CBS & NBC AWOL on China Connections; Gap on Clinton's "She" Gaffe
1) People's Liberation Army
money went to the DNC and Justice looks at if that prompted Clinton to
approve missile know how transfer: Of the broadcast networks only ABC did
a story on both; CBS and NBC gave a few seconds to the first and ignored
2) At a ceremony celebrating
the Berlin Airlift Bill Clinton mistakenly called a male pilot
"she" and "her." If it were Quayle you'd have heard
about it. But all big network shows ignored it.
>>> "Like Other Cabinet
Probes, Networks Mostly Ignore Charges Against Labor Secretary Alexis
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Two big developments on the campaign fundraising scandal front, but the
networks barely noticed. Friday's New York Times linked Democratic money
to China's People's Liberation Army. On Sunday, both the New York
Times and Washington Post featured front page reports on how the Justice
Department had launched an investigation into, as the May 17 Post put it,
"whether a Clinton administration decision to export commercial
satellites to China was influenced by contributions to the Democratic
Party during the 1996 campaign." Some foreign policy observers have
suggested China's improved missile abilities may have pushed India to
hold the nuclear test last week.
So, you have two
big stories involving substantive policy issues, none of that sex stuff so
many in the media criticize Starr for delving into. And how do the
networks react? In three weekday evenings (Friday to Sunday) only ABC
aired full stories on both developments. Neither CBS or NBC mentioned the
Sunday newspaper reports on the China satellite/missile deal.
-- Three day total
CBS Evening News time devoted to either development: 27 seconds.
-- Three day total NBC Nightly News time devoted
to either development: 15 seconds.
-- From Friday through Sunday evening total
number of nights CBS or NBC aired a scandal story: 1.
But before you
think that they would have provided thorough coverage if it weren't for
Frank Sinatra's passing, check out some of the topics they made time to
explore: "Powerball fever," collecting blues albums, and the
effort by scientists to determine if Thomas Jefferson had offspring with
slave Sally Hemings.
And no major
scandal news cycle would be complete without the usual disconnect between
Tim Russert and the actual content of the network news division for whom
he serves as a Vice President. On Meet the Press he called the revelations
"devastating." That night and the night before the total amount
of coverage on NBC Nightly News: Zip, zero, nada.
further delay, a day by day run down of network coverage from Friday
-- Friday, May 15.
Under the innocuous headline "Democrat Fundraiser Said to Detail
China Tie," reporters Jeff Gerth, David Johnston and Don Van Natta
"A Democratic fundraiser has told federal
investigators he funneled tens of thousands of dollars from a Chinese
military officer to the Democrats during President Clinton's 1996
re-election campaign, according to lawyers and officials with knowledge of
the Justice Department's campaign finance inquiry.
"The fundraiser, Johnny Chung, told
investigators that a large part of the nearly $100,000 he gave to
Democratic causes in the summer of 1996 -- including $80,000 to the
Democratic National Committee -- came from China's People's Liberation
Army through a Chinese lieutenant colonel and aerospace executive whose
father was General Liu Huaqing, the officials and lawyers said.
"General Liu was then not only China's top
military commander but also a member of the top leadership of the
Communist Party. Chung said the aerospace executive, Liu Chao-ying, told
him the source of the money. At one fundraiser to which Chung gained
admission for her, she was photographed with President Clinton...."
Coverage: Not a
word on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning or NBC's Today,
reported MRC analysts Clay Waters and Geoffrey Dickens, as all three shows
focused on Frank Sinatra's death. Both GMA and Today, however, found
time for news from the summit in England and updates on the India nuclear
test fallout, as well as some other items, such as an estimate on Today
about how many watched the final Seinfeld.
Friday evening the
three networks and CNN (I missed FNC) devoted over half their broadcasts
to Sinatra with both ABC and NBC concluding with "My Way" over a
video montage. CBS and NBC gave the China news a few seconds, ABC a bit
more than a minute and only CNN really offered a complete summary.
ABC's World News
Tonight: After three Sinatra stories and pieces on Indonesia and Pakistan
ABC allocated one minute and 15 seconds to the China donor angle. Peter
"There is an explosive revelation in the New
York Times today about a relationship between the government of China and
the Democratic Party."
Linda Douglass gave a very cursory overview of
the Times story, which is all the time allowed, concluding:
"Chung's revelations are the first direct evidence of links between
Democratic fundraisers and the Chinese government. Republicans have vowed
to launch a fresh set of hearings into the Chinese connection."
vindicate Senator Fred Thompson for his focus last summer on the China
connection? ABC didn't raise that angle.)
