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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday August 5, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 126)

Freeh Named Clinton & Gore, But ABC & CNN Ignored; Top 10 Clinton Nicknames

1) FBI Director Freeh specifically identified Clinton and Gore as subjects of the campaign finance probe, but ABC and CNN ignored that, focusing instead on the Burton/Reno dispute over memos.

2) FNC offered the most House hearing coverage Tuesday. When Freeh appeared MSNBC was discussing the "switched at birth" story, but when Janet Reno denounced Dan Burton MSNBC went live.

3) Rather insisted that "Rehnquist cleared the way" for Starr to further probe "the President's personal life." CNN highlighted the latest ridicule of Starr by William Ginsburg.

4) Letterman's "Top Ten Clinton Nicknames or Ben and Jerry Flavors."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Lfreeh1cap.jpg (25350 bytes) At a House Government Reform and Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday Chairman Dan Burton asked FBI Director Louis Freeh, regarding his contention that an independent counsel should be appointed for campaign finance because credible charges have been raised about covered persons, "Does that include the President and the Vice President?" Freeh replied: "Yes sir."

     Big news, the FBI Director saying Clinton and Gore are personally being investigated for law-breaking? Not to ABC or CNN which ignored the exchange Tuesday night. NBC played it deep in their story. Only CBS and FNC made it the lead of their reports. Instead, ABC and CNN focused on the dispute between Burton and Attorney General Reno over his subpoena of the memos written by Freeh and Charles LaBella, the man until recently in charge of the campaign finance probe, recommending the appointment of an independent counsel.
     (But at least now their analysis got some coverage. When at a hearing with Reno Senator Fred Thompson read part of Freeh's memo, the networks ignored it. See the July 21 CyberAlert. The next week the New York Times revealed how LaBella had urged Reno to name an IC. That generated a few seconds on Today and stories on CBS and CNN in the evening, but zilch on ABC or NBC in the evening. See the July 24 CyberAlert.)

     ABC, CBS and NBC led with the stock market plunge. FNC went first with the switched at birth story and Monicagate topped CNN. Here's how they each handled Reno, Burton and the House hearings on the Tuesday, August 4 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charlie Gibson emphasized the Burton/Reno dispute, not how two top officials think an IC should be named:
     "On Capitol Hill today Republicans threatened Attorney General Janet Reno with a contempt of Congress citation unless she hands over memos from the Justice Department's campaign fundraising probe. A House committee will vote Thursday on whether to take that step. Reno insists that releasing the information where it might become public could torpedo the whole investigation."
     Linda Douglass began: "Janet Reno said no Attorney General should be forced to turn over to Congress confidential memos about an ongoing criminal investigation."
     Reno, at her press conference: "If I give in to that suggestion then I risk Congress turning all decisions to prosecute into a political football. That is simply wrong."

     Douglass explained how Burton wants Reno held in contempt, noting that "Democrats howled" at the idea. Referring to Freeh and LaBella, here's as close as Douglass came to Freeh's suggestion that Clinton and Gore are being looked at: "They had told Reno that they had found evidence of potential crimes by high White House officials and they told Congress that today."
     After soundbites from the two saying an IC should be named, Douglass offered more ammunition for Reno's side of the dispute: "Even so, both Freeh and LaBella pleaded with Republicans not to force Reno to turn over their memos because it would give suspects too much information about where the investigation is going."
     Douglass concluded: "The FBI Director told Congress Reno is not motivated by politics. Republicans say they'll believe that if she asks for the eighth independent counsel since President Clinton took office."

     -- CBS Evening News picked up on Freeh's revelation and made it the lead of their story. Dan Rather intoned after a Monicagate story:
     "The White House was under fire on another front, including blistering criticism, not all of it Republican, of U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for not appointing a special prosecutor to investigate alleged sleazy, possibly even illegal fundraising, in the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign."
     Phil Jones began: "For the first time FBI Director Louis Freeh today publicly included President Clinton and Vice President Gore in a group which may have violated criminal law in 1996 fundraising."
     Burton, at the hearing: "I don't know if you're going to want to answer this, but does that include the President and the Vice President?"
     Freeh: "Yes sir."

     Jones went on to note that Freeh and LaBella urged Burton to not demand the release of their memos and showed a soundbite of Reno from her press conference.

     -- CNN's The World Today. Co-anchor Joie Chen, like ABC, stressed the memo dispute as CNN did not even show Freeh's "yes sir" reply to Burton:
     "Attorney General Reno says she may or may not appoint an independent counsel to head a campaign financing investigation. Either way though she says she is determined not to release subpoenaed internal memos on the matter. After being denied a chance to testify at a congressional hearing, Reno called a news conference to explain her position."

     Reporter Pierre Thomas asserted that the hearings set the stage for a showdown over the memos. Thomas showed a clip of Reno before noting that Democrats accused Burton of "trying to bully" Reno. Viewers saw a soundbite from Congressman Henry Waxman and then Thomas got to the IC issue: "And Freeh suggested the investigation could touch key Democrats and senior White House officials. He said Reno may have a conflict of interest because some of the suspects have ties to the President and Vice President."

