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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday, March 27, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 52)

Nets Skip Scandal; Don't Blame the Shooters; Hollywood's Clinton Excuses

1) ABC and NBC conflict on whether Clinton apologized to South Africa. ABC, CBS and NBC silent on Monicagate as CNN and FNC ran updates, but only CNN noted the billing records found in Foster's attic.

2) Blame everyone but the shooters. A GMA host wonders if more needs to be spent on guidance counselors, Today wonders if Southern culture glamorizes guns too much.

3) More Hollywood political wisdom. "I wouldn't care if the President had been involved in bestiality if he runs the country right," declared a star of Primary Colors.

Corrections: Alert CyberAlert readers have alerted me to two recent errors. First, the March 20 CyberAlert provided an incorrect address for the Cal Thomas column on CNN's Century of Women. In http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a140415/htm the last slash should have been a dot. So, the correct address is:  http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a140415.htm. The fourth and final installment of the CNN Perspectives series hosted by Hillary Clinton and narrated by Jane Fonda will air Sunday night at 8pm ET/9pm PT.

Second, the March 26 CyberAlert cited an ABC story in which reporter Rebecca Chase said learning to hunt with a rifle is "a right of passage" in the South. Some may consider it a right, but in Chase's context it is a "rite of passage."

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)For the third night in a row on Thursday all the networks led with multiple reports on the Arkansas shooting and its aftermath as all also featured full stories on the historic first visit of a U.S. President to South Africa, though ABC's story conflicted with NBC's. ABC's Sam Donaldson reported that President Clinton did not apologize for how the U.S. helped maintain the apartheid system, but NBC's Tom Brokaw declared that South Africa "got an apology from President Clinton." Of the broadcast networks, Thursday night only ABC ran a piece on the less than PC address to the Wisconsin legislature from football player Reggie White.

On the scandal front, the Associated Press revealed Thursday that a second copy of Hillary Clinton's Rose Law Firm billing records were found in Vince Foster's attic while in DC the grand jury heard testimony from two White House aides on who saw Clinton in the Oval Office and the how and why of Monica Lewinsky's transfer to the Defense Department. In addition, a Washington Post report on how Starr subpoenaed book store records to learn what books Lewinsky bought generated some controversy.

The broadcast networks skipped all of it, not uttering a syllable Thursday night about any aspect of the Monica mess. Their shows were hardly packed with hot news as the CBS Evening News ran full stories on an anti-impotency bill and the conflict between cars and rickshaws in Calcutta. NBC Nightly News viewers were treated to stories on new proposed HHS rules on transplant protocols, investment club scams and a "Brokaw Reporting" segment on why people keep re-building in Malibu after fires and floods.

CNN and FNC noted the appearance of the White House aides, but only CNN's Bob Franken reported the discovery of the billing records and spelled out the implications. FNC was the only network to highlight the controversy over the book store subpoena.

Some quotes from the Thursday night, March 26 newscasts:

First, the did he or didn't he apology contrast. From Cape Town, ABC's Sam Donaldson asked on World News Tonight:

"Would President Clinton today offer regrets for past U.S. support for the old white apartheid government? He did not refer to it, offering a new partnership instead."

Clinton before the South Africa parliament: "America wants a strong South Africa. America needs a strong South Africa and we are determined to work with you as you build a strong South Africa."

Donaldson: "Some people here clearly hoped the President would offer some kind of apology for past U.S. cooperation with the old apartheid government. But after lamenting the U.S. role in slavery and timidity in halting Rwandan genocide, Mr. Clinton may be through with what some reporters have dubbed his contrition tour. From now on, say his aides, he'll talk about the future, not the past."

Over on the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced:

"Once an outcast in the international community, the new South Africa now wins high praise for overcoming years of racial division. And today it also got an apology from President Clinton. More now from NBC's Claire Shipman."

Shipman: "Clinton and Mandela met for the first time today on South African soil and just before that historic visit the President made an unusual admission to an independent television network. He said that the U.S. was, quote 'complicit in the racist apartheid' regime by cooperating for so long with the South African government. But the President also said that the U.S. fought to dismantle apartheid...."

Second, a look at how CNN and FNC handled Monicagate:

On CNN's World Today at 8pm ET anchor Joie Chen announced that House Republicans had hired an organized crime prosecutor to serve as the Judiciary Committee's chief counsel. Bob Franken then explained how Starr is using billing records found in Foster's Little Rock house:

"The documents are a significant part of an investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton prepared fraudulent legal papers related to a real estate venture and whether any evidence was covered up. Sources say the discovery raises a number of questions, among them: how were not one but two copies lost for so long and did the delays, in opening Foster's White House office for inspection immediately after his death have anything to do with a possible effort to remove the billing records..."

