Newt's as Immoral as Bill; Liberal Bias is "Absurd;" Real Scandals Skipped
1) Al Hunt asserted that
Newt Gingrich has "been accused of some of the same sort of moral
turpitude" as Clinton.
2) ABC discovered
Clinton's sex habits give "high school students a new appreciation
for their President." At CPAC, NBC saw "T-shirts calling for the
President's impeachment even though no wrongdoing has been proven."
3) Steve Roberts declared
that scandal focus proves "absurd" the idea that "the
liberal media elite is coddling Bill Clinton."
4) "Now They Decide To
Cover a Scandal," the MRC's op-ed piece on how the networks have
skipped many scandals not involving sex.
New York Post is running a daily series of columns, titled "Clinton
Suck-Up Hall of Shame," on the page before the editorial page. Last
week they did Margaret Carlson and Eleanor Clift. I understand that Al
Hunt will appear today or tomorrow. On Sunday, he issued a defense of
Clinton that would definitely qualify. On CNN's special 2-3pm ET Capital
Gang on Sunday, February 1, the Wall Street Journal's former Washington
bureau chief declared:
"Bill Bennett, Mr. Virtues, has said
basically that Clinton is morally unfit to hold office. I'm sure Bill
believes that, but this is the same Bill Bennett who has a close friend
and goes on trips with Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House who's
been accused of some of the same sort of moral turpitude that the
President's been accused of."
At this point, panelist Kate O'Beirne
objected, prompting Hunt to insist: "Well he has been. Kate, you talk
about character. Newt Gingrich gave his wife her walking papers a day out
of cancer surgery. Now that's character and as long as we play political
games, and we view character in a ideological sense, I don't think the
American public is going to be anything but cynical."
Though stories recapping Monica Lewinsky attorney William Ginsburg's
rounds of all five morning talk shows led both the CBS Evening News and
NBC Nightly News on Sunday night (the Pro Bowl bumped ABC's World News
Tonight), the story is losing steam. For the first time since the sex
scandal burst onto network news back on January 21, on Saturday night it
did not lead all three broadcast network evening shows.
On Saturday, January 31 Iraq topped both
ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News while NBC still led with
Monicagate. Both shows also looked at the scandal's impact on teenagers,
with ABC finding teens who said it gave them "a new appreciation for
their President," while CBS found it has not disillusioned teens.
And ABC and NBC took a peek at what CPAC
speakers had to say.
Some highlights from the January 31 shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Following
two pieces on Iraq, ABC went to Michel McQueen who noted that Clinton had
gone to Camp David for the weekend while "a remarkable 45 percent of
the public agreed that there is a conspiracy of right-wing conservatives
trying to make he President look bad." After reporting that Lewinsky
will soon return to Los Angeles, McQueen concluded by picking up on the
"It could be a negotiating tactic to
put pressure on prosecutors to come to an agreement, but it's probably
one that would appeal to the public. Polls show that most people already
believe that everybody, including the media and prosecutors, have gone too
far in this case and they wouldn't mind at all if it disappeared for
Michele Norris checked in with a story on
Hillary Clinton in Switzerland before Karla Davis showcased conservatives
at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) criticizing
Clinton. She showed clips of John Ashcroft, Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich
and Trent Lott. CPAC organizer David Keene, however, saw no gain in
attacking Clinton though ABC aired a soundbite from Bill Bennett calling
for Clinton's resignation if the allegations are true.
For the last story of the night Anderson
Cooper talked to high school students from Louisiana who just completed
the Close-Up program which brings students to DC. Cooper found that
Clinton's actions raised his standing among them:
"While the scandal in the White House
may have appalled their parents, it seemed to give many of these high
school students a new appreciation for their President."
Fifteen-year-old female: "America has
this stupid idealism that like the President should be some like perfect
symbolic guy or you know like some super-hero. The fact that he's like
more human actually is like more comforting to me."
I couldn't make this stuff up.
