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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday May 27, 1998 (Vol. Three; No.84 )

Great Surplus News Ruined By Starr; Stop Tax Cuts; Rivera Awed by Clinton

1) "The Republican independent counsel" dropped "another load on President Clinton," thus intruding on his great economic news, declared Dan Rather. NBC revealed more about Chung's PLA connection.

2) On CNN Steve Roberts made fun of Newt Gingrich for calling China "communist" and worrying about their threat. How impolite.

3) The newest member of NBC News, Geraldo Rivera, castigated Ken Starr as "the special persecutor," but is in awe of Bill Clinton: "I watch him and I wonder how he does it. I watch him and I wonder how much is too much for any man."

Update: The May 26 CyberAlert reported that the May 22 morning shows aired nothing about the China connection. I should have noted that, as MRC analyst Clay Waters observed, the May 21 Good Morning America did run a piece by Linda Douglass on Republican plans to hold hearings, the first GMA story all week longer than a few seconds read by the anchor. That morning Today skipped China, meaning Today aired nothing about the controversy last week. The MRC analysts haven't yet watched all the holiday weekend shows but as soon as they have I'll report on how the networks handled the Clinton scandals from Friday night through Tuesday morning.

Corrections: The May 20 CyberAlert referred to how a shooting victim was left in and "ally." That's an "alley." The May 26 CyberAlert item on Thomas Ross confused his first and last name at one point and referred to him as "Thomas" as if that were his last name.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Tuesday night CBS, NBC and CNN led with the request from Ken Starr's office that Monica Lewinsky submit voice, writing and fingerprint samples. Clinton's announcement of a $39 billion surplus topped ABC while FNC went first to an update on the Springfield, Oregon shooting.

     The CBS Evening News portrayed Starr's request as a rude move which distracted from Clinton's great surplus news: Dan Rather declared "the Republican independent counsel" had dropped "another load on President Clinton." Following Clinton's surplus announcement CBS denounced as irresponsible the idea of returning some of that money through a tax cut, but only CBS pointed out that the federal debt far exceeds any "surplus." On NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers asserted that "the Chinese officer who gave Chung that money and hundreds of thousands of dollars more turns out to be even more mysterious than previously known," specifically, Myers discovered that she's an arms dealer.

     CNN's The World Today led with how "Starr hopes to listen and learn" from Lewinsky. Following Wolf Blitzer's story Bob Franken looked at maneuvering to overturn the Secret Service privilege ruling. Anchor Joie Chen then briefly noted a development missed by the other networks: that Ralph Lancaster of Portland, Maine had been named independent counsel for Alexis Herman. On FNC's Fox Report David Shuster provided a report on Lewinsky, noting that Starr had simply asked the court order issued in January be enforced now that she lost her immunity case.

     Now some highlights from the Tuesday, May 26 broadcast network evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. In the 6:30pm ET edition aired in Washington, DC Peter Jennings gave just 18 seconds to Starr's request of Lewinsky.

     -- CBS Evening News. "Ken Starr drops another load on President Clinton. He asks for samples of Monica Lewinsky's voice, handwriting and fingerprints," Dan Rather teased at the top of the show. After the musical intro Rather picked up with the theme of how Starr had rained on Clinton's parade, though he made no request of Clinton:
     "Good evening. Just as President Clinton was enjoying a day talking up the economy, officially announcing the first U.S. budget surplus in three decades, Ken Starr hit him again. The Republican independent counsel and special prosecutor decided late in the day to announce his decision to press his subpoena for samples of Monica Lewinsky's handwriting, fingerprints and her voice."
     Scott Pelley gave an overview of Starr's request, but soon switched gears: "Throughout this obstruction of justice investigation the President has been able to count on the good economy to keep his popularity ratings high and again today he was in the Rose Garden spreading more good news..."
     After explaining that Clinton wishes to apply the surplus to Social Security, Pelley was the only reporter Tuesday night to put the "surplus" in context: "Mr. Clinton's staff expects budget surpluses over next ten years totaling $1.5 trillion, but there's still plenty of red ink. The national debt stands today at $5.4 trillion."

