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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday May 13, 1998 (Vol. Three; No.77 )

Underwear Drawers; Starr's Demand = Assassination; Herman's 20 Seconds

1) Monday night FNC revealed who has touched both Hillary's panties and Bill's briefs while CBS relayed the warning that if Starr forces the Secret Service to testify "a President will be assassinated." CBS, CNN and NBC only gave a few seconds to an IC for Herman.

2) Tuesday morning ABC's Kevin Newman worried people were tiring of so many ICs. Tuesday night all the nets skipped Herman and only CNN offered a story on the immunity battle in Burton's committee.

3) CNN's Larry King Live gets $7 million a year, but he's not quite up on submarine procurement, spouting liberalism before facts.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Janet Reno's decision to ask for an independent counsel to investigate Labor Secretary Alexis Herman led ABC's World News Tonight on Monday night and got a full story on FNC's Fox Report, but generated just 26 seconds on CBS and a mere 18 seconds on NBC. CNN was more worried about the cost of investigations.

     "A President will be assassinated in the near future," CBS reporter Scott Pelley said in relaying the ominous warning from the head of he Secret Service about what will happen "if his agent's are forced to testify." Highlighting the latest fodder for James Carville, FNC picked up the story about how Starr "once had someone rifle through the First Family's underwear drawers."

     Here are some highlights from the Monday, May 11 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight led with Herman. Peter Jennings noted that she's been under investigation since a January story on ABC News highlighted accusations that she took payoffs while at a previous White House staff job. The same reporter who broke that story handled the Reno decision Monday night: Brian Ross.
     He explained that Reno said she maintained she had "reasonable grounds to believe further investigation is warranted." At the "heart" of the matter, Ross elaborated, is the claim by African businessman Laurent Yene that he and a partner had an arrangement to secretly pay Herman for improperly steering work to their clients.  Ross continued: "Yene passed a lie detector test administered by ABC News by a respected former FBI agent. And today the Attorney General said many, but not all of the details recounted by Yene had been corroborated but that there was still no evidence that proved any wrongdoing."
     Ross concluded: "Late today the President issued a statement of support for Secretary Herman, saying that it was unfortunate that an independent counsel was appointed despite what he called no findings of wrongdoing. But the fact is a number of serious questions now surround the honesty and integrity of yet another member of President Clinton's cabinet."

     -- The nuclear test explosion in India topped the CBS Evening News and before Herman Dan Rather turned to Scott Pelley for a CBS News "exclusive" on why the Secret Service is resisting Ken Starr. Pelley warned:

     "In closed briefings to the Justice Department and to Starr the Director of the Secret Service, Lew Merletti, is saying that a President will be assassinated in the near future if his agent's are forced to testify..."
     Pelley explained the reasoning: "He argues that his agents must be close enough to touch the President and that if a President worries about what an agent may see or hear he may push away his human shield. The briefing was done pictures. It revealed that President Kennedy told his agents they could no longer ride on the bumper of his car and four days later he was assassinated. Secret Service analysis shows that the agents would have been in the line of fire if they had been in position."

     Of course that's not true if you buy Sidney Blumenthal's "grassy knoll" conspiracy theory.

     Over video of the assassination attempt on Reagan Pelley announced: "This was shown to Starr who was told proximity is the difference between life and death." Pelley did add: "Starr's prosecutors ridicule Merletti's argument, saying it makes 'the wild assumption that the President will risk his life in order to engage in illegal or embarrassing conduct.'"

     Later in the show Rather had no time for details on the Herman decision, taking 26 seconds to announce:
     "U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno today officially announced her expected decision to seek an independent counsel to investigate accusations of influence peddling and soliciting illegal campaign donations by Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Herman flatly denies the accusations. This is the seventh independent counsel that Reno, under Republican pressure, has called for to investigate high-ranking members of the Clinton cabinet and team."

     -- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET led with the status of the Middle-East peace talks. Anchor Joie Chen took just under a minute to summarize the Herman situation and run a soundbite from the Labor Secretary before introducing a full report: "CNN's Brooks Jackson does the math on the high cost of investigations."

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report was topped by Catherine Crier ominously warning of "some scary news for anyone who eats" -- uninspected foreign produce. Steve Centanni provided a full report on Herman, explaining: "African businessman Laurent Yene makes the most explosive charge, claiming he delivered cash to Herman's home, an alleged kickback for helping a client."

     Next, anchor Patrick Vanhorn announced that Starr "once had someone rifle through the First Family's underwear drawers." It took Rita Cosby a while to get to the intriguing plug, first noting how Starr's deputies are meeting with Secret Service officers to get what details they are willing to share about Clinton's contacts with Monica Lewinsky and how Lewinsky has hired a public relations specialist -- Judy Smith, a Deputy Press Secretary under Bush.
     Finally, Cosby got to the underwear, asserting that after "billing records belatedly appeared in the White House Starr planned to search the First Family's living quarters for more documents, but he backed off when then White House counsel Jane Sherburne agreed to undertake the search herself, even combing through the First Family's underwear drawers. A White House source said this is just another example of an over-reaching independent counsel, but one of Starr's former deputies said having Sherburne search the White House quarters was not invasive but a reasonable process for which he says Starr should be applauded not criticized."

