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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday, June 9, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 90)

Starr's Threat; Going Warm with Gore; Hitting Heston; Gumbel on Slavery

1) "You've always thought when you talked to your lawyer it was confidential, even after you die. But not if the independent counsel has his way." So warned the networks of Starr's threat.

2) Al Gore speaks, CBS, CNN and NBC jump at his ominous warning about impending "economic upheaval" from global warming. Only FNC bothered telling viewers not all agree.

3) All three morning shows ambushed Charlton Heston from the left, demanding he make the NRA agree to more gun restrictions.

4) Americans won't apologize for slavery, Bryant Gumbel complained, because many "would sooner forget it ever existed."

Update: The June 8 CyberAlert included an item on how CBS reporter Jim Stewart highlighted how Charlton Heston's NRA ascendency "comes at a time when the actor's own politics is under fire. Last December Heston stunned some of his old friends with a speech filled with bitterness for some minorities." As noted in CyberAlert, the soundbite appeared out of context and lifted from a larger sentence. Indeed it was. A helpful reader guided me to the full speech, which it turns out was Heston's remarks to the 20th anniversary celebration for the Free Congress Foundation. Here's the full quote with the portion shown by CBS marked by the ** double asterisks:
     "Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, **the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other,** and all the New-Age apologists for juvenile crime, who see roving gangs as a means of youthful expression, sex as a means of adolescent merchandising, violence as a form of entertainment for impressionable minds, and gun bans as a means to lord-knows-what. We have reached that point in time when our national social policy originates on Oprah. I say it's time to pull the plug." To read the entire address, go to: http://www.freecongress.org/anniversary.htm


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) All the Monday night network evening shows, as well as Nightline, ran full stories on the independent counsel's office argument before the Supreme Court that the need of a grand jury to obtain information from a dead witness in a criminal case outweighs the attorney-client privilege. Specifically, that Vince Foster's lawyer should reveal what he told him in a meeting nine days before he killed himself. But while all the stories provided the arguments from both sides, many painted Ken Starr as a threat to all of us. And only CBS reporter Scott Pelley took the time to explain how Starr is pursuing the matter in order to figure out Hillary Clinton's role in the travel office firings.
     (Monday night ABC led with Charlton Heston winning the NRA presidency, CBS and NBC began with warm temperatures and global warming, CNN went first with nerve gas use in Vietnam and FNC topped its show with the Starr case before the Supreme Court.)

     -- Forrest Sawyer opened the June 8 Nightline: "You've always thought when you talked to your lawyer it was confidential, even after you die. But not if the independent counsel has his way."

     Introducing Nina Totenberg's set up piece, Sawyer warned that if Starr wins you lose: "Once you die, whatever you told your attorney in absolute confidence suddenly becomes fair game. What you said may hurt your reputation, or implicate your child in drug abuse or embarrass your family, it doesn't matter. A prosecutor should, Starr argues, be able to make your lawyer talk. Whatever the Supreme Court's ruling may mean to Starr's investigation of the White House, it could profoundly affect how you deal with your attorney from now on."

     If you are involved in criminal activity.

     Totenberg preposterously concluded: "The justices of the Supreme Court are overwhelmingly conservative, Republican and might be considered sympathetic to Starr's position. But they're also lawyers..."

     Overwhelmingly conservative and Republican? Steven Breyer and Ruth Ginsburg are liberals named by Clinton. Ford may have nominated John Paul Stevens and Bush may have nominated David Souter, but the term "conservative" does not apply to them. "Liberal" does. Of the other five, she's correct about William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but I don't think anyone not so far left as Totenberg considers Anthony Kennedy or Sandra O'Connor particularly conservative.

     -- Nightline's theme matched a piece aired by the CBS Evening News on Sunday night, June 7. As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, reporter Stephanie Lambidakis highlighted the larger peril of Starr's position: "For many terminally ill people, it is one of life's final acts: talking to a lawyer and feeling safe that their secrets are protected, even in death, by the attorney-client privilege."
     Lambidakis explained: "Now the attorney-client privilege is facing its biggest challenge yet here at the Supreme Court. The case has set off alarm bells among lawyers and clients, the worry that what they discuss in the strictest confidence may one day be revealed." After offering a quick take on Starr's side, Lambidakis countered: "But once the door is opened, warns the American Bar Association, confidence in the legal system will be shaken forever."

     -- Monday night, June 8, CBS delivered a more balanced piece from Scott Pelley. Unlike Tim O'Brien on ABC, Charles Bierbauer on CNN and Pete Williams on NBC, Pelley explained the relevance of the notes taken by Foster's lawyer:
     "The Foster notes are important because they may shed light on a 1993 scandal called Travelgate. In an apparent effort to divert White House business to friends of the Clintons, the long time travel office staff was accused of fraud and fired. The accusation was untrue. Investigators were told Mrs. Clinton had nothing to do with the mess, but later a White House memo on the firings was found. It said in part, 'There would be Hell to pay...if...we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady's wishes.' Starr believes that Foster knew whether the First Lady was telling the truth to investigators..."

