Clinton's Field Trip; Cronkite Quiet; Mum on Nunn's Call for Resignation
1) Clinton's field trip
earned a full story on ABC, CNN and FNC but just a few seconds on CBS and
NBC. Only FNC brought up how a local Democratic city council member
refused to attend.
2) Cronkite mute. The retired
CBS newsman suspended his powers of journalistic observation and refused
to tell other reporters about his sail with the Clinton family.
3) Update on coverage of Dick
Gephardt's comments on impeachment possibility: Carl Cameron produced a
piece for FNC's Special Report. Sam Nunn's call for resignation
skipped by all.
4) CyberAlerts going on
>>> Check out all the material
showcased on the MRC's home page: The August 24 editions of MediaWatch
and Notable Quotables, the August MediaNomics, the August 27 Media Reality
Check and MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's Wall Street Journal op-ed. Just
go to http://www.mediaresearch.org and click away. <<<
The turmoil in Russia and plunge of the U.S. stock market were the top
stories Thursday night on all the networks with ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC
going first with Russia while FNC led with the stock market.
Brown laid out a scenario in which Chernomyrdin is confirmed as Prime
Minister and Yeltsin transfers power to him until elections in three
months, but only after the parliament gives Yeltsin immunity. CBS Evening
News anchor Paula Zahn ominously opened the show: "Russia's fling
with free markets may be over tonight. So may the political career of
Boris Yeltsin. And the carnage at the Kremlin could even stop the stock
market's long Bull run..." CBS News reporter Richard Threlkeld
proposed the same scenario as ABC, adding that Yeltsin has already signed
a resignation letter, but has just not yet submitted it. The other
networks were less definitive, passing along the rumors of how Yeltsin is
about to resign along with the official denials.
quick trip up to Worcester for a speech in front of an enthusiastic
Democratic crowd, but during which he did not mention Lewinsky, earned a
full story on ABC, CNN and FNC. CBS and NBC gave it a few seconds. All but
NBC raised how Republican candidates are using the President's Lewinsky
affair as an issue against Democrats up for election this fall. The
streets outside the hall were filled with protesters demanding Clinton
resign, but ABC and CBS ignored them and only FNC brought up how a local
Democratic city council member refused to attend.
Highlights of how
the Thursday, August 27 network evening shows covered the President's
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. About 22 minutes into the show Mike Von Fremd began by
emphasizing the stage-managing:
"Democrats in Massachusetts included
busloads of school children in their choreographed tribute to the
President. Senator Kennedy portrayed him as a leader whose problems are
now behind him."
Following a Kennedy soundbite Von Fremd
continued: "The official issue was school safety, but every speech
included a healthy dose of praise for the President."
Viewers then heard a clip from the Worcester
police chief before Von Fremd continued: "Clearly enjoying the warm
welcome, the President never mentioned the Starr investigation but
reminded the faithful that he has bounced back before."
Clinton recalled his 1992 comeback in New
Hampshire and then Von Fremd concluded: "Democratic Congressman Jim
McGovern, who invited the President months ago, was given a standing
ovation and a handshake. But his Republican opponent has promised to use
pictures of Mr. Clinton's visit against Mr. McGovern in campaign
commercials this fall. That kind of threat may make Democrats in less
friendly territory keep their distance from the President."
-- CBS Evening News held the President's trip
to a few sentences from anchor Paula Zahn:
"Clinton said little about today's news
from the markets or Moscow. Instead Mr. Clinton was road testing his
gradual return to public view. Today he made his first political
appearance since his speech to the nation about Monica Lewinsky last week.
Today's subject: school safety and crime. He appeared on friendly turf,
before a receptive crowd in heavily Democratic Worcester,
Without so much as a soundbite she moved on:
"Well Republicans are doing some political road testing of their own,
about Monica Lewinsky as a potential issue in the fall congressional
campaign. In a televised debate, California's incumbent Democratic
Senator Barbara Boxer, was accused by Republican challenger Matt Fong of
having a double standard: one for Mr. Clinton another for Clarence Thomas
and Bob Packwood."