CBS Evening News:
Following two Sinatra stories, one of which took six minutes, as well as
pieces on Indonesia and Pakistan, Dan Rather took 27 seconds to relay this
cautionary and vague summary of the New York Times story, though he
refused to give credit:
"Congressional sources told CBS's Phil
Jones today that there may now be evidence that communist China did funnel
illegal campaign cash to the Democratic Party and the '96 Clinton-Gore
campaign. The evidence has not yet been seen. Fundraiser Johnny Chung, now
indicted in the case did give $366,000 to the Democrats and he is widely
believed to have told federal investigators that much of that money did
come from the Chinese government."
Rather next noted
that an appeals court had upheld the lower court decision in Starr's
favor denying Lewinsky had an immunity deal.
CNN's The World
Today at 8pm ET: About 43 minutes in, after an estimate of Seinfeld's
audience and news of a VW Beetle recall, CNN gave Pierre Thomas over two
minutes to explain the Times story. Thomas even recalled that it matches
the very charge congressional Republicans made last summer.
NBC Nightly News:
Four Sinatra stories, India and Indonesia came before Tom Brokaw
"NBC News has learned that in the summer of
1996 Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung in fact received $300,000 from a
Chinese military arms dealer, as reported today in the New York Times.
Much of that money later found its way into the coffers of the Democratic
That took Brokaw
15 seconds, the same amount of time he consumed to note the bug in the
May 16. A slow news day presented the broadcast networks with an
opportunity to catch up with complex China story and explain it to their
viewers. But the networks passed, suggesting that the Friday New York
Times revelations would not have received much more play even if the
networks were not obsessed with Sinatra's death.
ABC's World News
Tonight: Led with the Microsoft talks collapsing and featured full reports
on Sinatra, Indonesia, Pakistan/India, storms in Iowa, smoke in South from
fires in Mexico and a big Florida Marlins-LA Dodgers baseball trade. But
of the broadcast networks only ABC picked up on an AP story about Jim
McDougal's new book, if only to discredit the news. Anchor Aaron Brown
"New accusations in the Whitewater case from
James McDougal, the Clinton's former partner. In a book that McDougal
wrote just before he died he alleges that President Clinton promised to
pardon Susan McDougal if she were convicted in the case. That's what he
claimed. ABC News has talked to four attorneys who were in the room when
this conversation supposedly took place and all said it never happened,
that the two men were never alone."
CBS Evening News:
Led with the collapse of the Microsoft talks, and then went to Indonesia,
India, the G-8 summit, two stories on Sinatra plus another at the end of
the show. In between, CBS made room for the successful test results for
new anti-breast cancer drug and a piece on the black market for cigarettes
in New York City propelled to avoid the high New York tax but condoned by
the tobacco companies.
NBC Nightly News:
Started with Pakistan and moved on to Indonesia and Sinatra. NBC skipped
the China disclosure but spent several minutes on new insurance company
efforts to get people off long-term disability and into jobs.
The show ended with a profile of Bill Farris
(sp?) the new Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities who
collects Southern culture, such as 30,000 blues albums. Bob Dotson
emphasized how he has spent his life "chronicling the art of he
common man," including quilt making and painting. Dotson oozed:
"Dr. Farris's notion of the arts may make some highbrows cringe,
but then his sense of culture includes those who are often omitted: women,
minorities and the poor."
Dotson concluded with this endorsement: "His
mission in Washington is to think about all of our culture. This man who
has seen so much is trying to help us from seeing too little."
-- Sunday, May 17.
In a front page story New York Times reporters Jeff Gerth and David Sanger
tied together the Chinese donations and a technology export policy change:
"On Oct. 9, 1995, Secretary of State Warren
Christopher ended a lengthy internal debate within the Clinton
administration by initialing a classified order, preserving the State
Department's sharp limits on China's ability to launch American-made
satellites aboard Chinese rockets.
"Both American industry and state-owned
Chinese companies had been lobbying for years to get the satellites off
what is known in Washington as the 'munitions list,' the inventory of
America's most sensitive military and intelligence-gathering technology.
But Christopher sided with the Defense Department, the intelligence
agencies and some of his own advisers, who noted that embedded in
commercial satellites were technological secrets that could jeopardize
'significant military and intelligence interests.'
"There was one more reason not to ease the
controls, they wrote in a classified memorandum. Doing so would 'raise
suspicions that we are trying to evade China sanctions' imposed when the
country was caught shipping weapons technology abroad -- which is exactly
what happened in 1991 and 1993 for missile sales to Pakistan.
"The Secretary of State's decision to keep
satellites on the munitions list, making it harder for them to be
exported, did not stand for long. Five months later, President Clinton
took the unusual step of reversing Christopher's decision.
"Control of export licensing for
communications satellites was shifted to the Commerce Department, then run
by Ronald Brown....
