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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday June 22, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 97)

Clinton Lied, Then So What?; Affidavit Waved by 3 Nets; "Hitlerian" CNN

1) The story: Lewinsky will testify that the President lied about not having sex with her. The CBS spin: Starr's "investigation could end up nothing more than he said, she said." Chung details how he laundered money and insists a top DNC official played along: Total broadcast network time: 19 seconds.

2) NBC labeled the appearance by Frank Carter, to explain Lewinsky's affidavit, "very serious," but ABC, CBS and CNN ignored it while CNN highlighted claims from "hostile" sources about Starr's wiring.

3) Sunday night CNN's NewsStand acknowledged the controversy over its nerve gas report, but failed to note that its military consultant described the story as "almost Hitlerian in concept."

>>> The June 15 MediaWatch and Notable Quotables as well as the June edition of MediaNomics are now online, posted on the MRC home page by the MRC's Sean Henry and Kenny Lemay. MediaWatch newsbites include "Ads for Aliens," a newsbite by Eric Darbe about CNN campaigning for more food stamp spending; "Ferris's Day Off" by Geoffrey Dickens about a glowing NBC profile of the new NEH chief; and "Newt vs. Peace" by Clay Waters about ABC's selective concern for foreign policy pronouncements by Congressmen. MediaNomics Editor Tim Lamer put together articles on one-sided global warming coverage and the latest round of SUV-bashing. At the top of the MRC home page you'll find links to all three newsletters: http://www.mediaresearch.org <<<

Corrections: The June 18 CyberAlert referred to NBC News reporter Gwen Iffil. That's Ifill. Another sentence read: "Lott illustrated the impact of Lott's thinking by, probably for the first time ever on network TV, mentioning the name of an ambassador-nominee to Luxembourg..." The first Lott should have been "Cochran," as in ABC News reporter John Cochran.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The weekend, in reverse chronology: Sunday night ABC and CBS featured stories based on a Washington Post story on how Monica Lewinsky's new lawyers are willing for her to testify that she had sexual relations with Bill Clinton. But CBS spun the news, that Lewinsky would contradict what the President told the public, into a story of how Starr's case has fallen apart and is no longer worth pursuing.
     Saturday Washington Post readers were greeted with the disclosure that Johnny Chung has asserted that top Democratic officials knew he was delivering illegal foreign money, but didn't care. ABC skipped the news and CBS gave it just 19 seconds. (The U.S. Open Golf tournament bumped NBC Nightly News, at least in the east, on Saturday and Sunday.)
     Friday night, ABC and NBC went Clinton scandal-free, CBS raised the China issue briefly in summarizing Clinton's latest denial of any wrongdoing and CNN featured two full scandal stories: one on Chung and one on the battle over Secret Service testimony.

     Here are the weekend evening show highlights, from Sunday back to Friday.

     -- Sunday, June 21. Both ABC and CBS led with the U.S.-Iran soccer game:

     ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday. Anchor Deborah Roberts announced:
     "Monica Lewinsky is reportedly offering prosecutors a new deal. Today's Washington Post reports that she's willing to admit, under oath, that she had sex with President Clinton. But as ABC's Karla Davis reports, that may not be enough for independent counsel Kenneth Starr."
     Davis proceeded to explain how Lewinsky is willing to admit sex, but not that she was asked to lie about it, and how authorship of the talking points given to Linda Tripp is key to Starr's investigation of whether there was any obstruction of justice.

     CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts took the same facts as ABC and formulated a very different meaning:
     "How much of a case independent counsel Kenneth Starr has against the President is in question tonight after a report Monica Lewinsky is ready to admit she had intimate relations with Mr. Clinton but that he did not tell her to lie about it. Sharyl Attkisson reports if Lewinsky testifies to that, the investigation could end up nothing more than he said, she said."
     Attkisson asserted: "With President Clinton away at Camp David the nation's capital is abuzz over the report in the Washington Post that Monica Lewinsky is ready to deal, willing to testify that she did have sex with the President despite his vehement denial. But if that's all she's willing to say, a noted Democratic attorney insists independent counsel Ken Starr doesn't have a case."
     After a soundbite from Stanley Brand on Face the Nation Attkisson moved on to how U.S. News is reporting that a two hour tape of phone calls between Tripp and Lewinsky suggested they had phone sex and that she asked Clinton about getting a better job before she was contacted about giving a deposition in the Jones case.