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Carl Cameron opened his report by leading into the big Burton/Freeh exchange:
     "The FBI Director told Congress that Attorney General Janet Reno should seek an independent counsel because the investigation of campaign finance abuse reaches all the way to the top."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced:
     "The Attorney General, one of her top aides and the Director of the FBI are in an open dispute about what to do about charges the Democrats violated campaign finance laws in the last presidential election. And powerful Republican Congressman is also in this fight, he's threatening to cite Attorney General Janet Reno for contempt."
     Reporter Pete Williams opened by noting Freeh's call for an IC, and like CBS and FNC did run the Burton/Freeh exchange:
     Burton: "Does that include the President and the Vice President?"
     Freeh: "Yes sir."

     Williams noted that LaBella agreed, as he had in a memo, and then ran soundbites from Burton and Reno about their subpoena dispute.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) During the day Tuesday MSNBC skipped the hearings, running a couple of updates from Pete Williams. When Freeh made his opening statement at 11:52am ET CNN and FNC showed it, but MSNBC viewers were treated to an interview about the "switched at birth" case. After ignoring the hearing all day, at 2:30pm MSNBC did go live to cover Reno's press conference in which she denounced Burton.

     CNN offered live coverage of the hearing from 11:30am ET to about 12:10pm ET and also showed Reno's press conference at 2:30pm ET.

     FNC provided the most live coverage with analysis throughout the day from Carl Cameron. FNC started at about 10:10am ET and stuck with it, interrupted only by ad breaks and news updates, through to about 11:20am ET when anchor David Asman got reaction from Eleanor Clift and Deborah Orin. FNC re-joined the hearing at 11:30am ET and stuck with it for over an hour. They showed a bit more at 12:50 and 1:30pm before, like CNN and MSNBC, going to the switched at birth press conference at 2pm and Reno at 2:30pm ET.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) ABC and NBC held Monicagate Tuesday night to a few seconds on how Chief Justice Rehnquist rejected Clinton's appeal on attorney-client privilege, so special counsel Lanny Breuer was forced to appear, and that the FBI test results on the dress have not been released. Here's how CBS, CNN and FNC handled the latest on the Monica front:

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather again forwarded the White House spin on how Starr is probing Clinton's "personal life." Rather declared:
     "In Washington, for the second time in a month, the Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, cleared the way for prosecutor Ken Starr's demand for testimony about the President's personal life from those closest to Mr. Clinton..."

     Scott Pelley revealed that Lewinsky turned over a photo, explaining: "Sources say the still photo carries a personal inscription that Lewinsky claims is written by Mr. Clinton. The inscription is said to be very personal."

     Up next, Bob Schieffer previewed a Wednesday meeting between congressional Democrats and Clinton. Schieffer asserted that Democrats are "increasingly nervous" about impact of Lewinsky no matter what they say publicly.

     -- CNN's The World Today opened with Bob Franken on the Lindsey decision and appearance by Lanny Breuer. Second, from the White House Wolf Blitzer reported that "the President goes about business as usual, but behind closed doors, he's spending several hours each day huddling with his private attorney, David Kendall, preparing for his August 17th grand jury testimony..."

     Third, Jonathan Karl reviewed Starr's four years as independent counsel. Here's how co-anchor Jim Moret introduced the lengthy piece: "The Ken Starr investigation turns four this week. The original probe into an Arkansas land deal has led to sometimes lurid allegations about sex and a scheduled presidential appearance before the grand jury. CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at Starr's wins, his losses and what lies ahead."
     At least Karl did raise a subject rarely highlighted by the networks: the convictions Starr has won. After running attacks from Bill Ginsburg, Sidney Blumenthal and James Carville, Karl pointed out: "Amidst the furor, Starr has had his victories: 12 convictions and guilty pleas, netting some pretty big fish," such as Webster Hubbell and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker.

     Finally, after Karl, CNN played this clip from Bill Ginsburg, in a Los Angeles speech, disparaging Ken Starr:
     "Continued gargantuan efforts of Kenneth Starr to bring this President down is also perceived as a contest financed by the right, a personal challenge that this twice passed over Supreme Court candidate, who has a grudge with the government to settle apparently."

     -- FNC's Fox Report. Jim Angle provided a full report on the Lindsey decision and the appearance of Lanny Breuer. Then David Shuster ran through what happened at the courthouse with speculation as to what Breuer was asked about and testimony from Secret Service agents.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) From the August 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Clinton Nicknames or Ben and Jerry Flavors." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10) Slick Willie
9) Chunky Monkey
8) Double Nut Joy
7) Subpoenas 'n Cream
6) Impeach-ment
5) Candy Pants
4) Chocolate Chip Doughboy
3) Chilly Hillbilly
2) Draft-Dodging Pot-Smoking Intern-Nailing Raspberry Swirl
1) Vanilla

     Pretty good from #9 to #2 but it kind of petered out at the end. -- Brent Baker

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