"One of the beneficiaries of that decision,
it now turns out, was China Aerospace because its rockets could launch
American satellites. An executive of the state-owned Chinese company, Liu
Chao-ying, allegedly provided tens of thousands of dollars from Chinese
military intelligence to the Democratic Party in the summer of
Coverage: Senator John Glenn appeared on
Face the Nation, but instead of pouncing on him and asking if he'll
apologize to Senator Thompson, host Bob Schieffer tossed this softball:
"What do you make of these revelations Senator Glenn? You were on the
Government Operations Committee that investigated all this. Is this
The other guest, Senator John McCain suggested
"some people" owe Fred Thompson an apology. But instead of
taking the cue and pressing Glenn, Schieffer asked McCain about the
In the evening,
only ABC's World News Tonight uttered a syllable about the newspaper
stories on the probe of a link between donations and technology transfer.
Noting that China had a problem with rockets exploding, Mike Von Fremd
explained that the U.S. "technology to fix the problem was top secret
and its export banned because of potential military use. But in 1996 the
Clinton Administration allowed the Loral Corporation and Hughes
Electronics to provide the technology to the Chinese. Now the Justice
Department's campaign finance task force is investigating, because
Loral's Chairman, Bernard Schwartz, donated $600,000 to the Democratic
Following soundbites from Clinton denying the
connection and from former DOD official Frank Gafney arguing the transfer
has made China a threat to the U.S., Von Fremd concluded: "The
Justice Department and Congress are now certain to dig into all this just
as the administration was hoping to put the campaign finance issue to
CBS and NBC have.
The CBS Evening
News led with Pakistan. Though CBS had no time for Clinton's denial or
anything about the China angle, the network featured stories on the quest
by some scientists using DNA to determine if Thomas Jefferson had
offspring with slave Sally Hemings, complaints about the end of
affirmative action at the University of Texas and remembrances of Sinatra
On NBC's Meet
the Press Tim Russert actually raised the nuclear connection, asking
Senator Richard Shelby: "Several Republicans in Washington are saying
as follows: that the American administration of Bill Clinton gave the
Chinese technology which emboldened the Chinese and threatened the
Indians. And in response the Indians detonated this nuclear device. And,
the saga continues, the Chinese funneled campaign money into the Clinton
campaign as a reward. You buy into that?"
Next, to Senator Bob Kerrey: "Senator Kerrey
you're a Democrat, but these stories are devastating when you read them
in their entirety about the Clinton-Gore campaign receiving money from
what turned out to be Chinese military officials."
So, how much time
did NBC Nightly News give a few hours later to these
"devastating" stories: Zilch. In a 15 minute newscast, shortened
by the length of a NBA playoff game, NBC devoted half its limited time to
two interesting but less than compelling or time-sensitive stories: the
upcoming vote in Ireland on the peace plan and "Powerball
Last Thursday on ABC's World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings assured
viewers: "Whenever the President travels we watch him like a
hawk." Really? Jennings was introducing video showing Clinton having
trouble maneuvering because of a bad back, but ABC skipped video they
surely would have highlighted if it involved Dan Quayle.
At a May 14
ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Clinton
praised "the countless acts of individual kindness, like Gail
Halvorsen the famous Rosinenbomber (sp?) who dropped tiny parachutes of
candy to Berlin's children. She is here with us today, and I'd like to
ask her to stand."
mistake has hardly generated any media interest, MRC news analyst Clay
Waters informed me after searching for coverage. None of the broadcast
networks or CNN touched it that night, not even CNN's Inside Politics. I
saw it covered in just two places: First, FNC's Brit Hume highlighted
the gaffe at the end of his Special Report with Brit Hume on May 14.
Second, on the CBS show Saturday Morning on May 16, Mark Knoller showed
the flub, but blamed Halvorsen's mother: "It's probably not the
first time that a man named Gail has had this happen to him."
To which co-host Russ Mitchell chimed in:
"Those things happen Mark."
happen to those who think women were flying Army and Air Force planes in
hostile areas in 1948. National Review's Kate O'Beirne put it well in
her Outrage of the Week for CNN's Capital Gang on May 16:
"Marking the 50th anniversary of the Berlin
Airlift, President Clinton praised American pilots who supplied the city
under Soviet blockade. One of the most famous was Gail Halvorsen who
dropped candy to the city's children, earning the nickname 'Candyman.'
President Clinton referred to Halvorsen as 'she' and asked 'her'
to stand to be recognized. A woman flying with the Army Air Corps over
hostile territory in 1948? Another depressing display of our Commander-in-
Chief's total disconnect with America's veterans."
display of the media's disinterest in gaffes made by politicians who are
not conservative. -- Brent Baker
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