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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday August 27, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 141)

Gephardt Accepts Impeachment as Possible, but Nets Ignore

1) House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said Democrats will not necessarily fight impeachment. Total TV network morning and evening show coverage on Wednesday: 15 seconds on GMA.

2) Reno's decision to begin a 90 day probe of Gore generated 13 seconds on CBS, 35 on NBC. ABC's John Cochran emphasized how Reno gets criticized by both sides, instead of how she has dallied.

3) Nina Totenberg's husband, former Democratic Senator Floyd Haskell, died on Tuesday.

4) How to pronounce Worcester. It aint War-ches-ter.


dickgcap.jpg (11191 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The highest ranking Democrat in the House refused to rule out impeachment of Clinton and criticized the President's behavior, but Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's comments were skipped Wednesday by five of five evening shows and two of three morning shows. Total coverage: 15 seconds on ABC's Good Morning America. Hurricane Bonnie's approach dominated in the morning and evening, but all made room for other stories, just not Gephardt.

     (Attorney General Janet Reno's expected Thursday announcement that she will ask a federal judicial panel for to allow her to launch a 90 probe into whether Al Gore's 1996 fundraising necessitates an independent counsel, generated full stories on ABC, CNN and FNC, but just 35 seconds on NBC and 13 seconds on CBS. See item #2 for details)

     "Gephardt Says Clinton Could Be Impeached: House Leader Won't Rule Out Process," announced the front page August 26 headline in the Washington Post. Reporter Ceci Connolly began her Scranton, Pennsylvania datelined piece:

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), repeating his criticism of President Clinton for his behavior in the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, refused today to rule out the possibility of impeachment if the facts warrant such action.

Impeaching the President -- and effectively overriding the election of 1996 -- should not be undertaken lightly, Gephardt cautioned. Still, "that doesn't mean it can't be done or shouldn't be done; you just better be sure you do it the right way." Gephardt said if Clinton were to leave office, "we'll get through this."

In a series of campaign appearances and press interviews, the top Democrat in the House sent a not-too-subtle signal to the White House he cannot be counted on to blindly back the President.

"If Congress decides to go forward with an impeachment process, we will be involved in perhaps the most important task the Congress will ever have," he said during a stop here. "We have to, under the Constitution, carefully examine the facts and then make a judgment on whether or not he should be expelled from office."....

According to congressional aides, the House members who spoke to Gephardt Monday said they were "upset, disappointed, angry" with Clinton's speech and were "not willing to say this is over." Several told the Democratic leader that it was a problem for the party that Clinton had not cleared the air and been "more definitive" in his explanation. Many said, according to aides, that they "don't know what else to do except wait for the [independent counsel's] report."

In an interview this afternoon aboard his plane, Gephardt talked of the uncertainty ahead. "There's going to be a lot more said and written about it before we're done," he said, noting that the media scrutiny of Clinton was "legitimate."....

END Excerpt

     Coverage of this major break away from the Clinton line by an influential and leading Democrat? Here it is, a 15-second item read during Wednesday's 7am news update by Antonio Mora on Good Morning America:
     "The top House Democrat, Richard Gephardt, says he won't rule out impeachment if the independent counsel's report indicates it's warranted. Gephardt repeated his criticism of the President's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky affair, calling it 'wrong and reprehensible.'"

     Yes, the morning shows allocated most of their time to the hurricane, but CBS's This Morning, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, made room for their "Great American Weight Loss" series and a look at health clubs for overweight kids.