Franken went on to note the appearance in DC of Nancy Hernreich and Marsha Scott.

FNC anchor Jon Scott delivered a very Dan Rather-like intro on the 7pm ET Fox Report:

"In news out of Washington, the question: Is Ken Starr going too far? Now he wants to know what Monica Lewinsky is reading. He's also trying to dig up dirt on the President's love life and today he called a White House insider back to the grand jury."

Reporter David Shuster noted how Marsha Scott was back to answer questions about Lewinsky's job transfer, that Starr defended his decision to recall Marcia Lewis by explaining how it is the duty of all citizens to provide evidence, and how Starr wants to know what Jones's attorney's have collected on four women in order "to show a pattern of White House intimidation."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)More money for schools and stricter gun control laws. That's how to prevent future school shootings the morning show hosts argued on Thursday, March 26.

Good Morning America co-host Kevin Newman, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen noted, posed this question to a child psychologist: "Well, Doctor Kenney, let me ask you because there's a lot of schools, I think of my own district, there's one social worker for 1,200 kids. I think the average is there's one guidance counselor for every 800 middle school students in this country. Are we just under-funding our schools for this kind of problem?"

Guests on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens reported, were badgered repeatedly about the inadequacy of gun control laws.

Katie Couric argued with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: "The arsenal that these two young boys had amassed is certainly a terrifying thought. You heard of course discussions about that with what ten sophisticated weapons including .30 caliber semi automatic rifles, a deer hunting rifles, things like that. It's not illegal in the state of Arkansas for children to possess these types of guns. I know it is illegal for them to have handguns if they are under 21 but not the other kinds of weapons that these boys had. Is that right?"

Governor Mike Huckabee: "Well Katie the issue really I think has to be remembered that these boys illegally possessed these. They broke into a house and they stole these weapons in order to take them. They didn't have legal possession of them at the time."

Couric: "But under Arkansas law Governor they could have had legal possession. In other words it would not have been against the law for them to have these weapons in their possession."

Later, Couric declared: "Governor Huckabee this a third deadly shooting to take place in the South in the last five months and some criminal experts have ventured a guess that southern society, which has a more permissive attitude towards guns and hunting and perhaps in some circles even glamorizes those things that might have been a factor in some, this recent spate of shootings. What's your view of that?"

Huckabee replied by reminding "everyone that Colin Ferguson got on a train in Long Island, shot 39 people. That wasn't Long Island, Arkansas."

At another point in the show Ann Curry demanded of Surgeon General David Satcher:

"The CDC, when you were director, issued a report calling gun violence the leading cause of injury in the U.S. and it got into some trouble with gun rights activists. In light of what's happened Tuesday in Arkansas what do you want to say about gun violence now as Surgeon General sir?"

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) With Primary Colors now in theaters as people argue over whether it is favorable toward President Clinton, I thought I'd take this Friday before a movie-going weekend to relay another collection of quotes from Hollywood celebrities defending and making excuses for Clinton.

Up front, quotes from the Primary Colors team and then some from some others, all collated by MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell based upon quotes she and fellow analysts Adam Pogach and Tom Johnson have come across. Let's get the quote with a vulgarity out of the way first, so close your eyes for this one caught by Adam Pogach. Asked in the April Interview magazine about how the Lewinsky affair affected his movie, Primary Colors Director Mike Nichols shot back:

"Very little, really, except to put a lot of bullshit in the newspapers. I now have all the more sympathy for Clinton, and everyone else who's in the news all the time, because the inaccuracy level is so breathtakingly high..."

Now on to the obscenity-free, but sex-packed quotes collected by Melissa Caldwell, including this item noticed by Tom Johnson from Nichols, who is married to ABC's Diane Sawyer:

Nichols insisted in a March 15 Washington Post article that "We must stop...making up our minds based on rumors, conjecture, unsubstantiated gossip and stories. It's madness..." He later added: "If the Lewinsky story or parts of it are true, where is the public voice, just one, one Joseph Welch somewhere, to say, 'Isn't private life private?'....If this century has taught us anything, it's that sexuality is uncontrollable. That's the point of it. That's what it is. Everybody knows that. We expect it to be tailored, controlled, changed...like a pet cat. But it's not going to happen. So our charismatic men with high energy, leaders who might run for office are beginning to say, 'The hell with this! I'm not going to get into a position where I'll be torn to bits every time I look at a female walking by.' It can't be. We have to rethink things..."