Concluded Cooper after two more similar
soundbites: "While the crisis in Washington may have added to these
kid's cynicism, it's also made government more real, something worth
paying attention to -- at least for a couple of days."
-- CBS Evening News. Iraq came first
followed by a rundown on the scandal from Wyatt Andrews and a piece from
Terence Smith on how the White House is winning public opinion.
Later, Diana Olick dropped in on a New
Jersey high school for a "Class of 2000" feature on how they see
the Lewinsky case. But unlike ABC, CBS found appalled students who
insisted they would not follow the example set by Clinton, prompting Olick
to observe: "The President, a figure teenagers used to look up
A teacher explained: "They're
already cynical, they're very cynical. Sure it makes them more cynical.
How much more cynical can you get when you're 14 years old."
Olick then concluded: "And yet these
kids are also optimistic. They unanimously believe, despite the scars of
sexual scandal, the Clinton presidency will survive and so will the morals
and values of the Class of 2000."
-- NBC Nightly News was was the only one to
lead with the scandal and only NBC's Claire Shipman reported that Deputy
White House counsel Bruce Lindsey had been subpoenaed. After anchor Brian
Williams talked with Richard Ben-Viniste, the former Watergate prosecutor,
about the status of the investigation, NBC went to John Palmer at CPAC. He
ran clips of Alan Keyes and Jesse Helms denouncing Clinton, but noted
caution from the RNC Chairman. Palmer admonished:
"There were signs and T-shirts calling
for the President's impeachment even though no wrongdoing has been
proven. Buttons read 'Another Member of the Vast Right-Wing
Conspiracy,' a mocking reference to the charge made this week made by
Hillary Rodham Clinton...."
Later, Jonathan Alter explored Hillary
Clinton's role as "Defender-in-Chief."
Media interest in Clinton's sex scandal proves there never was any
liberal bias. At least that's the conclusion argued by former New York
Times and U.S. News reporter Steve Roberts. On Sunday's Late Edition on
CNN he charged:
"I think we can now safely conclude
that this whole notion that the liberal media elite is coddling Bill
Clinton and always plays to the Democrats is absurd. I mean the fact is
who's been the undoing of Bill Clinton: Newsweek and The Washington
Post, those raging conservative publications..."
Roberts still finds bias -- against
Clinton: "The question is though are we fair to Clinton when we cover
it and I think in many ways we have not been..."
National Review Washington editor Kate
O'Beirne countered: "There's an awful lot of people who think the
media, frankly, is playing catch up from 1992 when stories in the '92
campaign weren't covered enough..."
Indeed, see the January 27 CyberAlert for
more on that theme and item #4 below details how the networks have
overlooked some very serious stories about Clinton ethics.
Even liberal reporters will jump on a
Democratic scandal if it doesn't involve the administration's
policies. All negative stories are not alike: There's a big difference
between saying Clinton is stonewalling or his team isn't up to the big
leagues because multiple AG nominees implode, quite another to file a
report on how Reagan again today proposed a tax change that will help the
rich and hurt the poor. One deals with the mechanics of an administration,
the other its policies.
Remember, just two weeks before Monica, Tom
Brokaw framed the child care issue just as the White House wished. He told
January 7 NBC Nightly News viewers: "The dilemma of every working
parent is front and center tonight at the White House, President Clinton
unveiling a multi-billion dollar plan to provide more and better care for
By popular demand, my "Viewpoint" piece from the Monday, January
26 Investor's Business Daily. Editorial page editor Ben Boychuk kindly
checked with his bosses and they have okayed my request to distribute it
by e-mail so long as I note that the article is copyrighted by
Investor's Business Daily and reprinted with the permission of
Investor's Business Daily. MRC research associate Kristina Sewell made
the changes to my draft so what is below matches what appeared in IBD
following the editing changes made by Boychuk to clarify points and make
my bit too long submission fit the available space.