Finally, Zahn noted that Bruce Lindsey had been
called to appear before the grand jury on Friday.
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Anchor Jim
Moret noted how Attorney General Reno had officially announced a 90 day
review for Al Gore. After a soundbite from Gore calling his actions
"legal" and "proper," Moret told viewers about Bruce
Lindsey's expected appearance. For Clinton's day Moret went to John
King who filed from the White House lawn, not Martha's Vineyard where
he's been the last week.
King opened by
introducing a glowing tribute to Clinton from Congressman Jim McGovern:
"A very welcome and public show of Democratic support for a President
who needs every friend he can get these days." After a clip of
Clinton King segued into a bite from Senator Kennedy: "That Mr.
Clinton said not a word about Lewinsky didn't matter to his most loyal
But, King then cautioned, "there were
reminders along the roadside that some aren't ready to move on and fresh
reminders as well of the damage the President's relationship with Lewinsky
has done to his stature and his party. CNN has learned that a half dozen
top Democratic strategists have told party leaders in recent days that
they are worried the Lewinsky controversy is demoralizing Democratic base
voters, especially women."
Viewers heard Amy Isaacs of the liberal Americans
for Democratic Action denounce Clinton's abuse of power in the
workplace. King added: "More and more, Mr. Clinton's conduct is
becoming an issue in close congressional races as Republicans push
Democrats to defend, or condemn, their President." As an example, CNN
showed California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer saying in a debate
"What the President did was wrong."
King contended that "most advisers think the
President could help fellow Democrats if he emerged from a vacation with
his family and delivered a more apologetic explanation of his relationship
with Lewinsky." But don't count on it. King concluded:
"Another explanation might not be forthcoming any time soon. The
President is telling some associates he thinks the American people have
heard enough, at least for now."
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET: Brian Wilson uniquely relayed that
"though most of the state's top Democrats were in attendance,
Konstantina Lukes, a nine year veteran of the Worcester City Council,
Lukes explained to FNC viewers: "For him not
to understand the consequences of what he has done in the last seven
months, and to be in denial is to me unfathomable and I cannot as an
individual or as an elected official stand by quietly and not express my
Like CNN's King
FNC's Wilson reported that Clinton's advisers want him to apologize.
With reporters kept far away during the Worcester trip, Wilson observed,
Clinton's trip to Russia may present the first chance for reporters to
ask Lewinsky questions. But, Wilson suggested, "There is a slim
possibility that this will all be answered tomorrow. The President is
doing an event at a church here on Martha's Vineyard to commemorate the
35th anniversary of the 'I Have a Dream' speech. What better place to
make another confessional than in a church?"
Anchor Jon Scott
noted the expected Lindsey appearance before FNC ran a piece about parents
upset that their kids are learning about sex from news stories about
-- NBC Nightly News. From Martha's Vineyard
David Bloom offered the Clinton team's reaction to Yeltsin's problems.
Anchor Brian Williams asked about Clinton's field trip. Bloom replied
with a two sentence summary over video of a cheering crowd and protesters
"The President, as you see, received a
rousing ovation in Worcester Massachusetts where Democrats outnumber
Republicans four-to-one, but outside there were some protesters evidenced
by signs that called on the President to resign. The President made
virtually no reference to the Lewinsky affair, saying only he's had some
experience with this before, his poll numbers, he said, dropping but not
One veteran reporter did have an opportunity to press Clinton for more
about how he feels about his Lewinsky deceit, or to at least pass along
his observations about the President's demeanor and mood. But Walter
Cronkite suspended his reporter role for a few hours on Tuesday when he,
his wife and grandson welcomed the Clinton family aboard his boat. (See
the August 26 CyberAlert.)
In the August 27
USA Today Peter Johnson highlighted Cronkite's refusal to talk:
"The most trusted man in America, former CBS
News anchor Walter Cronkite, can also be trusted to be discreet.
