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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday, June 5, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 88)

Tiananmen Tanked; Stonewalling Admired; Assume Worst When Newt Talks

1) The Supreme Court decision on Starr's request led all but CNN. All but ABC featured McCurry's soundbite blaming Starr for delays and only FNC explicitly suggested a downside for the White House. ABC and NBC skipped the Tiananmen Square anniversary.

2) Who said this, a defense lawyer or a supposed journalist? "Stonewalling happens to be good lawyering and I'm glad the President and Monica Lewinsky have good lawyers."

3) Evan Thomas insisted Goldwater was "a dangerous extremist" and admitted "I assume the worst when Newt opens his mouth." Peter Jennings added the "moderation" half to Goldwater's comments.

4) Letterman's Top Ten "Other Executive Privileges."

>>> The June 1 MediaWatch, our "miracle edition," is now on the MRC home page thanks to the MRC Web team of Sean Henry and Kenny Le May. I've dubbed it the "miracle edition" because we managed to produce it in 24 hours after a holiday weekend and our printer actually printed all the color correctly and mailed it on schedule, a first with our redesign. Read the front page on how the media were slow to recognize the China missile scoop; a Review by Tim Graham running down four media-related ethics controversies involving FOBs that reporters have failed to pursue; Page 4 article on how after three years of ignoring it as Washington Post Ombudsman, Geneva Overholser decided liberal bias really is a problem; Revolving Door on how a former NBC News VP now works for Loral and lobbied for the waiver. Plus, Newsbites, including "Arafat Allies," put together by Clay Waters on how the networks painted Israel as the obstacle to peace. To read the issue the "miracle edition"

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The Supreme Court's rejection of Ken Starr's request for an expedited ruling on attorney-client privilege for Bruce Lindsey as well as the Secret Service privilege claim, topped Thursday night's newscasts on all but CNN which led at 10pm ET with the sentencing of Terry Nichols. While all the networks noted how the ruling will delay the probe, only FNC's Jim Angle suggested a way the White House victory may backfire on it. Every show but ABC's World News Tonight played the clip of Mike McCurry claiming it's Starr, now on "Day 1,400," who is delaying the investigation. (ABC's Donaldson did, however, quote McCurry.) All highlighted the appearance before the grand jury by Sidney Blumenthal and all but ABC also mentioned Nathan Landow's presence.
      The ninth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre generated stories on CNN and FNC and a brief mention by Dan Rather, but was ignored by ABC and NBC. Thursday night's Nightline followed the work of Chinese human rights activist Wang Dan.

      Here's a flavor of how the networks handled the Clinton scandals Thursday night, June 4:

      -- ABC's World News Tonight. Jackie Judd handled the Supreme Court ruling and Blumenthal's appearance, showing a soundbite of his lawyer complaining about the questions. Noting how the court's decision will mean the appeals will wind their way through the courts and drag on to the fall, past the elections, Judd concluded: "This could be a long, slow summer."

      Next, Sam Donaldson checked in from the White House: "The feeling here is that from a public relations standpoint the justices have said to the country, 'hey this is not a national emergency' and perhaps the country can say if the justices feel that way maybe, you know, it's much ado about nothing."
      Peter Jennings asked about Clinton's delay strategy. Donaldson ventured: "They want to get this down the road, into next year as Jackie says. If they can do that they hope that the American people and the Congress will say 'what the heck, let's forget it.'"

      -- CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley began: "Starr's bid to push his inquiry of the presidency to a rapid conclusion has failed. Starr's strategy was daring but doomed," as the Supreme Court saw no urgency. Pelley then played this soundbite from McCurry: "I mean today is what, the fourteenth, Day 1,400 of Ken Starr's tenure as an independent counsel at rate of $30,000 a day of taxpayer's money. Now that's, if there's any delay that's the delay right there." Pelley proceeded to note how Nate Landow appeared before the grand jury to be asked if he pressured Kathleen Willey to lie, that the appeals court ruling will take months and that the delayed Secret Service testimony would not prove the case outright.

       Dan Rather then read a brief item on how Clinton is going ahead with the ceremony Tiananmen Square, noting it's the ninth anniversary.

      -- CNN's The World Today at 10pm ET led with the sentencing of Terry Nichols. Wolf Blitzer reported on the Supreme Court decision, showed McCurry's successful soundbite and concluded with a White House fear prompted by Lewinsky's move to get new lawyers: "What especially worries the White House is that Starr may now accept what he refused to accept earlier: an admission from Lewinsky that she did have sexual relations with the President, even as she continues to deny he told her to lie about it."

      Anchor Joie Chen noted Blumenthal's appearance, adding: "Blumenthal's lawyer calls Starr's investigation a travesty."

      Later, CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon marked the Tiananmen Square anniversary by looking at students at the same university. She found little sympathy for the 1989 students and little interest in pursuing democracy.

      -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report led with Jim Angle on Clinton's victory. Angle allowed time for McCurry's claim but also uniquely raised a downside for the White House: "Legal analysts have suggested the White House is simply looking for delay by going to an appeals court first. In answering that charge, the White House spokesman couldn't resist the opportunity to take a swipe at Ken Starr."

      McCurry: "I'm mean today is what, the fourteenth, Day 1,400 of Ken Starr's tenure as an independent counsel at rate of $30,000 a day of taxpayer's money. Now that's, if there's any delay that's the delay right there."
      Angle: "And today's victory by the White House means it will take Starr even longer. But sources close to Starr say today's decision also means that he is more likely to submit an interim report to Congress. So the White House may have avoided a quick hearing by the Supreme Court only to see the evidence show up sooner in Congress."

