U.S. News Tapes Correct Record for Rather; China Connection Disconnected
1) Dan Rather jumped on the
U.S. News tapes to show how the "carefully orchestrated leaks"
of Lewinsky tapes released earlier, "that were damaging to the
Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story."
2) The Supreme Court issued
two conservative decisions. They upset Time online which insists the
decisions "have a troubling aspect."
3) Steve Brill's donations
to Democrats were never raised by the broadcast network evening shows.
Michael Kelly showed how Brill took the side "of those who seek to
hide the truth."
4) Networks refuse to mention
Chinese donations or satellite waivers. Not one full story in over two
weeks and four major newspaper scoops all skipped.
How the tape excerpts cited by U.S. News & World Report hurt Ken
Starr's case for obstruction of justice, was highlighted Monday night by
CBS, FNC and NBC. Without considering the U.S. News excerpts may
themselves be a well-coordinated leak, Dan Rather asserted that the new
excerpts correct the earlier "carefully orchestrated leaks"
which "were damaging" to Clinton, presumably coordinated by
Today and Good Morning America provided a forum for U.S. News editors to
promote their cover story about how the tapes show evidence only of phone
sex and that Lewinsky asked for job help months before being subpoenaed by
lawyers for Paula Jones. Today brought aboard U.S. News Editor James
Fallows, followed by Harold Ickes, while Assistant Managing Editor Steven
Waldman appeared on GMA. (Co-host Lisa McRee didn't bother telling
viewers about Waldman's tie to the Clinton team: until February of last
year he'd been promoting AmeriCorps as policy adviser for planning and
evaluation to Harrison Wofford, the Chief Executive Officer of the
Corporation for National Service. Until January of 1996 Waldman was
Newsweek's Deputy Washington Bureau Chief.)
Monday night ABC
led with heat and fires in Florida, the GM strike topped CBS, FNC went
first with the Supreme Court ruling on public school liability in sexual
harassment cases and NBC led with the Lewinsky tapes. CBS promised to
begin on Tuesday a series on China and ABC ended with a China preview with
what Peter Jennings dubbed "quick glimpses of what we found."
Jennings showed video of tai-chi in a park, modern buildings symbolizing
the rush to 21st century, worker re-training, a Kodak plant and a
"bowling ball tycoon." Plus, how security forces at one point
stopped them from filming.
On CNN's The
World Today at 8pm ET anchor Jim Moret noted that Starr will get the book
purchasing records, but not from the uncooperative bookstore. Instead,
Lewinsky's new lawyers will provide the records. Then Wolf Blitzer
provided an overview of the Lewinsky-Starr immunity negotiations.
FNC did not run a
full story Monday night. On its 7pm ET Fox Report co-anchor Catherine
Crier plugged the conventional spin for the U.S. News story, asserting
that Starr "wants information on what he thinks is a White House
cover-up, but is it? U.S. News & World Report got ahold of tapes
showing the President offered to get Lewinsky a job long before she was
called to testify. That could blow Starr's theory the job was a reward
for lying under oath."
Highlights of the
Monday night, June 22 pieces aired by CBS and NBC:
-- CBS Evening
News. Dan Rather delivered this loaded and quite opinionated introduction
to a story on the U.S. News piece: "It appears tonight that carefully
orchestrated leaks of secretly recorded tapes of Monica Lewinsky, that
were damaging to the Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story. Also
today, weekend reports of what Lewinsky is or isn't prepared to tell
special prosecutor Ken Starr, may not be wholly accurate either. CBS News
chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer is here with a reality and
accuracy check for you."
Referring to the U.S. News tape excerpt,
"Now this conversation suggests that White
House aides were trying to help Miss Lewinsky find a job long before Paula
Jones's lawyers were trying to track her down and question her under
oath about her relationship with the President. This is significant
because the independent counsel has been investigating whether the White
House aides were trying to find those jobs for Miss Lewinsky as a reward
for her denying that she had an affair with the President."