     Over on Today, documented MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, NBC showed video of the Clintons going sailing with Walter Cronkite and Matt Lauer failed to raise the issue during an interview segment with Lanny Davis and Stuart Taylor. Lauer pressed both about what Starr must do now:
     -- "Lanny you think that Ken Starr owes it to the American people and in a way to President Clinton to lay everything on the table. Even if he's come up empty in some of his other investigations."
     -- "Because if he doesn't include anything but the Monica Lewinsky situation the American people, you have to know, are gonna just be furious. They are gonna say if there was nothing on Whitewater, if there was nothing on Filegate or Travelgate this investigation should have been shut down before any of us ever heard the name Monica Lewinsky."
     -- "Stuart, Newt Gingrich has said he wants to see more information on this, he wants to see everything. And as you mentioned before, he's looking, he says impeachment inquiries shouldn't go forward unless they can find some sort of pattern of felonies, not a single human error. Does Ken Starr owe it to Newt Gingrich to show him what he's come up with over these four and a half years?"

     Today's first interview subject in the second half hour after multiple hurricane stories: the author of a novel titled "Memoirs of a Geisha."

     In the evening Wednesday night, August 26, not a syllable on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today, FNC's Fox Report or the NBC Nightly News. A mini Inside Politics squeezed in about 40 minutes late at 5:40pm ET between hurricane coverage, did feature a full report from Jonathan Karl on Gephardt. Karl showed clips from an interview on an airplane in which Gephardt elaborated on the points picked up by the Washington Post. Then anchor Bernard Shaw played back a taped interview in which Gephardt backed away somewhat.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Hurricane Bonnie led every network Wednesday night, but ABC, CNN and FNC managed to run full reports on Janet Reno's decision to begin a 90 day look at whether Al Gore's 1996 fundraising warrants an independent counsel, though ABC's John Cochran let Reno complain that she's in a no win situation. FNC added stories on what Starr and House leaders might do to keep grand jury testimony secret and ran a soundbite from Michael Medved on why he thinks Clinton loved Lewinsky.

     From the Wednesday, August 26 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. In the only non-hurricane field report, John Cochran explained Reno's decision and how a newly found memo suggests Gore and his team knew they were raising hard money by making calls from federal property, which "would be legally questionable."
     Cochran portrayed Reno as a victim, as someone in an unwinnable situation, instead of as someone who messed up long ago by failing to name an IC and is using the 90 day option to further delay her duty: "Reno's Republican critics will only be satisfied if she goes the next step and asks for an independent counsel to explore all campaign finance allegations."
     Reno on August 20: "I get fussed at one way and I get cussed at another way and I'm never going to be Miss Popularity in this business."
     Cochran: "Gore may still avoid what every Washington politician fears: an independent counsel. Reno has indicated Gore should probably not be prosecuted unless there is evidence of aggravating circumstances, such as pressuring federal workers to contribute. But Reno's decision to keep the controversy alive is still politically embarrassing for a Vice President who wants to appear squeaky clean at a time when his boss does not."

     -- CBS Evening News. The usually weather-centric CBS devoted barely half the show to the hurricane and so had time for full reports on the expected downfall of Boris Yeltsin, the resignation of Scott Ritter from the UN inspection team and how he is "accusing the UN and the U.S. of surrendering to Iraq," and how Usama bin Ladin put a $10,000 bounty on Americans killed.

     Anchor Ed Bradley took 13 seconds to announce: "In Washington CBS's Phil Jones reports tonight that Attorney General Janet Reno has asked the federal court for 90 days to decide whether an independent counsel is needed to look into Vice President Al Gore's fundraising practices."

     But to be fair to CBS, the Evening News has run two full reports in the past week on Reno's examination of Gore's fundraising.

     -- FNC's Fox Report. Rita Cosby handled the Gore story, but uniquely raised the role of Harold Ickes, noted that it's been 21 months since the allegations "first surfaced," and reminded viewers that Reno had earlier ruled out an IC, claiming the "wrongdoing was accidental."

     Next, David Shuster ran through speculation about Starr's report and how it's expected to feature an executive summary which will not reveal grand jury testimony. But since Congress will want grand jury transcripts, audio recordings of Lewinsky and the FBI analysis of the dress, to keep it secret "the lawmakers will be offered a menu of possible formats, including information encrypted on a high-tech database. The idea, according to a source, is to help the House leadership restrict access...."

