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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday August 12, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 130)

Perry Smith Denounced Turner & Arnett; ABC Castigates Itself on Global Warming

1) All but ABC Tuesday night covered Harry Thomason's grand jury appearance; CNN's Bruce Morton observed that "Clinton expresses regret well for things he wasn't involved in," but not those he was.

2) Perry Smith, the CNN military affairs analyst who quit over the false nerve gas story, thinks Floyd Abrams was wrong in blaming the fiasco on "honest mistakes" and complained that Ted Turner, who "did major damage," never placed promised phone calls to apologize.

3) Time online joins Gore's global warming crusade. An ABC reporter corrected Ned Potter, putting science before politics.

 Update/Clarification: The August 11 CyberAlert stated that Carl Bernstein is a free-lance reporter. As the MRC's Tim Graham and Jessica Anderson reminded me, he's also a consultant to CBS News who appears on CBS's morning shows to analyze the Starr case. He made the same points about Starr's probe on the August 2 Sunday Morning as he did on Sunday's Meet the Press.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The five evening newscasts led with four different stories Tuesday night and all but ABC gave at least a few seconds to a Monicagate update. ABC's World News Tonight opened with the bombing investigation, CBS began with the sentencing of the Jonesboro school shooters, the stock market drop topped CNN and NBC while FNC led with the grand jury appearance by Harry Thomason.

     CBS, CNN and FNC all noted the Thomason appearance, how Clinton lawyer David Kendall watched the video of Clinton in the Jones deposition and how Hillary Clinton blamed attacks on her husband on prejudice against Arkansas. CNN's Bruce Morton noted how "Clinton expresses regret well for things he wasn't involved in," but does not apologize for his actions, so Morton suggested it's unlikely he'll apologize next week. CBS warned that a ban on homosexual marriages by United Methodists will drive members from the church.

     Highlights from Tuesday night, August 11:

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather introduced a report by Scott Pelley by declaring: "Special prosecutor Ken Starr pushed his investigation of President Clinton deeper today, into Mr. Clinton's inner circle of friends and aides, reaching all the way to Hollywood producer Harry Thomason..."
     Before getting to the appearance by Thomason, Pelley reported that Clinton's lawyers are preparing for six hours of precise questioning and that David Kendall spent much of the day at the courthouse watching the video of Clinton in the Jones deposition "so he could gauge Mr. Clinton's credibility and persuasiveness."

     United Methodists united or divided? Later in the show Dan Rather asserted: "The judicial council of the United Methodist Church issued a new ruling today against gay marriages, a ruling that may prompt some of the church's eight and a half million members to quit."
     Reporter Cynthia Bowers explained how the church issued its ruling via the Internet following controversy which erupted after a Nebraska minister married a lesbian couple. Viewers heard from a minister who thought the ruling would keep the church from falling apart, another minister with many gay members who criticized the ruling and a lesbian who argued it shows they are no longer valued by the church. Bowers cutely concluded: "And many of them may leave, unable to stay in a church that won't accept their unions. No one expects a major split, but not since the days of slavery has a single issue so divided a church, by name, united."

     -- CNN's The World Today ran three stories on Monicagate and Clinton's day.
     Up first, Bob Franken on Thomason: "It lasted just an hour and a half. A source who was in the grand jury room said Thomason was asked what you expected: about Thomas's month-long-plus stint at the White House early on in the Monica Lewinsky controversy; about advice he shared with other advisers and friends of the President; about private conversations he had with his old friend Bill Clinton, which, Thomason testified, shed no particular light on the case."
     Franken added that Clinton lawyer David Kendall spent the day at the courthouse watching video of the Jones deposition and that White House lawyer Cheryl Mills also made a grand jury appearance.

     Second, John King checked in from Clinton's fundraising swing in California: "The President's high-stakes testimony in the Monica Lewinsky investigation is but six days away, but no signs of stress here, and not exactly risky business."
     Clinton before a crowd: "Safe water for our children is something all Americans agree on."

     Third, Bruce Morton examined how "President Clinton expresses regret well for things he wasn't involved in. This semi-apology for slavery came on his recent African trip. Or take this apology for the infamous Tuskegee Experiment, in which blacks with syphilis were left untreated."
     After clips of both apologies, Morton asserted: "But he's never apologized for himself much," illustrating out how he failed to apologize for Flowers, Whitewater or the travel office firings. Concluded Morton: "Washington pundits have been arguing for days: should he apologize? If he does, what should he say? And so on. But the President's history suggests an apology is unlikely. He is more likely to talk to the grand jury, and move on."

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report led with David Shuster's update from Monica Beach in front of the federal courthouse. He ran through the day's activities: Thomason, who had coached Clinton on his "that woman" denial, testified for 90 minutes and denied that Clinton had confided anything to him; Cheryl Mills of the White House counsel's office, who is close to Bruce Lindsey, also testified; Kendall reviewed the video of the Jones deposition; and how Hillary Clinton blamed attacks on prejudice against Arkansas.