     -- Saturday, June 20. "Chung Alleges DNC Sought Illegal Funds:  Justice Dept. Probe Enters New Phase," announced the front page headline in the Washington Post. Reporter Roberto Suro divulged:
      "Democratic contributor Johnny Chung has told Justice Department investigators that top Democratic National Committee officials knowingly solicited and accepted improper donations from him, according to sources familiar with his account.
     "Chung, as part of a plea bargain deal with the department, has claimed that then-DNC finance director Richard Sullivan personally asked him for a $125,000 donation in April 1995, the sources said. Sullivan took the money despite having previously voiced suspicions that Chung was acting as a conduit for illegal contributions from Chinese business executives, they added. Sullivan's lawyer said he denies Chung's account of their dealings...."
     After recalling how Sullivan turned down Chung's request to let five Chinese associates view a Clinton radio taping, Suro added this new information:
     "According to Chung, however, Sullivan contacted Chung less than a month later and solicited $125,000 from him for an April 8, 1995, fundraiser at the home of director Steven Spielberg. Sullivan has denied to investigators that he asked Chung for the donation, although he has acknowledged that he was involved in accepting the funds at the DNC, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.
     "Chung has also told Justice Department investigators, the sources said, that DNC and Clinton-Gore officials were aware that he was bringing foreign guests to a September 1995 Los Angeles fundraising dinner when he arrived with an entourage of 20 people.  At the event, campaign officials rejected Chung's $20,000 check because contributions to the dinner were subject to a legal limit of $1,000 per person. The following day Chung had 20 friends and employees write individual $1,000 checks, which were accepted by the campaign. Chung later reimbursed the check-writers in what he acknowledged in his guilty plea was an illegal scheme to evade federal contribution limits...."

     Coverage? CNN ran a story along the same lines the night before, but Saturday night not a word from ABC and a mere 19 seconds from CBS. ABC's World News Tonight led on Saturday with the bus crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Late in the show anchor Elizabeth Vargas took a few seconds to note how U.S. News heard some of the Tripp/Lewinsky tapes and "the magazine says the tapes suggest there was a sexual component to phone conversations between Lewinsky and the President, but do not make clear whether the two had a physical relationship."

     The CBS Evening News began with the federal jurors visiting Oklahoma City. Here's the totality of broadcast network coverage of the Post disclosure:
     Anchor Paula Zahn: "A donor at the center of the Democratic fundraising probe reportedly is fingering a top Democratic National Committee official. Today's Washington Post says Johnny Chung told investigators former DNC finance director Richard Sullivan accepted contributions he suspected were illegal. Sullivan's lawyer denies it."

     Not a word on CNN's The World Today at 8pm, but he network had aired a piece Friday night. On Saturday Bob Franken provided a look at the lack of progress in talks between Lewinsky's new lawyers and Starr's office.

     -- Friday, June 19. Kaiser Permanente's decision to not pay for Viagra rose to the top of ABC's World News Tonight. CNN went first with the drought in Texas while the GM strike led both CBS and NBC. More dire warnings about global warming got air time on NBC. Neither ABC or NBC uttered a word about any Clinton scandal:

     CBS Evening News. Anchor Ed Bradley, with an earring in place, took 23 seconds to introduce a Clinton soundbite:
     "President Clinton once again today defended his decision to go to China next week. Among other things critics cite China's alleged attempts to buy political influence by making secret U.S. campaign donations and allegedly diverting U.S. satellite technology from civilian to military use. Today Mr. Clinton rejected the idea of putting the trip off or of slapping U.S. sanctions on China."

     Later, Dan Rather checked in from Beijing with a one-minute quickie to plug his pieces from China which will air this week.

     CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET featured back to back Clinton scandal stories. First, without naming Richard Sullivan, Pierre Thomas summarized the same basic facts delivered the next morning by the Washington Post, beginning: "This September 1995, Clinton-Gore fundraiser, attended by controversial donor Johnny Chung, is now the focus of a Justice Department investigation.   Chung later pleaded guilty to illegally funneling $20,000 in donations for the event to the Democrats. CNN has learned the handling of those donations by Clinton-Gore staffers is now under intense scrutiny by Justice Department investigators. Sources familiar with the investigation say Chung took at least 20 guests to the event, some of them foreign nationals, and handed over a check for $20,000. By law he was only allowed to give $1,000. According to one version of the story, the next day, a Clinton-Gore official called Chung's office and said the money had to be returned. At that point, one of Chung's employees recruited 20 people to write $1,000 checks. The employee allegedly took the checks to the Clinton-Gore official and got back Chung's original check that same day..."

     Second, John King looked at how "independent counsel Ken Starr is asking a federal appeals court to order Secret Service officers to testify about Monica Lewinsky's relationship with President Clinton." In a development the broadcast networks have yet to share with their viewers, King noted: "The independent counsel got some high profile support from four former attorneys-general. William Barr, Griffin Bell, Ed Meese and Richard Thornburgh, argue in a brief, supporting Starr, that Secret Service personnel, quote, 'are bound to assist in the investigation and prosecution of federal crimes -- not withhold relevant evidence of criminal conduct.'..."

     NBC Nightly News allocated about half the Friday show to an "In Depth Special Report" on "extreme weather." Robert Hager set the dire tone. Reviewing current weather extremes and the forecast of more with the upcoming La Nina, Hager intoned:
     "Just more crazy weather or is something going on? Could it be the globe is warming and a warmer globe will mean more extremes, not just more drought but also heavier rain. Researchers say evidence of a warming earth building fast now." After a matching clip from a government scientist, Hager ominously relayed: "Even the glaciers are melting." Without bothering to tell viewers that most scientists disagree, Hager explained why warm weather will cause more rain and storms: "Hot temperature warm the Pacific, bring on more frequent El Nino's. The heat also dries things, causes more drought in a lot of areas. But heat also evaporates more water up into the air, until it gets saturated."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Last Thursday night NBC's Brian Williams declared that the day's grand jury activity showed there are "some very serious matters at stake here and very serious evidence," but ABC and CBS didn't air a word about the appearance by Lewinsky's first attorney, though it led NBC. FNC also ran a short item on the grand jury's day. Only CNN mentioned the successful formation of a special House committee to look into the China connection, and CNN also ran a full report on charges that despite his claims Starr planned to wire Lewinsky to record Clinton.