     -- NBC Nightly News led with imported food safety as Tom Brokaw intoned: "Your food. It could make you sick. Tonight a new warning about tainted food coming into this country." After a story on storm trackers and just before the "hidden danger" of the "epidemic" of Lyme Disease, Tom Brokaw gave 18 seconds to Herman:
     "Attorney General Janet Reno says yes to an independent counsel investigation of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Herman is alleged to have taken kickbacks during her previous job as a White House aide. Tonight, Herman says she's baffled by the decision and that the allegations are false."

     Monday's pattern where ABC offered substantial Herman coverage while the other broadcast networks barely touched the subject matches how the networks have treated revelations about her over the past year or so. In addition to ABC, CNN and FNC ran full reports on the allegations in January when the Justice Department revealed it was looking into them, but CBS and NBC held their stories to 20 seconds or less. In fact, CBS and NBC have yet to run a full story on Herman in the evening. More in the next CyberAlert.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Tuesday morning, May 12, Today and Good Morning America ran stories on Herman, but only GMA featured an interview segment. Instead of focusing on Herman's alleged misdeeds, however, co-host Kevin Newman pressed ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin repeatedly about the cost and value of independent counsels. One of his questions:
     "I can hear people out there saying, 'What? Another one?' I mean Brian Ross reported that it's already cost something like $63, $73 million for the previous six. How much is this going to cost?"

     Tuesday evening none of the networks touched Herman and only CNN and FNC broached a Clinton scandal-related item. ABC's World News Tonight led with rioting in Jakarta, Indonesia, followed by a report on the fallout from the nuclear test in India. The CBS Evening News went with India and then Jakarta. Introducing a story on Republican Congressman Jay Kim, who can't even campaign in his California district because he's on detention in DC for accepting illegal campaign donations, Dan Rather declared he demonstrates "the pervasiveness of sleazy campaign money."

     CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET, prompted by the nuclear test, led with a story by Jamie McIntyre on the fifth failure of THAAD, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile missile to hit its target in a test at White Sands. The 8pm show didn't mention Burton, but MRC analyst Eric Darbe informed me that the vote planned for May 13 in Burton's committee topped the 10pm ET edition. CNN's Brooks Jackson included a couple of clips from Burton's Tuesday afternoon House floor address laying out the case against Clinton and defending himself. Jackson announced:
     "Another bitter showdown coming up in Congressman Dan Burton's investigation of the President, responding to Democratic demands for his removal, Burton is taking the offensive."
     After clips from Burton and Henry Waxman over immunity for four witnesses, Jackson emphasized their lack of importance: "It's not clear what evidence the four witnesses could offer. Two are associates of Johnny Chung, who's already admitted to making illegal donations to Democrats and pleaded guilty. Another is an associate of Gene and Nora Lum, who also pleaded guilty nearly a year ago. The fourth is an associate of Ted Sioeng, who left the country rather then answer questions about big donations -- some to Republicans, but mostly to Democrats."
     Leading into another Burton soundbite Jackson explained: "Burton says if he could only prove ten percent of what he believes to be true, the President would be in trouble. He has already ordered 600 subpoenas, yet finds the lack of evidence frustrating."
     Jackson concluded by noting that the Democrats will most likely block immunity again, which "could force Speaker Gingrich to transfer some facets of Burton's investigation to another committee headed by a less controversial Republican, Bill Thomas of California."

     FNC's Fox Report also featured a piece on THAAD's failure. FNC ran a clip from Dan Burton's Tuesday afternoon speech on the House floor attacking President Clinton and defending himself. NBC Nightly News went with India first then Jakarta, but unlike ABC and CBS which had reporters in Indonesia, Brokaw just talked over some video.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Don't let any facts get in the way of your ideology. MRC news analyst Eric Darbe noticed this exchange from the May 11 Larry King Live which illustrates how the CNN host doesn't always know much about the topic he's spouting off about. Guests Gary Hart and reporters Wolf Blitzer and Bob Woodward were brought on to discuss coverage of Clinton and sex, but veered off onto the military/industrial complex:

     Gary Hart: "It's the weapons construction business, it's a massive status quo complex that keeps us all going."
     Wolf Blitzer: "I recently heard the President talking about the Seawolf submarine, which, despite its name, Seawolf, is not necessarily my favorite submarine, but it's the top of the line submarine. And the price tag for Seawolf is about -- what?"
     Bob Woodward: "Two billion, plus."
     Blitzer: "Yeah. So you're asking $2 billion at a time like this when the Russian submarine fleet is not very significant at this point, is there a need to go ahead and build yet another Seawolf? But the industry that manufactures -- that makes these submarines, the -- the assessment is, you have to keep these companies in business in case of an emergency, otherwise, we won't be able to make submarines down the road."
     Larry King: "So but we have a hundred Seawolfs that might have cured cancer with the same money."
     Woodward: "We don't have a hundred of 'em by any means..."

     And CNN, as revealed Tuesday, has decided to pay this guy $7 million a year. How many hours of cancer research would that cover?

  -- Brent Baker

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