     -- NBC Nightly News. During the "Hot Spots" segment Tom Brokaw took 16 seconds to update viewers about Thomason, making NBC the only network to not air a full story on Monicagate either Monday or Tuesday night. Brokaw announced:
     "In Washington President Clinton's long time friend, Hollywood producer Harry Thomason, testified before the Lewinsky grand jury. Sources tell NBC that he was asked if the President confided in him. He said no, that he's always believed the President is telling the truth about his relationship with Lewinsky."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Perryscap.jpg (26264 bytes) CNN's former military analyst, retired Air Force Major General Perry Smith, appeared Monday night on the Late Late Show with Tom Snyder and issued what I think are his first public comments since he quit CNN in mid-June. About a week after the NewsStand: CNN & Time story on Operation Tailwind initially aired he quit in protest when CNN refused to retract the story. (See the June 18 CyberAlert for details on his departure back when CNN was standing by its story about how U.S. forces used nerve gas in Vietnam to kill U.S. defectors.)

     The hook for his appearance was the publication of a new book by Perry, so you may now see him frequently as he begins a book tour. But Snyder and Smith never discussed his book, Rules and Tools for Leaders: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Effective Managing, sticking instead to CNN and Saddam Hussein. Once you see his picture (up today on the MRC home page thanks to MRC Web Manager Sean Henry and the MRC's Snappy snapper Bonnie Goff), you'll recall Perry from his days on CNN during the Persian Gulf War.

     Perry told Snyder he warned CNN Chairman Tom Johnson that CNN was "about to make a big mistake;" that CNN producers didn't believe him because he was too close to the Pentagon; that CNN's military access has been hurt; that Floyd Abrams, the lawyer brought in who wrote a big report on how the story was wrong, was wrong himself in attributing the fiasco to "honest mistakes;" that Peter Arnett was more involved than he maintains and lied about it; and that Ted Turner, who "did major damage" to those involved in Operation Tailwind, never placed promised calls to apologize.

     Here are his most interesting comments from his August 10 appearance on CBS's Late Late Show With Tom Snyder, as transcribed by MRC intern Carrie Hale in one of her last duties before abandoning us in a few days to return to college:

     -- Worst Journalism Ever: "They just didn't have the story right, and they should never have gone on camera. It was the biggest mistake in the history of CNN, and it's the worst piece of television journalism in the history of American television journalism. It's that bad."

     -- Tried to Warn CNN Chairman Tom Johnson: "He was brought in toward the end, and he had some serious reservations about it. And he wanted to check with me, but he was talked out of it. There was a fear on the part of the producers that I would screw up the story in one way or another, so he decided he that would go with this team because they had been on it for a period of eight months and they would cut me out of the pattern."
     "I heard about the promos and I did a little checking ahead of time and finally on Sunday afternoon, just before the show went on, I called him, he was in California at the time driving to Santa Barbara, and I said 'Tom, I don't know much about this story but it sounds terribly wrong to me and I think you're about ready to make a big mistake,' but by that time the story was really moving and they had all the promos out so they went ahead and ran the story."

     -- Perry Not Trusted Because of Ties to Pentagon: "About a year ago they ran a story about area 51, a secret base in northern Nevada. We used it for many years to test our very secret programs like our stealth fighter in its early stages. And they ran a story that was really way off base. I complained very strongly to Tom Johnson on the 7th of July last year that it was a really bad story. And as a result of that a number of producers thought that I was maybe too close to the Pentagon and therefore could not be trusted."

     -- CNN's Military Access Hurt: "I talked to Jamie McIntyre today, who is a correspondent for CNN in the Pentagon. He says already a number of people are being very cold toward him and not giving the information he needs. So there will be a lack of trust for a while where people will say, 'I'm not going to give this to CNN, because they may turn it into another Tailwind.' So the access that CNN had to the military through Jamie and through me and through others is very seriously diminished. It probably will be years before it's repaired."

     -- Floyd Abrams Report Wrong in Insisting Producers Only Made Honest Mistakes: "I have problems with the Abrams report, not in its conclusion and that was the story was wrong, but in the early part of his report, and I just read it again tonight, he indicates that these people who put the story together were very honest journalists who just made a number of mistakes, when in fact they had been told by dozens of people who were knowledgeable that story was dead wrong. And I think he was much too kind. I think he was protecting CNN in the early part of that report."

     -- Peter Arnett More Involved Than Claimed and He Lied to Johnson: "Peter Arnett was a respected journalist in the sense that he won a Pulitzer Prize and was in Vietnam for ten years. He should have known better from day one. He had visited most of those bases. He knew there was no nerve gas in theater, yet he reported it. Now he said he didn't do anything but read the script, and that is just flat wrong. He interviewed three of the key players, and when you do an interview and prepare for an interview and do follow-up as you are doing with me, Tom, you have got to be prepared as you have been. And so he was into that story big time and he lied about that to the CEO of, Tom Johnson of CNN, and a lot of other people. There are a lot of people at CNN who are very angry that Peter Arnett is still in the employ of CNN."

