debate, Koppel opened
the December 9 Nightline by calling it "the Chicken Little, sky
is falling approach being adopted by both sides in the debate."
But Nightline only wanted to discredit one side, specifically those
behind television ads opposed to a global warming treaty. Reporter
Chris Bury asserted in his set-up story:
people running the ads call themselves the Global Climate Information
Project, special interests from car manufacturers to oil companies to
coal miners. Their $13 million dollar commercial campaign glosses over
the science of the global warming debate to focus on two things:
fairness and fear."
Clip of an
actor playing a businesswoman in the ad: "I worked hard to build
my business, but now a proposed UN climate treaty could put me out of
business by raising the cost of natural gas, electricity and gasoline
by 25 to 50 percent."
the rest of the piece giving the Sierra Club's Carl Pope a forum to
denounce the ad point by point. Though Bury allowed the ad's producer
to speak a few times, his purpose was clear: tear apart the ad's
claims. Indeed, in contrast to Koppel's top of the show promise, Bury
did not cast any doubt on liberal claims.
For the rest
of the show Koppel interviewed Michael Oppenheimer of the
Environmental Defense Fund and Karen Kerrigan of the Small Business
Survival Committee, a sponsor of the ad. At one point Kerrigan dared
that the science in conclusive, maybe from a bunch of those elitist
scientists over in Kyoto, but certainly there are plenty of scientists
here in the United States -- those who actually have expertise in this
area who say that the conclusivity is actually bunk."
immediately pounced on Kerrigan, talking over Oppenheimer. As soon as
Oppenheimer was quiet and viewers could hear him the ABC anchor
countered Kerrigan, telling her:
just going to make the observation that there are still some people
who believe in the Flat Earth Society, too, but that doesn't mean
could reply Koppel went to an ad break. As pointed out in a recent
Special Report from the MRC's Free Market Project, a Gallup poll
determined that "only 19 percent of the members of the American
Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union think that
the climate change of the 20th century has been the result of
If you are
more interested in learning what scientists believe than is Koppel,
check out the special report titled "Facts Frozen Out: Network
News and Global Warming." It's featured at the top of the MRC Web