     Next, Anthony Mason didn't bother with even trying to be balanced as he presented a one-sided diatribe against tax cuts, an idea advocated by conservatives and which Clinton said he'd consider. Mason began his story, that lasted barely a minute, by crediting global competition which led to downsizing and then record company profits for creating an IRS tax windfall: "It's simple really. The more money American business rakes in the more the IRS takes in." In addition, he contended, soaring stock prices will hike revenue from the capital gains tax from $205 billion in 1997 to an estimated $280 in 1998. Mason then brought on his one and only expert:
     "And the smart thing to do with the money, says Adam Pozen (sp?) of the Institute for International Economics? Save it."
     Pozen: "You need to either need to be paying down your national debt or you need to be putting money in he Social Security trust fund or simply holding reserves in the government's hands. You don't want to blow it on new spending programs or on tax cuts that people will most likely spend on things that aren't going to have as long a useful life."
     Mason then concluded his piece: "A tax cut, Pozen says, is simply not what the economy needs right now. While the federal government may be getting better at saving money, Americans are not. Our savings rate recently hit a record low."

     Maybe if less was taken in taxes people could save more.

     -- NBC Nightly News took until last Thursday to finally run a full report on China, the last of all the networks, but Tuesday night NBC delivered the only China story. Lisa Myers reported that Johnny Chung now fears for his own safety and is in hiding in California worried about retaliation from the Chinese military.      Noting that he gave the DNC $56,000 that came from a People's Liberation Army officer, Myers elaborated: "And the Chinese officer who gave Chung that money and hundreds of thousands of dollars more turns out to be even more mysterious than previously known. Intelligence sources tell NBC News that Miss Liu is in fact an arms dealer who brokered a controversial sale of missiles from China to Pakistan, missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons."
     So why did Liu use a small time entrepreneur like Chung? Myers suggested: "Because, sources say, by the summer of '96, Chung's access to the Oval Office at the White House was known throughout the Chinese government." After mentioning that Chung's $10,000 contribution to Senator John Kerry is also under investigation, Myers concluded:
     "The White House also insists it didn't have a clue that the Chinese were funneling money into the President's campaign. But critics charge this was willful ignorance, that as long as Chung paid his money he could essentially bring anyone to see the President, no questions asked."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Communist China is no threat to the United States and it's darn rude of Newt Gingrich to suggest otherwise, asserted Steve Roberts on Sunday's Late Edition. Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the Speaker's recommendation that Clinton cancel his trip to China, the former New York Times and U.S. News reporter snidely condemned Gingrich:
     "Newt loves to be able to roll those words on his tongue, Chinese communist, you know, the bears back in the woods. You know, he loves bringing up these issues and he loves talking about, you know, threats to national security. There are even Republicans saying this could mean that missiles would fall on America. Give me a break!"

     Maybe someday those living under communist oppression will get a break from liberal American reporters who think it's impolite to call a communist a communist.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Tuesday night Johnnie Cochran appeared on Geraldo Rivera's CNBC show at 9pm ET and then Rivera showed up on Cochran's 10pm ET CourtTV show. After years of bashing O.J. Simpson and Cochran Rivera managed to overcome his disgust with Cochran, but he's not showing any inclination to cut Ken Starr a break.

     Since Rivera ended production of his syndicated talk show in early May so he can become a full time member of the NBC News team, one of his recent rants defending Clinton and disparaging Starr is worth reviewing. In addition to continuing his daily 9pm ET/PT Rivera Live show on CNBC, in early June the network will add a daily, 30 minute, news show anchored by Rivera at 7pm ET. His contract also promises major roles in NBC's broadcast news shows, including Today, Dateline, live events and Nightly News, though Tom Brokaw may block the last.