     On Thursday night, June 18 Brian Williams opened NBC Nightly News:
     "Good evening. This was a big day before the grand jury investigating the President of the United States. Another reminder after a week of leaks and accusations and counter-charges, that there are some very serious matters at stake here and very serious evidence that will come out shortly. Today the effort was clearly to see if the young former White House intern at the center of this case has told the truth throughout. Her former lawyer was asked what he knows. Others will be asked what they know as Ken Starr zeroes in on Bill Clinton."
     Lisa Myers characterized it as "bad news for Monica Lewinsky" that Frank Carter was called, explaining that he drew up the affidavit denying any sex. He told NBC, Myers relayed, that he "never even suspected Lewinsky might be lying." Myers then explained the import of the original affidavit:
     "Starr wants to know whether efforts by the President's confidant Vernon Jordan to get Lewinsky a job were tied to her signing what may have been a false affidavit. Lewinsky reportedly has said she held up filing the statement until Jordan delivered on her job. Consider this: January 7, Jordan who introduced Lewinsky to Carter, drives her to his office to sign the affidavit. The 8th, Jordan calls Revlon trying to get Lewinsky a job. The 12th Carter officially informs others of the affidavit. The 13th, six days after signing the affidavit, Lewinsky gets a job offer from Revlon in writing."

     On CNN's The World Today anchor Martin Savidge noted how the House had approved a special nine member panel to "investigate whether U.S. satellite exports to China compromised national security and whether Democratic campaign donations influenced the administration's export decisions."
     Next, Wolf Blitzer asked: "Did independent counsel Ken Starr's prosecutors ask Monica Lewinsky to be wired so they could ease drop on conversations with the president or his friend Vernon Jordan last January. Now, CNN has learned sealed FBI affidavits could answer that question. Two sources from different camps, hostile to Starr, tell CNN, three or four FBI agents, working for the independent counsel have given secret affidavits in recent months, in which they detailed a plan to wire Lewinsky..."
     Blitzer noted that "in his 19-page letter to the new magazine Brill's Content this week, Starr writes, 'This office never asked Ms. Lewinsky to agree to wire herself for a conversation with Mr. Jordan or the President...we had no such plans.'
     Blitzer ambiguously asserted: "The emphasis in Starr's statement is on Jordan and the President. Several sources familiar with the discussions that day at the Ritz- Carlton hotel in Northern Virginia tell CNN Starr did have a plan to eavesdrop on Lewinsky's phone conversations with Mr. Clinton's private secretary Betty Currie and perhaps others, but not necessarily with the President or Jordan...."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) At the end of Sunday night's edition of CNN NewsStand/Time co-hosts Bernard Shaw and Jeff Greenfield acknowledged the controversy over the June 7 show and promised its validity would be checked. Shaw began:
     "And this note: as you're aware, and as we're certainly aware, controversy has erupted over our June 7th report on Operation Tailwind."
     Greenfield picked up: "On that 1970 operation into Laos, our sources told us, nerve gas was used as part of the operation to find and to kill American military defectors. This week, CNN's military consultant, retired General Perry Smith, resigned in protest over that story. Other voices have been heard calling that story into doubt. We take these voices seriously. And we mean it when we say we intend to hold ourselves to the same standards we ask other institutions to meet. We will have an extended look at the controversy and the criticism in the near future."

     CNN naturally failed to convey the anger felt by Smith that prompted him to quit CNN. As noted in the June 18 CyberAlert which explained some of the problems with the show, Smith declared that by airing the piece CNN "has damaged the United States of America quite seriously."

     Here are a couple of quotes I've come across since which demonstrate just how betrayed Smith feels and who he blames:

     -- Perry Smith to Washington Times reporter Jennifer Harper in a June 18 story: "CNN vowed they would never sink to tabloid journalism, that they would be honest and straight-forward. Then they air this story, which is almost Hitlerian in concept."

     -- Peter Arnett narrated the CNN piece and shared a byline on the Time story. Referring to Arnett's time as an AP reporter in Vietnam, Smith told the New York Post's Tracy Connor: "Peter Arnett had a difficult time in Vietnam and he became rather embittered and cynical." In her June 18 story Connor recalled what Smith said of Arnett during the Persian Gulf War: "Arnett's a prisoner of the 1960s, and talking to him is like talking to Rip Van Winkle."

     At least Rip Van Winkle is a fairy tale. Arnett is a recurring nightmare for those hoping to escape life as seen through his 1960s liberal prism.  -- Brent Baker

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