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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday, March 26, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 51)

Jonesboro: Blame NRA & Southern Culture; Priviledge & Hill Blackout

1) Wednesday night ABC skipped all the scandals, CBS emphasized how much the insistence on investigations is costing.

2) The Jonesboro shooting generated some anti-NRA and pro-gun control hits from Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, and the views of both sides from ABC's Chase.

3) The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News have yet to mention executive privilege this week, but Sam Donaldson nailed Clinton's deceit. On NBC: snorting cocaine just like diabetes and asthma?

4) Nolanda Hill's charge that the Clinton team sold seats on trade missions picked up by CNN, but still nothing on NBC.

5) Which way is it? "Most American schools are indeed safe," or school violence "has escalated to terrifying proportions."

Clinton & the Stew in the Star. The March 31 edition of the Star tabloid features video stills captured from the MRC Web site of Clinton and the flight attendant as discussed in past CyberAlerts. So, if you have any low-tech friends who cannot access the MRC home page, you can refer them to page 5 of the Star. The photos are still featured on the MRC's site with a link to the CyberAlert explaining them: http://www.mrc.org. Remember, you read about it first in CyberAlert and saw them first on the MRC's page. The Star also includes a story headlined "Prez Forced Miss America to Have Sex in Limo." On that one they beat the MRC.

Clarification/Update: The March 24 CyberAlert reported that while CNN's March 23 Inside Politics included a piece on extending executive privilege to the First Lady, CNN skipped the testimony from Nolanda Hill about how Ron Brown told her that the Commerce Department sold to donors seats on trade missions. That is true for Inside Politics, but CNN did run a piece later. For more on that and an update on coverage, or lack thereof, for Hill's charge, see item #4 below.

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)On Wednesday, March 25, Marcia Lewis appeared before a judge to ask that she be excused from further grand jury testimony, a White House aide appeared before the grand jury to explain why Monica Lewinsky was moved to the Pentagon and the House voted funds to cover potential impeachment and investigative costs. ABC's World News Tonight skipped all of it, the CBS Evening News emphasized how Congress is spending more and more on investigations and only NBC Nightly News covered all three developments, adding information about how prosecutors believe Clinton lied about past sexual encounters.

The three broadcast networks ran stories from Rwanda on Clinton apologizing for the slow U.S. response to the massacre.

CNN allocated the entire 10pm ET hour and almost all of the 8pm ET World Today hour to the Arkansas shooting. But, late in the 8pm show anchor Joie Chen squeezed in a 21-second item on how the judge rejected the request from Marcia Lewis, Monica Lewinsky's mother. FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report featured a full story from reporter David Shuster on how "Marcia Lewis pleaded with the judge that she not be recalled," how White House aide Jodie Torkelson appeared to explain why Lewinsky was transferred to Pentagon and how Starr spent the day meeting with his deputies in Little Rock.

Here are a couple of quotes from the March 25 CBS and NBC evening shows:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned: "In Washington, Republicans on Capitol Hill added new fuel today to keep the White House under fire. They voted millions more dollars to keep investigating the Clinton camp in many directions including possible impeachment proceedings."

Phil Jones picked up on the price theme: "Dan, the cost of investigating Washington scandals went up by more than $3 million today. Over Democratic objections, House Republicans approved the additional funds to pay for investigations into illegal fundraising and to beef up the Judiciary Committee which would be involved in any impeachment investigation..."

Jones went on to note how Monica Lewinsky's mother was unsuccessful at getting out of further testimony.

-- NBC Nightly News. David Bloom began by reporting the House expenditure vote, then told viewers about Marcia Lewis and the appearance by Jodie Torkelson. Bloom added:

"Separately, NBC News has learned that prosecutors have subpoenaed Paula Jones lawyers for documents relating to four other women who have been romantically linked to Mr. Clinton. Now, under oath the President has denied having had sexual relations with a number of women, but sources say that prosecutors suspect that in case after case Mr. Clinton lied and that White House operatives engaged in witness tampering."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Tuesday's deadly shooting at the middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas has prompted some anti-NRA and pro-gun control hits from reporters. Here are three examples, in order of occurrence:

-- At the end of Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel on CBS Tuesday night the liberal host, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski observed, put the blame on the NRA as he added his opinion to a viewer's e-mail comment:

"Time now for Feedback and some of what you've been e-mailing us since we came on the air tonight. From Richard M. in Quincy, Massachusetts on school shootings like the one in Arkansas. He writes: 'Some wonder if we've raised a generation of bad children. I think we're a generation of bad parents.' And he asks, 'How did those kids get the weapons?' We'll send his letter to the NRA."