     He's scheduled to travel to China with Clinton for the Today show. But don't count on any digging for information about the China connection since Rivera sees it as just the latest in a long list of vindictive attacks Clinton has suffered. Just check out this lecture delivered on the May 19 Rivera Live, as transcribed by MRC intern David Bozell:
     "It may not be, ladies and gentlemen, a question of life or death, but Bill Clinton has his own profound problems. As if 'Monica Madness' wasn't distracting enough, now the President and his party are essentially being accused of selling our secrets to the Chinese. This man has scarcely had a day in office untainted by accusations or scandal. His very frustrated political enemies have tried every imaginable attack on the President's so far impenetrable political armor. There's been Whitewater, Filegate, and Travelgate. Each trumpeted in its time as the scandal that would bring down his presidency. All now revealed basically as next to nonsense. Miserable flops costing taxpayers millions. Now Zippergate saucy stories of sex, lies, Linda Tripp tapes did come close to scoring a blow; making waves because everybody understands allegations of adultery. But though Ken Starr's relentless investigation still poses a real legal threat, politically it remains a non-starter with two-thirds of the American people saying the President's private life has no relevance to his public performance. And so his enemies for weeks have been shouting in the wind, demanding that we pay attention as if Mr. Clinton's sex life was what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they spoke about high crimes and misdemeanors. Even many Republicans seem embarrassed by the sexual content of the remaining allegations.
     "But now folks they have some real ammo. Now forget about oral sex and interns. Now we're talking about the end of the world. Quote the Speaker of the House, 'this is a deeper question than anything that has arisen before in this administration,' end quote. The Speaker also said that a special congressional committee, one not headed by Dan 'the man' Burton, would investigate allegations that dirty money made for terrible foreign policy. Bill Clinton needed this one folks, like he needed a hole in the head."
     After he allowed White House Communications Director Ann Lewis to join in his commiserating, Rivera continued his agonizing:
     "On Friday, the President could take some satisfaction in playing a key role in the dramatic deal to end three decades of blood shed in Northern Ireland. But by his Saturday radio address, his tone had turned grim.
     [Clinton on India's nuclear test]
     "As the world holds its breath, fearing a catastrophic nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan, the bloody upheaval in Indonesia seems ever-more chaotic, and the peace process in the Middle East seems so broken down. Yet after returning last night from a major overseas trip, in the midst of historic developments that could threaten world peace, how can Mr. Clinton stay focused when the House Speaker Newt Gingrich compares him to a pornographic talk show host. And virtuous Bill Bennett advises him to seek sex help."
     Bill Bennett, on Meet the Press: "Bill Clinton stands I think alone in the use of the Oval Office to advance his own personal, kind of salacious interests in a way no other President has, maybe Kennedy if some of these stories are true about Kennedy. But even Kennedy, it seems to me, did not have the detail, that group of individuals who are out there hushing up women. This is really pretty pathetic and people ought to be able to see the difference between this and, if you will, FDR and Lucy Mercer. There is a big difference."
     Rivera: "Wouldn't a statement like that about you distract you? And how much of his vital attention is being consumed by Ken Starr's endless probe, by the Monica Lewinsky immunity saga, by the fears that his trusted Secret Service agents will soon be forced to rat out the maybe gory details of his private life, telling his enemies who visited the Oval Office and why. And how can even the world's most powerful man not be effected by Jim McDougal's charge from the grave that the President had an affair with Susan McDougal and promised her immunity if she and her ex-husband would hang tough and keep their mouths shut about the Clintons' alleged involvement in shady real estate deals. And finally, and most importantly, how can our bridge to the 21st Century feel about the slanderous charge amounting almost to treason, that for Johnny Chung's bribe of $100,000 lousy dollars he sold America's missile secrets to the Chinese, who now aim their deadly devices at America's children...I watch him and I wonder how he does it. I watch him and I wonder how much is too much for any man."

     Well at least Rivera doesn't pretend to be objective. To mark his official acceptance across the Hudson River to NBC's Rockefeller Plaza facility (CNBC is in New Jersey), Today brought him on back on May 7. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange about media bias in which Rivera boasted of his disdain for O.J. Simpson and Ken Starr, and also conceded that all journalists have biases which impact their reporting:

     Today co-host Matt Lauer: "You are a guy who has strong opinions."
     Rivera: "I do."
     Lauer: "You do not mince words. You do not duck fights. You have said in past that O.J. Simpson is just plain guilty."
     Rivera: "He's a brutal double, double murderer that's what he is."
     Lauer: "Ken Starr is out to get President Clinton."
     Rivera: "I think he is the special persecutor."
     Lauer: "As a journalist, now a member of NBC News why should I expect that Geraldo Rivera is going to be objective when covering a story about O.J. Simpson or Ken Starr in the future?"
     Rivera: "I think objectivity is a fantasy. I don't believe reporters are objective. Everyone comes a story with their own bundle of personal experiences."
     Lauer: "But most keep it secret or keep it private."
     Rivera: "But they secretly influence the take on the story or the angle even if only subconsciously. What I do is I layout, here I am. I'm on my, my heart is right here on my arm. Read it. The question to ask is whether I misrepresent anything? Am I factually correct? Is my program balanced and fair?..."

     Maybe instead of making fun of Geraldo and fearing how he will taint NBC News, the "mainstream" journalistic community could follow his lead and admit their biases.

   -- Brent Baker

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