Schieffer went on to report how there's no deal
yet between Lewinsky and Starr and that Linda Tripp may be called before
the grand jury next week.
-- NBC Nightly
News led with the latest Lewinsky/Tripp tapes, but unlike CBS NBC's Lisa
Myers also offered a spin less favorable to Clinton. Noting how the tape
suggests Lewinsky asked for a job before hearing from Jones, Myers
concluded "That could make it tougher for Starr to prove that Clinton
helped Lewinsky get a job to buy her silence. Former prosecutors say the
tapes are significant for what they do not say." Bruce Yannett
insisted they don't suggest any obstruction by Clinton. But
Myers added: "However, theses tapes were recorded last October, two
months before Lewinsky was pulled into the Jones case and before any
alleged cover-up began." Noting that sources say Lewinsky will
testify to sex with Clinton, Myers asserted: "That in itself would be
a problem for the President who denied any relationship under oath in
January and again in public statements." She then played this
soundbite from Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that
woman, Miss Lewinsky."
Finally, anchor Brian Williams asked Tim Russert
about the tapes. Russert cautioned that they are only two hours out of
twenty and while they seem to help the White House they are but a small
piece of big puzzle.
certainly received a more complete picture of competing interpretations of
what the tapes mean and the jeopardy still facing Clinton than did those
relying on CBS.
"High Court Turns Rightward: Two pragmatic conservative decisions
have a troubling aspect." So declared the headline on the Time.com
Web page Monday evening, June 22. Troubling to whom? To Time magazine
legal correspondent Adam Cohen who Time online's Frank Pellegrini cited
as the authority on the misguided thinking of Justice Clarence Thomas. The
piece is fairly short, so here it is in full:
WASHINGTON: It's going to be tougher for
criminals to get off on technicalities. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled yesterday that illegally gained evidence may still be
considered in a parole hearing. Some lawyers are questioning the Court's
wisdom in the ruling since it concedes that the same evidence would be
considered inadmissable in a criminal trial. "Why should evidence
that was unacceptable in a trial be acceptable for a parole
revocation?" asked TIME Legal Correspondent Adam Cohen. "It's
the same principle. The person's freedom still hinges on it." But
Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, felt that burdening
"the traditionally flexible, administrative nature of parole
revocation hearings" with all the minutiae of criminal proceedings
would hinder justice rather than serve it.
A similar common-sense standard seemed to
be the factor in another 5-4 ruling by the same Justices: that a for the
sexual misconduct of its teachers if the school doesn't know about it.
[This is how the sentence reads. Obviously a few words missing. The court
ruled that a school could not be held liable if it was unaware of the
sexual harassment.] Make sense? There's a downside. The decision leaves
few options in the courts for the victims of harassment. "This makes
it much more difficult to sue," says Cohen. "Without being able
to hold the employer responsible, victims aren't likely to recover much in
the way of damages -- especially from a teacher." -- Frank Pellegrini
Only a lawyer
would consider fewer lawsuits to be "a downside."
Tim Russert grilled Steve Brill on Sunday's Meet the Press and cited how
he has donated to Democrats, including $1,000 to Clinton-Gore in 1996 and
$2,000 this year to the campaign of New York Democratic Senate candidate
Charles Schumer. But Russert was just catching up with CNN and FNC which
highlighted Brill's donations last Monday night, June 15. Tuesday
morning, June 16, MRC analysts Clay Waters and Jessica Anderson noticed,
GMA and This Morning mentioned his giving to Democratic candidates,
including Clinton-Gore. But that information never made it onto those
network's evening shows. And after reviewing Nightly News and Today last
week MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed that neither show uttered a
word about his liberal giving.
While on the
subject of Brill, the just-out June 29 Weekly Standard features a
persuasive cover story by David Tell headlined "Bill Clinton's Lap
Dog: Steven Brill, Pseudo-Press Critic and White House Mouthpiece."
