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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday July 6, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 105)

"Gorbachev of China;" Funneling 
Fumbled; Competition or Liberal Bias?

1) Quote of the Weekend: Newsweek's Eleanor Clift dubbed Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin "the Gorbachev of China."

2) "Nothing has been proven" in the over-hyped Monica mess; Bryant Gumbel prefers France where the media aren't so sex "obsessed."

3) Forced abortions and campaign money funneling were raised at the Hong Kong press conference, but Friday night not a word on abortion and only CNN mentioned the China-connection scandal.

4) ABC and CBS ignored the e-mail showing Tripp tried to end her relationship with Lewinsky. Newspaper revelations about Chung and satellites skipped by all.

5) CNN's retraction: Before the original story Jeff Greenfield promised it would "make news" as it "comes multiply sourced." Most blamed competition, but ABC's Cokie Roberts blamed liberal bias.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Quote of the holiday weekend, from Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group:
     "I think the President is acknowledging a new China, a commercial power. And China understands that if they're going to globalize their economy and be a member of the family of nations they've got to have rules that are modern and that means a legal system and that means expanding freedoms. I think that Jiang Zemin, the Chinese President, could well be the Gorbachev of China in the sense that he will try at least preside over this change in a peaceful fashion."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Another week of Public Eye, another liberal shot from Bryant Gumbel who is using the platform of the soon-to-end CBS show to spout his views while he still can do so. MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson caught this loaded introduction to a July 1 story on how the French are so much more reasonable in how they approach sex:
     "Over five months have passed now since those first over-hyped reports alleged a sexual relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Although Mr. Clinton has denied it and nothing has been proven, the mere suspicion seems to have obsessed a good number of media people and other Americans. What some view as high scandal in our country, is barely cause for concern elsewhere. Richard Schlesinger takes a look at the French connections."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) At Clinton's wrap-up press conference late Friday afternoon Hong Kong time (5:30am ET), a reporter (Larry McQuillan of Reuters, I believe) asked him if he had pressed Jiang Zemin about sending campaign money into the U.S. and CNN's Wolf Blitzer inquired if he had raised the issue of forced abortions. Friday night, however, matching coverage of the previous ten days, none of the four network evening stories mentioned forced abortions, and only CNN alluded to campaign donations funneled from China. In his The World Today story, Blitzer led into a soundbite from Clinton on how he accepts Jiang's denial of any knowledge, by observing: "On several sensitive issue Mr. Clinton seemed to take President Jiang at his word. The Chinese leader, for example, had forcefully denied China had funneled campaign cash into Mr. Clinton's Democratic Party." The night after Jiang made his comment at the Beijing press conference, only Bill Plante on the CBS Evening News told viewers about it -- in one brief sentence. But ABC and NBC viewers have yet to hear anything about it.

     All the stories did highlight answers to questions by CBS's Scott Pelley as to why Clinton did not meet with dissidents and NBC's David Bloom about whether Clinton expects democracy to come to China. The answer to the latter became the biggest news out of the press conference: yes. (All the newscasts Friday, Saturday and Sunday night led with the Florida fires.)

     Saturday night, July 4 the CBS Evening News did find time for a Chinese outrage and Clinton failure, running a story by Jacqueline Adams about how the Lincoln Center operators are upset that Clinton neglected to raise the issue of how China had barred the Shanghai Opera Company from traveling to New York City to perform a 22-hour-long opera. NBC Nightly News delivered a piece about how the Chinese people were thrilled by Clinton's visit.

     Here's how each of the four network stars traveling with Clinton wrapped up his nine-day trip in the conclusions they delivered to their July 3 stories, the first night since Monday, June 29 that the three broadcast networks all aired full stories on China:

     -- Sam Donaldson, on ABC's World News Tonight, told anchor Forrest Sawyer that China gave Clinton a forum to push human rights and he gave them a rejection of Taiwan becoming an independent state. He then concluded: "Many saw this trip of the President's as a gamble. If so Forrest, he appears to have won it, at least for now."

     -- Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News: "The tour will most likely be remembered as the time the President put Tiananmen Square in the past while making only slight progress on democracy's future."

     -- Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The World Today: "The President's aides concede most of his critics back in Washington are unlikely to be impressed by this visit to China. Still, they insist Mr. Clinton did the right thing and predict this trip will eventually pay huge dividends for the United States and China."