     -- Ted Turner Did Major Damage But Never Called to Apologize: "Ted Turner was set up to apologize to all the people on the ground. They were all waiting for the phone call a couple of Tuesdays ago, and he never called any of them. And so even in that area they have done very poorly."
     "He [Turner] did major damage to those folks. He said it was the worst experience in his life. The least he could do was personally apologize to people who were involved in that mission. He has not done that. He's done it by letter, a pro-forma xeroxed type letter, but he has not done it anymore than that, so I have to fault Ted Turner on this also."

     -- Cannot Work for CNN Again: "I was not trusted before this show. I was not trusted afterward when I told them it was wrong. So I could never go back. I can't work for an organization that's not willing to trust me."

     I bet now they wish they had trusted Smith.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Another media outlet endorsed Gore's link between high temperatures and global warming, but it's really just a localized pattern caused by El Nino. And an ABC News reporter Tuesday morning denounced the political hype tying the current heat wave to global warming -- just what ABC News did Monday night.

     -- "Earth's Air-Conditioned Nightmare: It's hotter than ever, and that's good news for the Veep," announced a crusading headline over an August 10 Time Daily (www.time.com) story caught by the MRC's Clay Waters. Time magazine online reporter Chris Taylor asserted:
     "July 1998 didn't just feel like the hottest month the world has known since records have been kept; it really was. New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association puts the average global temperature at 61.7 degrees (not all that hot, but remember this includes Antarctica), which is half a degree higher than anything we've ever seen."

     After noting how Gore used the NOAA numbers to advocate government action against global warming, Taylor urged the Senate to fall in line: "There's more than just the Veep's enviro-mania and the 'gee, isn't it hot' factor at work here. Higher temperatures are cited as evidence of global warming, which equals a good reason for the Senate to pass the meager emissions-cut treaty hammered out -- with Gore's help -- at Kyoto."

+++ REALITY CHECK. From Candace Crandall of the Science and Environmental Policy Project:
     "Vice President Albert Gore took to the podium again on August 10 to announce -- again -- the hottest month in the history of the Earth. Actually, most scientists haven't had a chance to examine Gore's July data yet, but last month his claim that June was the hottest ever fell somewhat flat. Dr. John Christy of the Earth System Science Laboratory, University of Alabama, Huntsville, took a look at the June temperatures in the United States. It turned out that, despite the heat wave in Texas, June was COOLER than average, as many people across the country have noticed. Summer temperatures here in Washington, D.C., were typical. According to Bob Ryan, local NBC weathercaster and former President of the American Meteorological Society, D.C. temps are running 2 degrees F cooler than average for this time of year....

     "As the satellite data show, the warmer temperatures are virtually all in the tropics, between 30 degrees north latitude and 30 degrees south latitude, or roughly between San Antonio, Texas, and Santiago, Chile. If the Earth were experiencing greenhouse warming, as the computer models forecast, the tropical temperatures would remain relatively steady and most of the warming would be at the higher latitudes, such as over D.C. Warmer temperatures in the tropics point to the waning effects of the recent El Nino."

     To read more the SEPP analysis posted on August 11, go to: http://www.sepp.org/weekwas/1998/aug3_9.html

      -- On Monday's World News Tonight, as highlighted in the August 11 CyberAlert, ABC's Ned Potter focused on scientists who "say we're getting a taste of global warming, the changes in world weather caused by industrial pollution trapping heat in the atmosphere. That could bring more heat waves, droughts in some places, more floods in others with more infectious rodents or insects as a result."

     On Tuesday's Good Morning America co-host Kevin Newman delivered the same line about the heat wave: "Scientists are blaming the weather phenomenon for new outbreaks of some very old diseases around the world and some are calling this a preview of what global warming might do to the entire planet."

     But GMA viewers soon heard a more circumspect analysis that put science before liberal political advocacy. GMA science editor Michael Guillen explained to Newman that global warming is over-hyped, explaining that the Earth works in cycles: "We were in an ice age not so long ago. And what we've been doing for the last 10,000 years, if you take a really big picture, is warming up since then, rebounding from that ice age, so this might just be part of that."

     Basing forecasts of doom on 120 years of temperature records (as NOAA, Gore and a compliant media largely are, I'd note) Guillen suggested, is like monitoring a person's vital signs for 70 seconds in order to predict their health for the rest of their lives. Guillen lamented: "Unfortunately there's a lot of political hype. It's complicated enough scientifically without adding the politics."

     Like ABC News did Monday night? -- Brent Baker

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