-- Ronald Stephens of the National School Boards Safety Center, a neighbor of the MRC in Alexandria, was hit with a question Wednesday morning about whether Southern gun culture is to blame. On NBC's Today, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Katie Couric demanded:

"Real quickly. I read you something before this interview about experts saying that Southern culture may be a factor because these incidents that have been so high profile have happened in Southern rural towns because they say there is more access to guns. It's a climate of people feeling strongly about the right to bear arms. They are introduced to guns early on. Do you think there is any, any credibility in that assessment?"

-- ABC's World News Tonight picked up on that anti-gun theme Wednesday with Rebecca Chase of the Atlanta bureau assigned to check it out. She began:

"Jonesboro Arkansas, West Paducah Kentucky, Pearl Mississippi. All cases of kids killing kids with guns, all in the South, all in states with fewer gun control laws. In Arkansas, a child of any age can have a rifle or shotgun. While easy accessibility is a nationwide problem, in the South there are simply more guns available..."

Chase proceeded to explain how Southerners own more guns than people in any other region, partially because of the reverence for the military.

Though the story theme matched the liberal agenda to enact gun control laws, Chase gave time to the other side, delivering their arguments on the benefits of children learning to use a rifle. Noting that in the South hunting is "a right of passage," she ran two soundbites from a gun seller, explaining:

"Store owner Jay Wallace sells guns at his sporting goods store in Marietta Georgia and hunts regularly with his three sons. He says it is a lesson in responsibility and just plain fun."

Wallace: "Good clean fun, absolutely. If it would take them away from the Nintendo a little bit more and put them in the woods, there's a lot to learn there."

Chase concluded: "Lessons learned in most cases."

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) None of the broadcast networks on Monday night mentioned the Clinton plan to hide Hillary's advice by invoking executive privilege. Tuesday night and Wednesday night CBS and NBC maintained the blackout, but on Tuesday ABC reported on the ploy. CNN also mentioned it and FNC did a whole story, but only ABC's Sam Donaldson pointed out the falsehood issued by the President in response to a question about the matter. Plus, NBC Nightly News aired an "In Their Own Words" statement with a bizarre definition of a "disease."

Some highlights of the March 24 evening shows:

-- ABC's World News Tonight aired a story by Jackie Judd on how the White House is arguing Hillary qualifies for executive privilege coverage because she's an adviser, noting that Sidney Blumenthal refused to answer questions about advice he gave to Hillary Clinton.

From Uganda, Sam Donaldson showed how Clinton was asked about executive privilege, and answered: "All I know is I saw an article about it in the paper today. I haven't discussed it with the lawyers. I don't know. You should ask someone who does know."

Donaldson countered: "In fact, only the President can assert executive privilege, so his saying he doesn't know is puzzling..."

-- CBS Evening News. Nothing on executive privilege, but CBS ran a piece from Scott Pelley in Uganda which was preceded by a lengthy clip of a Clinton speech which anchor Ed Bradley introduced:

"On his trip to Africa today President Clinton stopped short of an outright U.S. apology for slavery. But on the second stop of his 12 day, six nation African tour Mr. Clinton told school children in Uganda that America was wrong long ago for its part in the slave trade and wrong more recently in its neglect and ignorance of Africa."

-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. After a story from Uganda, Wolf Blitzer checked in to report that at a photo-op Clinton "brushed off questions" about executive privilege. He ran the same Clinton clip as had ABC, but failed to point out its fallacy.