Now They Decide To Cover a Scandal
By Brent H. Baker
When Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr
spoke publicly on Thursday about the current sex scandal, ABC News
reporter Tim O'Brien stood behind him and interrupted by yelling,
"How is this Whitewater? How is this Whitewater?"
The question is not why Starr is going
beyond Whitewater. The question is: When will the networks go beyond
A former Clinton Cabinet officer is
indicted while those around another official admit giving him illegal
gifts. Another Cabinet secretary contradicts earlier statements and
concedes he made payments to former Associate General Webster Hubbell. A
federal judge rules that the first lady and a top White House aide made
misleading statements in court papers. The discovery of an old check
contradicts the president's earlier sworn Whitewater claims.
All that happened in the past three
months, before the Clinton sex scandal fueled the network news frenzy.
But television viewers learned little if anything about any of the
In early November, Cable News Network
broke a story about the discovery, in the trunk of an abandoned car, of
a 1982 Madison Guaranty check for $27,000 to Bill Clinton. The check
contradicts Clinton's assertion that he never borrowed any money from
the failed savings and loan.
A few days later NBC picked up on the
explosive find that suggests the president committed perjury in his
trial testimony, but ABC never got around to it in the morning or
evening. Zilch on the CBS "Evening News" or "CBS This
Not even a prison term and a guilty plea
that implicated a former Cabinet official could stir the broadcast
On Jan. 15, the ex-mistress of former
Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded guilty and agreed to a 3 ½-year
prison term for fraud and conspiracy related to her lying about how much
Cisneros paid her to keep quiet about their affair. CNN and Fox News
Channel ran stories, but ABC, CBS and NBC were silent on both their
evening and morning shows.
The Cisneros indictment a month earlier,
for lying and obstructing justice during his FBI background check, did
warrant a full segment on NBC, but generated just 18 seconds on ABC's
"World News Tonight."
CBS didn't get around to it for another
day. Dan Rather gave it nine seconds on Dec. 12. That same night, he
gave two minutes to El Nino's impact on butterflies.
The plight of those around former
Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy has also gone unnoticed by network
Not even the cable networks that
mentioned Cisneros on Jan. 15 bothered with the Espy case in their prime
time shows. That day, a Tysons Food Inc. vice president and lobbyist
were indicted for giving illegal gifts to Espy and later lying about it.
Ignoring Espy is nothing new. The Dec. 2
conviction of Ronald Blackley, Espy's top aide at Agriculture, for lying
about money he received never made it onto an ABC, CBS or NBC morning or
evening news show, or CNN in prime time.
The networks were just as uninterested in
the latest news about Hillary Clinton's Health Care Task Force. The
news of a federal judge's Dec. 18 ruling that White House officials
lied about the makeup of the '93 health plan panel didn't generate
one network story. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth accused White
House officials of engaging in a "cover-up" and levied a
Clinton health care adviser Ira Magaziner
had insisted the panel included "only federal government
employees" and didn't have to hold open meetings. Lamberth ruled
that Magaziner's claim was "actually false." The only
network coverage of this fabrication: One question from Tim Russert over
a week later on NBC's "Meet the Press."
And former Commerce Secretary Mickey
Kantor admitted that he had indeed helped Webster Hubbell obtain a
do-nothing contract with the Los Angeles city government.
The Los Angeles Times noted on Dec. 14
that Kantor "said earlier this year that it would have been
'inappropriate' for him to have gotten involved with the Los Angeles
payment," but "in sworn testimony to congressional
investigators...Kantor described steps he took to help Hubbell obtain
the $24,750 payment from the city government in late 1995."
The networks, however, didn't devote so
much as one second to this admission of "inappropriate"
These are important stories that deserve
as much attention as Monica Lewinsky and then some. The American viewing
public deserves better.
(Brent H. Baker is vice president for
research and publications at the Media Research Center in Alexandria,
I'd note that since I wrote this Kantor
has come aboard the White House crisis control team, but I've yet to see
any news story which used that as a hook to discuss his efforts on
Hubbell's behalf. -- Brent Baker
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