     Right after Pelley anchor Dan Rather turned to reporter Kristin Jeanette-Myers for what Starr's case means to everyone else. She cautioned: "But if Starr prevails, conceivably, anything you've said to your lawyer could be made public after you die."

     -- Only FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report led with the Starr case before the Supreme Court and while FNC's David Shuster did not offer a reminder like Pelley, he did observe: "The constitutional arguments ignored of course a key factual question: What did Vince Foster really say to his lawyer about possible criminal activity in the White House?"


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Al Gore decided to hold a press conference to announce his concern about global warming, and three networks fell in line. CBS, CNN and NBC on June 8 relayed his dire warnings without any suggestion anyone disagrees. Only FNC bothered to tell viewers that not all agree with Gore's science.

     -- On CNN's The World Today reporter Ann Kellan declared: "Flooding and the extensive damage from this winter's El Nino storms, could become more commonplace according to Vice President Al Gore, who is blaming global warming for making El Nino worse." She proceeded to run soundbites from Gore and a NOAA scientist, but had no time for any contrary views.

     -- Over on the CBS Evening News the ominous forecast led the show. Jerry Bowen began: "Wild fires in tinder dry Mexico, freak ice storms in Maine, the deluge in California. All El Nino related. And today, says the Clinton administration, you can add global warming to the list."
     Vice President Al Gore: "Every month this year has delivered new evidence of global warming and El Nino has given us a picture of what the future may hold if we fail to act."
     Bowen explained Gore's contention, reporting that National Climatic Data Center figures show the first five months of 1998 are two degrees above normal. After a soundbite from NOAA's Tom Karl, Bowen noted that a computer forecast for the upcoming La Nina actually predicts colder than normal temperatures this winter.

     -- Tom Brokaw opened the NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. If it seems we're off to an unusually warm weather start it's not your imagination. Temperatures are up, a lot. The heat-wave will only continue through the summer, adding to the concerns about global warming. This is not a temporary condition. The consequences could be considerable."
     Robert Hager contended: "It's the hottest start of any year ever in the history of weather observations, the government reporting the findings today blames that partly on El Nino and partly on the long range trend toward global warming, thanks to pollution."
     Viewers heard from Tom Karl and Al Gore before Hager reported that an analysis of tree rings discovered we're now in the warmest years in 600 years. Warned Hager: "If that continues it could mean more weather extremes, violent storms and damage, changes in agriculture, crop patterns, economic upheaval."
     Hager then allowed this admonishment from Gore: "How long does it take before these kinds of results make us sit up and say hey, wait a minute, this is really something unprecedented?"
     Hager continued: "But by next winter we could be in for a temporary change. The Weather Service predicts today we'll go to the opposite of an El Nino, an La Nina or cooling of the Pacific waters." After a professor predicted more tornadoes and hurricanes, and forest fires in the south, Hager concluded by simultaneously tagging that as exaggerated while he offered a ominous warning about the danger of global warming:
     "But others say that's overstated and believe the real long range threat is for more El Nino's, such as we've just had, and that driven by global warming the worst could be yet to come."

     -- Only viewers of FNC's Fox Report got to learn of another view. Reporter Jane Skinner ran down Gore's case: the current high temperatures, how El Nino has made the effects of global warming worse and how it's now the warmest it's been in 600 years. She ran a soundbite of Gore claiming global warming could lead to more extreme weather, before offering another perspective:
     "Now that he's got your attention, what Gore wants is for Congress to approve a $6.3 billion plan aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses which of course some scientists say are a cause of global warming. But others say it's all a bunch of hot air, there's no proof global warming effected El Nino."
     Sterling Burnett, National Center for Policy Analysis: "They haven't been able to sell their global warming scare story so they try and tie it to a really bad El Nino occurrence."
     Skinner: "Sterling Burnett of the right leaning National Center for Policy Analysis claims the White House is simply trying to further its environmental agenda."
     Burnett: "It's a scare story and I don't think the American public's buying it."
     Skinner: "The American public may have to get used to it though. With global warming one of the Vice President's top priorities, it's likely to remain a fixture in the political landscape."

     For more how most scientists don't buy Gore's global warming line, see the April 23 CyberAlert. As noted there, a petition signed by 15,000 scientists maintained: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." In fact, a former National Academy of Science President asserted: "This freely expressed vote against the warming scare propaganda should be contrasted with the claimed 'consensus of 2,500 climate scientists' about global warming. This facile and oft-quoted assertion by the White House is a complete fabrication."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Congratulations, Mr. Heston, on your election as President of the NRA. Now, embrace liberal gun control laws and we'll praise you. If you don't, we'll disparage you. So, it seemed, the networks decided. Monday morning Heston made the rounds of the three morning shows and on each was hit from the left on the irrationality of his opposition to gun control.