     Finally, co-anchor Jane Skinner, I think that's who it was, picked up on a column in USA Today: "In a column today, film critic and radio host Michael Medved said he thought Clinton may actually be in love with Monica Lewinsky, something the public may find even stranger."
     FNC played this soundbite from Medved: "Look at the gifts that he gave her: he gave her an Alaskan stone carving, he gave her an inscribed book of poems, he gave her a dress, he gave her a broach, he gave her a hat pin. I mean, this is not what you do if what you're talking about is just some intern who's crawling under the desk. It was more than that."

     (Memo to self: cancel the order of Alaskan stone carvings Christmas gifts for the staff. Replace with non-love suggesting Face the Nation mugs.)

     -- CNN's The World Today. About 20 minutes in CNN took an eight minute break from Bonnie and ran several stories, including a piece from John King on Gore. Later in the show after a lot more video of Martin Savidge in the rain, CNN made time for a full story from Pierre Thomas on Reno's decision to launch a probe of Martin Luther King's assassination.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams took 35 seconds to inform viewers: "A top Clinton administration official is telling NBC News Attorney General Janet Reno has asked for a 90 day review to look into possible campaign finance violations by the Vice President, Al Gore. At issue here: the fundraising phone calls he made from his office during the '96 campaign. Now he claims he only solicited money for the Democratic Party as a whole, but a memo found recently seems to indicate he might have raised money for the Clinton campaign itself. That's not allowed. If this 90 day review turns up enough evidence an independent counsel, another one, would be named. The Vice President says the accusations are not true."

     From Martha's Vineyard David Bloom checked in with a story on the $10,000 bounty from Usama bin Ladin and how he had ordered Ramsey Yousef of World Trade Center fame to kill Bill Clinton in the Philippines in 1994.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The husband of Nina Totenberg, the NPR and ABC News correspondent who fills a liberal seat on Inside Washington, died Tuesday. She was married to Floyd Haskell, a liberal Democrat who served as a Senator from Colorado from 1973 to 1979. He beat Republican Gordon Allott, best-known now for employing George Will. Here's an excerpt of the first half or so of the obituary from the August 26 Washington Post:

Floyd Haskell Dies
Senator From Colo.

Floyd K. Haskell, 82, a former Senator from Colorado who served one term on Capitol Hill, died of pneumonia Aug. 25. He was on vacation in Blue Hill, Maine, and was being flown to Georgetown University Hospital by air ambulance when he died.

Sen. Haskell, a Democrat, won election to the Senate in 1972, defeating incumbent Republican Gordon L. Allott by less than 10,000 votes in the same year that President Richard Nixon won reelection in a 49-state landslide.

During his six years on Capitol Hill, Sen. Haskell backed controls on auto emissions and supported the Older Americans Act and the Panama Canal treaties. He was known as a tax reformer on the Senate Finance Committee and a specialist on non-petroleum sources of energy on the Energy Committee. He was an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War and was generally identified with liberal causes.

But as a politician, he was laid-back and unaggressive, and he tended to be shy in the presence of people he didn't know. He lost his bid for reelection in 1978 to Republican William L. Armstrong, a member of the House of Representatives from Colorado who leveled devastating televised attacks on Sen. Haskell's record on spending and taxes.

Since leaving the Senate, Sen. Haskell practiced law in Washington for a brief period, then worked for various causes, including campaign finance and reforming tax laws. In 1979, he married Nina Totenberg, the legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio and ABC's Nightline, who was on the aircraft returning to Washington with him when he died....

END Excerpt


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Finally today, my pet peeve. With Bill Clinton popping up to Worcester, Massachusetts today we're sure to hear a lot of mispronouncing of the name of America's third largest non-navigable port. As a native Bay Stater myself, though one who fled so don't blame me for its liberal politics, I hope I can help steer the media in the proper direction here. Worcester is pronounced: Wuss-ter, as in the first syllable in Pussycat. Not Woos-ter, as in loose. And certainly NOT War-ches-ter. -- Brent Baker

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