     -- David Bloom on the NBC Nightly News: "His critics say he came to China, saw much, but changed little. And if the legacy of this trip is the piecemeal release by China of a few well-known dissidents, even many of Mr. Clinton's supporters will say he failed. But Mr. Clinton argues that America now has a strategic partnership with China, one that he is not prepared to walk away from no matter how long the march from communism to democracy may be."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) ABC and CBS skipped the release of e-mail on Thursday, July 2 showing that Linda Tripp tried to break off her relationship with Monica Lewinsky well before she went to Ken Starr. CNN, FNC and NBC all cited the messages in full stories on Tripp's second day of testimony, but ABC didn't utter a word about her appearance and CBS held her testimony to a brief item read by anchor John Roberts. The July 2 Washington Post and New York Times delivered two China scandal-related revelations, but all the networks, both in the morning and evening, ignored them both.

"Chung Secured Treasury Meeting for Chinese Petrochemical Firm" announced the headline over the Washington Post story. Reporter George Lardner Jr. opened:
     "Democratic contributor Johnny Chung, boosted by the Democratic National Committee, secured a meeting at the Treasury Department in the fall of 1995 on behalf of China's biggest oil company, according to new information released by House GOP investigators.
     "Chung pleaded guilty in March to a scheme to illegally funnel money to the Democrats' 1996 campaign and is now cooperating with the Justice Department. He has told investigators that DNC officials knowingly accepted tainted contributions from him. The documents from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee reveal that then-DNC Co-Chairman Donald L. Fowler helped Chung arrange a meeting at Treasury for a delegation headed by Huaren Sheng, President of China Petrochemical Corp. (SINOPEC), a huge state-owned conglomerate that employs 900,000 people. Sheng was hoping to secure low-interest loans for expansion of his refineries in China...."

     In the New York Times on Thursday Jeff Gerth revealed:
     "While the Clinton administration continues to re-examine whether to allow a $650 million satellite sale to a Chinese-controlled company, the State Department has blocked the son of a Chinese general from working on the sale.
     "Shen Jun, the son of Lt. Gen. Shen Rongjun, is a manager in Southern California at Hughes Space & Communications, the manufacturer of the powerful commercial satellite.
     "The State Department issued a license in 1996 allowing the younger Shen, a Canadian citizen, to work as an interpreter in connection with design talks about the satellites with the customer, a consortium with close ties to the Chinese military.
     "But the license was suspended last week, while Congress presses questions about the role of the United States in China's rocket and satellite projects. Officials are examining Shen's role in the project as well as the capabilities of the sophisticated satellites, which are to be the cornerstone of a commercial mobile phone network planned for China and 21 other Asian countries but which also could be used to eavesdrop on thousands of phone calls in the region...."

     Clinton was only in China, but I guess the networks couldn't think of a hook for the story.

     CBS, CNN and FNC Thursday night featured full reports on Clinton's day in China beginning with his boat trip to highlight the environment. Scott Pelley of CBS followed standard liberal analysis in telling viewers that China must choose between the environment or economic progress.

     Some highlights from some of the Thursday, July 2 evening shows:

     -- CBS Evening News. "The reason" China is so polluted, Scott Pelley contended, is that "the communist industrial revolution is powered by coal." Pelley concluded with AlGorian thinking about how progress leads to more pollution when in fact new technology is the answer to reducing pollution: "Mr. Clinton is pledging to help with money and know-how, but China faces a painful choice: closing dirty factories leads to unemployment and unrest. The issue for China is how to lift a billion people into the middle class without doing serious damage to the Earth."

     -- CNN's The World Today. Bob Franken provided a full report on Tripp's appearance, including the release by someone close to her of e-mail showing she tried to end her close relationship with Lewinsky. Tripp wrote: "Please give me a break, I can't take this" and "The information alone is a heavy burden, one that I did not ask for." Franken highlighted a CNN/Time magazine poll demonstrating how Tripp has suffered in the media. 52 percent see her unfavorably, 12 percent favorably and 36 percent never heard of her. "Has Ken Starr acted responsibly?" Yes said 31 percent, no replied 52 percent. What part of the 52 percent overlap with the clueless 36 percent?