     But first, a quick look at the lead story from Monday's World News Tonight. Reporter Antonio Mora highlighted how "Heston didn't take long to become a lightning rod for controversy" as Mora showed a clip of Heston suggesting there are as many gun collectors and advocates in the Hollywood closet as there are homosexuals. Next, ABC viewers saw an excerpt from his convention speech: "America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters. And we sure Lord don't trust you with our guns."
     Mora was unimpressed by Heston's political leadership: "The message the NRA wants to convey is that what the country really needs to reduce crime is not tougher gun laws, but tougher enforcement of criminal laws. Which sounds as if the NRA under Heston will offer the same message it's always offered."

     The morning hosts ambushed Heston from the left. Here are some examples of how the June 8 shows greeted his victory, as transcribed by MRC analysts Geoffrey Dickens, Jessica Anderson and Clay Waters:

     -- Katie Couric on NBC's Today. Two of her questions, followed by an exchange in which Couric offered her idea for a more liberal NRA:
     "Speaking of gun safety and children Mr. Heston, as you well know and in fact as everyone in this country knows there has been a spate of school shootings recently that have been quite disturbing to all Americans. Given the fact that these seem to be happening with greater frequency has it caused you to rethink your philosophy about children and guns and the accessibility of guns for children?"
     "But Mr. Heston, don't you think that if deep, if children are deeply disturbed, there might be another way for them to deal with conflict if guns were not so readily available to them?"

     "Getting back to kids and guns, if you will indulge me for a moment. You cannot think of any other position the NRA could take in terms of trying to decrease the number of school shootings? You feel like this is not your bailiwick, this is not your problem?"

Charlton Heston: "Not at all. As I told you the NRA spends more money, more time..."
Couric, cutting him off: "Other than education."
Heston: "Well what would you suppose? What would you suggest?"
Couric: "I don't know, perhaps greater restrictions."

     -- Mark McEwen on CBS's This Morning:
     "Heston takes over at a time when the NRA is under fire for sticking with its hardline against gun control. Criticism of the NRA's position has only intensified after the rash of school shootings in small towns, from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Springfield, Oregon. Charlton Heston joins us this morning from Philadelphia. Good morning, Mr. Heston....A new Harris poll shows almost 60 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. In the wake of recent shootings, of children shooting children -- in Jonesboro, Arkansas; Pearl, Mississippi; and other places -- what kind of policy will be looking to be pushing forward as President of the NRA?"
     "But Mr. Heston, a lot of parents are concerned about the fact that people who aren't adults, let's say they're under 21, can get guns easily. What about trigger locks, what about gun locks? The NRA is against both of those."
     "There's been a line that's come out of this convention, that gun control is a threat to our freedom. What do you mean by that?"

McEwen: "The Bill of Rights was written over 200 years ago. There weren't semi-automatic weapons out there. There weren't AK-47s out there. There were people who had one-shot rifles, one-shot revolvers. What do you say to people who say, 'We're in a different time right now and we are awash in guns'?"

Heston: "I tell you what, let's suppose that we said, 'Okay, let's confiscate all privately-held firearms in the country.' There are about 200 million in private hands, legally held. Now then, of course, criminals don't buy firearms, they steal them, that's what they do for a living. What do you do with the armed criminal then? What do you do?"

McEwen: "Criminals didn't . . .[trails off]"
Heston: "No, wait, wait, wait. In this hypothetical situation I've present, presented, presented to you, what do you do with the armed criminal then?"
McEwen: "That's a good question. Why don't we have discussion, discussions about that between gun control advocates and the NRA? The NRA, it seems like, many times when people talk about gun control, the first thing that they do, and this is what a lot of people have said, is put the wagons in a circle, so to speak, and do not budge. Why is that?"

     -- Lisa McRee on ABC's Good Morning America:
     "Is the NRA in a PR crisis?"
     "But how much of a public relations crisis have the shootings in schools across this country caused for you this year?"
     "But Mr. Heston in Jonesboro and other school shootings children have had access to guns."
     "And so guns are not a problem?"
     "Mr. Heston is there no room for some limited gun control laws in this country?"

     "We are running out of time but finally, last week former President Reagan press secretary James Brady, who was of course shot in assassination attempt sent you an open letter saying, 'Let's have no more of these school shootings, let's gather together it's time for the NRA to join other responsible gun owners in seeking to prevent future tragedies,' You have not answered him yet what will your answer to Mr. Brady be?"

     Not a word about how guns can prevent crime.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Not sure I'll be doing a CyberAlert tomorrow, so before Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel airs again on CBS on Wednesday night, here's a noteworthy quote from last week's show to remind you why you are not watching it. Beginning a June 3 story about Ed Ball, a wealthy Southerner who wrote a book about coming to terms with "the sins of his family" which owned slaves, Gumbel insisted:
     "The idea of a national apology for slavery has been floated regularly over the past year, but always shot down, often by Americans who would sooner forget it ever existed."

     At least we won't have to hear Gumbel's liberal ravings much longer as CBS has pulled the plug on his soapbox: Public Eye is not on the fall schedule due to low ratings for the show hosted by the $5 million-a-year man. -- Brent Baker

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