      FNC's David Shuster reported on Blumenthal, asserting "prosecutors are convinced the White House aide ran an organized smear campaign intended to derail their investigation." Later, Wendell Goler marked the Tiananmen anniversary by showing clips from press conferences and mentioning the hearing cited Wednesday on NBC about China selling body parts.

      -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened: "If you were hoping the Monica Lewinsky scandal was about to wrap up, you're in for a disappointment tonight..."

      Noting the ruling means the issues won't be settled until after the elections, David Bloom judged: "That means that independent counsel Kenneth Starr gets a defeat, and for the President a major victory...Mr. Clinton has pledged to cooperate with prosecutor Starr but in truth the White House has tried to thwart the independent counsel's every move." Bloom also played the McCurry clip, introducing it: "Spokesman Michael McCurry bristled at the notion Mr. Clinton is trying to stall Starr."

      Next, Lisa Myers provided a Starr status report, explaining that by "serious crimes" Starr means lying under oath and obstructing justice. Myers asked and answered: "Does this involve only lying about sex? The President's defenders say yes. Others say it's about the President subverting the very legal system he's sworn to uphold, a pattern that allegedly goes back to the original Whitewater matter."       Myers told viewers Starr must decide how to handle Lewinsky and will probably send a report to Congress about possible impeachable offenses.

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Newsweek's Eleanor Clift thinks lying about sex is okay, Clinton's been a great President and is glad Clinton's lawyers are blocking the truth from coming out. She said all that in a June 3 appearance on FNC's Hannity & Colmes caught by MRC news analyst Clay Waters. Here are a few of her comments on the 9pm ET show hosted by conservative Sean Hannity and liberal Alan Colmes:

      -- "I think if a married man commits adultery, lying sort of goes with it, and committing perjury in a civil case that's been thrown out of court, I think you'd have to look long and hard to find anybody in this country who has suffered a penalty because of that....Now Sean, I've been around Washington long enough that I've heard lots of politicians tell lots of lies. And I don't know that I put lies about sex in a higher category than lies about public policy that might affect my life."

      -- "He's been a darned good President. We have peace and prosperity..."

      -- "Stonewalling happens to be good lawyering and I'm glad the President and Monica Lewinsky have good lawyers."

      What a novel concept for a journalist. Praise news figures and public officials for refusing to talk.

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Some last Goldwater notes: Evan Thomas maintains he really was an extremist, Brit Hume links Reagan to him and Peter Jennings adds the second half to Goldwater's extremism/moderation line.

        -- On last weekend's Inside Washington, after Charles Krauthammer praised Goldwater for his honesty and Nina Totenberg said he treated her with respect when she was one of a few female reporters, Newsweek's Evan Thomas snipped: "He was all those good things, but he was also a dangerous extremist."

      Discussing the "daisy" ad, showing a countdown followed by a nuclear explosion, the magazine's former Washington Bureau Chief elaborated: "It was a gross exaggeration and it was demagogic and it was an effective ad, but there was some truth to it. Goldwater was a guy who was in favor of unleashing the Strategic Air Command."

      Showing consistency in his hostility to all conservatives, later in the show when the panelists discussed Newt Gingrich's trip to Israel, during which he simply said Israel should be able to locate its capital where it wishes, Thomas declared:

      "I assume the worst when Newt opens his mouth but I have no idea on this issue whether Newt was wrong."

       -- The June 1 CyberAlert offered my recollection of the narration from Lyndon Johnson in the "daisy" ad. FNC's May 29 Special Report with Brit Hume played it.
      Hume: "...What is considered the original campaign attack ad, showing a little girl counting flower pedals followed by a nuclear countdown."
      Lyndon Johnson in ad: "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."

      The CyberAlert also noted that ABC, CBS and NBC failed to mention Reagan's speech on Goldwater's behalf. Hume did: "One who thought Goldwater was right was Ronald Reagan, then still an actor who first emerged as the national political figure in this televised speech one week before the election."

      -- The June 3 World News Tonight included a brief item on the funeral ceremony for Barry Goldwater. Anchor Peter Jennings added: "Just one more thing about that phrase that Goldwater used in his presidential campaign: 'extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.' He was flogged by his opponents for that extremism reference. So many people forgot the next sentence: 'moderation,' Goldwater said, 'in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.'"

      Amongst those who "forgot" the second half: Peter Jennings who read only the first part the day Goldwater died. See the June 1 CyberAlert. But Jennings deserves credit for letting unfamiliar viewers hear the entire quote. CBS Evening News viewers have not had the same benefit. The May 29 show featured only the extremism part and CBS has yet to fill out he quote.

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)From the June 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other Executive Privileges." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10) Access to Gerald Ford's vast underground collection of Hustler back issues.

9) Use of high-resolution military satellites to warn when Hillary is coming.

8) Get to call PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat "Yas."

7) When approaching four-way intersection President may yell "Yee-Haw!" and barrel through at full speed.

6) The unalienable right to lie your fat presidential ass off

5) If the President is hungry he may commandeer a civilian's muffin.

4) Can make pilot of Air Force One buzz Kenneth Starr's house.

3) $5 discount on Fudgie the Whale cakes at participating Carvel stores.

2) Veto power on all new Baywatch hirings.

1) The annual NATO wife-swapping party.

      > All week I've intended to send the June 1 edition of Quotable Quotables, but then run out of space. I hope to get it into Monday's CyberAlert, but in the meantime you can still access it on the MRC's home page where it's featured right at the top of the MRC Homepage.

  -- Brent Baker

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