     -- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers explained the Tripp e-mail messages before asserting that on the "talking points" memo "legal sources now say the memo apparently was written on Lewinsky's home computer, but that she definitely had help."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) CNN's Thursday afternoon decision to retract their "Valley of Death" story aired on the June 7 NewsStand: CNN & Time, has generated much news coverage and space does not permit a full airing here of all the issues involved, so I'll try to stick to delivering material that will probably be fresh to you on several fronts. The report completed for CNN by attorney Floyd Abrams, as well as the statement by CNN CEO Tom Johnson, are on the CNN Web page: cnn.com. The direct address for the Abrams report:  http://www.cnn.com/US/9807/02/tailwind.findings/
For Johnson:  http://www.cnn.com/US/9807/02/tailwind.johnson/

     -- Thursday coverage by the competition: All the networks ran full stories Thursday night. All but CBS also ran through the other recent media embarrassments: Boston Globe and New Republic writers making up material and a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter stealing voice-mail messages. On the CBS Evening News Jim Stewart concluded by emphasizing: "Both CNN and Abrams insist there is no evidence anyone at the network deliberately set out to deceive the public. The reporters and producers believed in their research and they believed everything they wrote, Abrams said, there just weren't enough facts there to back it up."

     -- That darn videotape. Here's a blast from the past CNN NewsStand co-host Jeff Greenfield would rather I not remind you about. MRC news analyst Eric Darbe went back to our tape of Greenfield's June 5 appearance on Imus in the Morning, to promote the upcoming blockbuster story, and discovered some hype that's embarrassing in retrospect:
     Jeff Greenfield: "I have to tell you, you know, I think you know, that I have done this show a number of years and I have, I have tried not to sort of hype and go 'Oh my god!' you know 'we've got something coming up.' The first story we've got Sunday night is gonna make news, real news, 'cause it's about a black ops operation by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. This stuff comes multiply sourced by people who were involved in the mission and all I can tell you at this point is that both the target of the mission and the means used to try to carry that mission out are really most disturbing."
     Imus: "What kind of an operation?"
     Greenfield: "Black, it was a black operation. I mean off the books super secret, you know deniability if it ever got out, because they were doing things, they were aimed at targets and using methods that, even now 28 years later, it's gonna to raise a lot of eyebrows about what the gov, what the military was up too."

     Actually, a lot more eyebrows about what CNN was up to.

     Here's Greenfield's new line, as quoted in the July 3 Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "'Clearly there's a whole lot of people who should have looked at this a lot harder, and I'm one of them.'... 'It's like what Robert Kennedy said about Vietnam,' Greenfield said. 'There's enough blame to go around.'" (Greenfield wrote speeches for Kennedy.)
     But not enough to hurt any of the top people like CNN/USA President Rick Kaplan, who developed NewsStand, or Peter Arnett, the on-air reporter for the story whom, The Washington Times noted Sunday and Kaplan confirmed on Reliable Sources, conducted two of the interviews aired.

     -- What's to blame: competition or liberal bias? The journalistic community consensus: competition, but ABC's Cokie Roberts actually cited liberal bias.
     Leading into a soundbite from Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Thursday night NBC's Jim Miklaszewski relayed the majority view: "So what's going on? Media critics claim the explosive growth in 24 hour news outlets has created an unhealthy competition."
     Saturday night on ABC's World News Tonight Carole Simpson talked with Marvin Kalb, now at Harvard and formerly with CBS and NBC, about how the demand for ratings are to blame for media errors. She then offered another explanation: "One of the other things that seems to be going on in the news industry is that older people are leaving. Do you think young people are lacking some of the wisdom that the old heads could provide, because they're not there in the newsroom anymore?"
     Reality Check: CNN reporter Peter Arnett has been around for more than 30 years and Jack Smith, the Senior Producer fired by CNN, looks to be (and I hope I'm not guilty of ageism) well past 50 in age. He's been a network producer at least back to the early 1970s.

     But just hours after Simpson's theory aired, ABC colleague Cokie Roberts suggested an explanation along the lines advocated by the MRC. On Sunday's This Week she argued:
     "This plays into the whole conservative view of the liberal media, which is that it's a fundamental view of a America that is essentially anti-American. It is saying that the American military is such an evil institution that it will go out and do this to its own people."`

     Glad you now see what we've been talking about for all these years. Now if only you'll concede liberal bias impacts other topic areas as well. -- Brent Baker

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