Tell dismisses Brill's much publicized story as "fundamentally
Last week Michael
Kelly of the National Journal wrote an excellent syndicated column on how
Brill missed the abuse of power that really matters. The last four
paragraphs from his column, as it appeared in the June 17 Washington Post,
are worth repeating here:
Still, this time
the pack is fundamentally doing the right thing, and critics like Brill
are fundamentally wrong. Brill writes that the press's coverage of the
Lewinsky saga "raises the question of whether the press has abandoned
its Watergate glory of being a check on official abuse of power. For in
this story, the press seems to have became an enabler of Starr's abuse of
This is what
reporters call missing the story. Starr and his deputies may have done
some things wrong, and so may have the ruthless smearers and leakers, whom
Brill neglects to mention, who work on the President's behalf.
But the great,
central and unanswered question the press is chasing is precisely the one
Brill says the press has forgotten: whether the President of the United
States abused his official power, whether he corrupted his office and
broke the laws he was sworn to uphold and whether he lied to the nation.
This is the question that the President's defenders, those Augean stable
hands of politics, spend their days ducking and dodging and wishing away,
and this is the question the press rightly seeks to answer.
It is odd that a
media critic would take the side of those who seek to hide the truth from
the people over those who seek to tell it to them.
Odder yet, I'd
add, that the press corp at large would so eagerly promote such a
President Clinton leaves for China on Wednesday, but will that prompt the
networks to look at charges of illegal campaign contributions from China
and improper waivers for satellite launches? Don't count on it. The
networks have barely touched the stories since the initial May 15 New York
Times piece on how Johnny Chung claimed to have funneled money from
China's People Liberation Army to the Democratic National Committee and
a May 17 story linking satellite waivers for Loral to the large Democratic
donations by its Chairman, Bernard Schwartz:
+ A study in the June 15 MediaWatch documented
how the "networks prefer Monica news to missile news."
Specifically, that from May 15 to June 5 ABC's World News Tonight ran
seven full China connection/satellite waiver stories. The CBS Evening News
and CNN's The World Today ran just three pieces each and NBC Nightly
News only aired two. While Good Morning America featured two full stories
and two interview segments, CBS This Morning and NBC's Today offered
just one piddling story each.
+ From the time
that study closed on June 5 through last week, the totality of broadcast
network morning and evening show coverage, as well as that by CNN's The
World Today, were a couple of sentences in June 11 stories on CNN and NBC.
That night CNN's Wolf Blitzer and NBC's Claire Shipman alluded to a
Washington Post story that day by John Mintz, which began:
"Months after denouncing President George
Bush in 1992 for coddling 'familiar tyrants' in Beijing, newly
inaugurated President Clinton endorsed his predecessor's policy in 1993 by
approving deals with China to launch U.S.-made satellites. Clinton took
the action, the first of many favored by U.S. companies, despite evidence
that China had sold ballistic missile parts to Pakistan, declassified
White House documents show...." (See the June 12 CyberAlert for
allegation in Saturday's (June 20) Washington Post from Johnny Chung,
about how Democratic officials knew they were accepting illegal Chinese
money, generated a CNN story, but just 19 seconds on the CBS Evening News
and zilch on ABC and NBC. (See the June 22 CyberAlert.)
+ This past
Sunday, June 21, Fox News Sunday explored the whole China controversy by
interviewing Republican Chris Cox and Democrat Norm Dicks who will lead
the select House committee set to probe the waivers and donations.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appeared on Meet the Press, but Tim
Russert asked not what the Clinton team may have done but only whether
Clinton will insist that China tell how it tried to influence U.S.
elections. But at least Russert raised the subject. National Security
Advisor Sandy Berger escaped any questions on This Week about the waivers
or donations, though he wrote memos about the implications of granting the
Loral waiver and warning that the Justice Department was in opposition.
(See the May 26 CyberAlert.)