Anchor Joie Chen next asked hopefully: "Could the Whitewater investigation finally be at an end after almost four years? Independent counsel Ken Starr hints that he may be finished by early May, that is when the term of the grand jury seated now in Little Rock Arkansas expires. Today Starr said it is in the national interest to conclude the investigation and refused to commit to seating another grand jury..."

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report featured a full scandal story, though I don't recall now if by David Shuster or Rita Cosby. Whomever it was, he or she reported how lawyers went before a judge to argue about executive privilege, as the White House insists that "even the strategy sessions involving the First Lady who has been helping to formulate a White House defense," should be covered. FNC added that the grand jury spent the day listening to audio tapes of Lewinsky while Starr remained in Little Rock to discuss Whitewater as "prosecutors are prepared to indict Clinton friend Webster Hubbell for tax evasion, and they're ready to settle other issues as well: How much the Clintons knew about fraudulent loans, Mrs. Clinton's disappearing billing records and allegations of a wide-ranging obstruction of justice..."

-- NBC Nightly News. Zilch on the Monica mess or executive privilege, but NBC ended with a story on a House vote to tighten burial eligibility rules for Arlington National Cemetery, though reporter Bob Faw failed to actually describe any of the new criteria.

Earlier, prompted by a Senate hearing, NBC devoted the In Depth segment to what Tom Brokaw asserted is the "epidemic of addiction in this country." Bill Moyers' son, once a crack addict, appeared before the committee and NBC gave him its "In Their Own Words" segment. He preposterously equated diseases people get through no fault of their own or at best may, through their lifestyle, raise their risk for contracting, with freely choosing to ingest a substances: "Addiction is a disease, just like cardiovascular illness, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, treatment needs to be available to anyone who needs it..."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Since the last CyberAlert, CNN highlighted Nolanda Hill, ABC gave her 17 seconds, but we're still waiting for NBC. (CBS and FNC ran full stories Monday night.) In an affidavit released Monday and in testimony that day, former Ron Brown business associate Nolanda Hill contended that Brown told her the administration sold seats on trade missions to large donors.

As noted in the clarification at the top of this issue, the March 24 CyberAlert reported that CNN's March 23 Inside Politics skipped the Hill testimony. That is true, but CNN did run a piece later. Since no Hill story appeared in the first 40 minutes of Monday's 8pm ET The World Today that I saw and CNN's transcript page did not have a transcript of any Hill story, I assumed CNN did not run a piece in prime time. But since I did not see the whole hour, the March 24 CyberAlert did not cite what did or did not appear on The World Today. But, by reporting that ABC, CNN and NBC "skipped the development," a reasonable reader may have taken that as going beyond just CNN's Inside Politics.

In fact, as MRC news analyst Eric Darbe alerted me, about 45 minutes into Monday's World Today, as the 20th story, Brooks Jackson delivered a complete summary of Hill's affidavit and testimony. Like FNC, Jackson raised Hillary Clinton's role, noting that Hill charged "that the First Lady was responsible for" coming up with the scheme.

Monday night and since ABC's World News Tonight has ignored Hill, but Tuesday morning, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen observed, Good Morning America gave 17 seconds to the development. News reader and future co-host Kevin Newman read the brief item during the 7:30am update.

Tuesday night on the World Today CNN anchor Joie Chen took a few seconds to report that the Justice Department will review Nolanda Hill's allegations.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Which way is it? From two March 24 evening show stories on the occurrence of school violence:

ABC's Michelle Norris opening a World News Tonight story: "Despite the national perception that American schools are turning into combat zones, a national report released just last week found that most American schools are indeed safe. 43 percent reported no crimes whatsoever..."

NBC's Tom Brokaw introducing a NBC Nightly News piece the same night: "Kids killing kids. Just last week the White House released a report on violence in American schools, which in recent years has escalated to terrifying proportions."

Reporter Pete Williams punctuated the danger: "The rise in school violence prompted President Clinton last week to push his plan for more school spending..."

Same government report with the same numbers, but two conflicting interpretations. An illustrative example of how the perceptions of journalists influence what they report.

   -- Brent Baker

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