Primary Colors star John Travolta showed his true colors on the February 23 edition of Entertainment Tonight: "I loved him [Clinton]. I thought he was powerful, and gracious, and real, and I had a real connection."

ET interviewed other Primary Colors stars the following night. Here's what they had to say.

-  John Travolta, who handles the Clinton character: "Look at yourself and say 'Am I that clean? Can I go up there and be perfect or flawless?' I don't think so...I'm not interested in the scandal. I've followed literally nothing on it...I find it sad that one can get so preoccupied with personal, you know, behavior, when we have so much more at stake."

-  Billy Bob Thornton (who admits that he sought the Clintons' approval before accepting the part of the campaign advisor) stated: "It's not Watergate, and so I just think it should have nothing to do with anything."

On CNN's Showbiz Tonight on March 16 Thornton elaborated: "Gosh, I wouldn't care if the President had been involved in bestiality if he runs the country right."

--  Speaking of bestiality, when asked whether the image of our President has been tarnished abroad by the scandal, British actress Emma Thompson, who plays the Hillary Clinton character, offered: "No, I don't particularly. It's not even a decent scandal, you know, it's not as if he'd been caught with a horse or something. I mean, you know, I didn't understand. I think in Europe we're really flummoxed by it."

-- A good sex scandal turns her on, as Thompson told the February 27 New York Times "You marry an Alpha-male -- that's what happens," adding: "This is a scandal? Monica Lewinsky? If there was a scandal, couldn't he have been with a nun or something really venal like that? It's all so bizarre to me. I long for the J. Edgar Hoover days. Let's find a man dressing in women's clothes. Something really weird. This almost seems natural. For any guy in power -- it's a very erotic situation."

Now quotes from celebrities not starring in Primary Colors:

-- Vocal Clinton supporter actress Mary Steenburgen said of the Clintons on the February 19 edition of Entertainment Tonight, "I completely love and adore both of them..." When asked what she said to the Clintons regarding the Lewinsky affair, Steenburgen replied: "I've just said what I've always felt, which is 'You've had a great, amazing presidency, and I'm really proud of you."

On the same program, Actress Faye Dunaway declared: "I think that the common man, the people of America, want a good country and they want a good life, and he's given them more of that."

-- During an appearance to promote her new CD on Much Music, a Canadian music video channel, Madonna exclaimed: "It's ridiculous. I don't want to know about it. I don't care. Leave Bill alone!" (Entertainment Tonight, March 10).

-- Actor Fred Savage of NBC's Working on ABC's Politically Incorrect, February 10: "The only thing that bugs me about this whole Lewinsky/Clinton thing is that it seems like Americans have this sense of hyper-morality...I kind of think that it's interesting that the President's become more human."

-- Actress Christine Lahti of CBS's Chicago Hope on Politically Incorrect, February 19: "We're talking 79 percent approval rating, what do you mean 'A weakened and horny' Bill Clinton? This is a very popular and great President...He is."

-- Actor Wayne Knight, best known as Newman on NBC's Seinfeld stated on the same program: "I wouldn't move to impeach someone who lied about [beeped out]....Obstruction of justice, in terms of saying to somebody, 'Let's just keep it quiet,' that's not enough. Even if that is obstruction of justice, that's still not enough, in my mind, to remove somebody from the Oval Office...Why not just dismiss Starr then? I mean, just let this whole thing go. Nobody wants to do this, let's just end this now, stop spending the millions and millions of dollars."

-- Actress Kim Coles of Fox's Living Single on Politically Incorrect, February 20: "Well, he's human...I think that's what makes him a good role model, because we need to know that he's infallible [sic], absolutely, that he's human and that he's going to make mistakes."

-- Feminist actress Marlo Thomas, who is making a comeback with her recent film role in The Real Blonde, declared on the March 3 Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder "First of all, I am sick to death about this whole Monica Lewinsky thing. I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to know about anybody's sex life. I don't want to hear about yours, I don't want to hear about President Clinton's. There is only one man in America that has to keep his pants up, and that's my husband. Other than that, I don't want to know about it. I really don't. I find it really unappetizing. It's nobody's business."

 Of course much of what her husband Phil Donahue did on his talk show was showcase people's sex lives.   -- Brent Baker

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