+ Two major
Washington Times and two major New York Times stories in the past ten days
have been ignored by the three network morning shows (ABC, CBS and NBC)
and four network evening shows (the three plus CNN's The World Today),
according to the MRC analysis team of Geoffrey Dickens, Clay Waters, Eric
Darbe and Jessica Anderson. Specifically, in date order:
-- June 13 New
York Times front page headline: "U.S. Knew China Military Used
Civilian Satellites, Reports Show." Reporter Jeff Gerth began:
"For the past two years, China's military has relied on American-made
satellites sold for civilian purposes to transmit messages to its
far-flung army garrisons, according to highly classified intelligence
reports. The reports are the most powerful evidence to date that the
American government knew that China's army was taking advantage of the
Bush and Clinton administrations' decisions to encourage sales of
technology to Asian companies...." (See the June 15 CyberAlert for
-- June 15
Washington Times front page headline: "Clinton Rescinded Bush's
Policy on Exports: Allowed Launch of U.S. Satellite by Chinese."
Reporter Bill Gertz explained: "President Clinton loosened the export
policies of the Bush administration in November 1993 by allowing a U.S.
satellite to be launched in China while economic sanctions were in place
in Beijing for exporting missile technology, according to White House
"Sanctions were imposed on China in August
1993 for selling missile components to Pakistan that were barred for
export under the 29-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR). They
were lifted in October 1994 after the Chinese promised not to sell any
"Congressional investigators said the
document, released last week by the White House, contradicts recent
statements by Clinton administration officials defending satellite export
policies and claiming they were following procedures set by the Bush
-- June 16
Washington Times front page headline: "China Assists Iran, Libya on
Missiles: New Findings Contradict White House." Bill Gertz disclosed:
"China is discussing sales of missile test equipment to Iran and is
helping Libya develop its own missile program, The Washington Times has
learned. Iran held discussions with China last month on the purchase of
'telemetry equipment' for missile testing, said U.S. officials
familiar with intelligence reports.
"In addition, new intelligence data
indicates Chinese technicians involved in missile research and development
are working with Libya to help the North African state develop missiles.
The reports contradict administration claims that Beijing has improved its
record on weapons proliferation...."
-- June 18 New
York Times front page headline: "U.S. Rethinking a Satellite Deal
Over Links to Chinese Military: Pentagon and State Dept. Raising New
Questions." Reporter Jeff Gerth also discovered that Hughes Space
Corp. hired as its project manager in charge of the launch the son of the
Chinese General overseeing China's military satellite program. Gerth
"Faced with growing criticism of its
satellite exports to China, the Clinton administration is rethinking
whether to allow one of the biggest sales to date, a $650 million deal
President Clinton quietly approved two years ago. Government officials
said the Pentagon and State Department were raising new questions about
whether a Chinese-controlled company with close ties to China's military
should be allowed to buy the satellites, which contain some of the United
States' most sophisticated communications equipment.
"The satellites are the cornerstone of a
commercial mobile phone network planned for China and 21 other Asian
nations. American officials said their design included a powerful antenna
that could eavesdrop on mobile phone calls in China or other countries in
the region. It could also be used by the Chinese military to transmit
messages through hand-held phones to remote parts of China. Antennas of
these dimensions are a mainstay of the United States' and Russia's
eavesdropping satellites and have not previously been exported to
"Administration officials said concerns
about the pending satellite sale had been deepened by American
intelligence reports about Shen Rongjun, the Chinese Army general who
oversees his country's military satellite programs. The reports quote the
general as saying he planned to emphasize the role of satellites in
"In an unusual arrangement, Hughes Space and
Communications hired General Shen's son, a dual citizen of Canada and
China, to work on the project as a manager. The company said it was aware
of his familial ties; it is not clear whether the Clinton administration
knew. Father and son were both directly involved in the project, and
American officials said the intelligence reports said the general was
pressing his son to move it forward...."
What kind of
mindset do network producers have which allows them to dismiss all these
stories as unnewsworthy? Isn't arming an enemy nation and accepting
donations from communist military officials worth a few minutes of network
airtime? Not so far and don't count on it this week. It's more likely
Peter Jennings will have more on China's "bowling ball
-- Brent Baker
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