"Cronkite's office in New York was flooded
with calls Wednesday, all from reporters keen on talking to him about the
mood aboard his boat Tuesday during an afternoon sail with the first
family off Martha's Vineyard.
"Cronkite, 81, turned down all requests. His
chief of staff, Marlene Adler, said Cronkite considered the sail -- which
marked the Clintons' first public appearance since their vacation began --
a 'private, personal day.'
"Neither Adler nor the White House would get
into how the sail came about or who, the Cronkites or the Clintons,
Can you imagine
Cronkite's reaction in 1973 if a retired CBS Newsman spent a few hours
with the Nixon family and then refused to say a word about what he
Leading, respected Democrats taking seriously the possibility of
impeachment or calling upon Clinton to resign are just not newsworthy to
the networks. First an update on the August 27 CyberAlert item on House
Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and then a check of how the networks reacted
when a retired Senator, a revered Democrat, called for Clinton to call it
-- The August 27
CyberAlert reported that Wednesday night the ABC, CBS, FNC, CNN and NBC
evening newscasts all ignored a front page Washington Post story that
morning which highlighted how Gephardt called the President's behavior
"reprehensible" and wouldn't rule out Democratic cooperation
in conducting impeachment hearings. Wednesday morning neither CBS or NBC
uttered a word about Gephardt's comments, but ABC's Good Morning
America gave them 15 seconds. In addition, though CNN's The World Today
skipped Gephardt, Inside Politics did run a story and an interview segment
UPDATE: I went back and checked
two more Wednesday night shows and discovered that though FNC did nothing
on its Fox Report newscast, its 6pm/12am ET Special Report with Brit Hume,
hosted by Tony Snow, led with a piece from Carl Cameron on the road with
Gephardt in Louisville. Cameron declared: "Campaigning cross country
for Democratic congressional candidates, Gephardt in Kentucky made it
clear that the President should not expect abject Democratic support and
the potential for impeachment is very real."
Cameron played soundbites from Gephardt and some
other upset candidates, including the Democratic Senate candidate in
Kentucky, Scott Baesler, who said of Clinton's behavior: "It's
Just like every
other network evening newscast, however, MSNBC's The News With Brian
Williams on August 26 skipped Gephardt though about half the show dealt
with Clinton-related scandal. Williams talked with a New York Times
reporter about Al Gore, discussed with reporter John Palmer Clinton's
plans for Thursday's trip and interviewed Senator Orrin Hatch. He asked
the Utah Republican about Clinton issuing own report, the idea that
Clinton is guilty of abuse of power, what will happen if the details
"get unbearably gross to hear about," whether Clinton should say
more, and Reno's probe of Gore, but no question about Gephardt.
Washington Post carried an op-ed by retired Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of
Georgia, the kind of person people are referring to when talking about a
"revered" figure or an "elder statesman." He condemned
how Clinton placed his "own personal interests far above the national
interests" and wrote that Clinton must disclose all of his illegal
behavior which, Nunn concluded, "will require personal sacrifice and
may even require his resignation, but it would fulfill the President's
most important oath -- to preserve and protect our nation."
Coverage of the
August 23 op-ed: On Sunday's Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert asked
James Carville to react to Nunn's formulation, but that evening NBC
Nightly News didn't mention it. In fact, no evening newscast or morning
news show uttered a word about Nunn. On Thursday MRC news analysts
Geoffrey Dickens, Clay Waters, Jessica Anderson and Paul Smith checked
some shows and confirmed the lack of coverage. Nothing Sunday morning on
ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's Sunday Morning or NBC's Today.
Ditto for Sunday night on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News,
CNN's The World Today or NBC Nightly News. And zilch Monday morning on
any of the three broadcast network morning shows.
CyberAlerts going on vacation. And me too. So, while I may issue a
CyberAlert next week with a few backed up items that I didn't find room
for over the past few weeks, don't expect another daily analysis of the
previous day's television coverage until after Labor Day.
Next week Tim Graham and the MRC news team will
be producing fresh issues of MediaWatch and Notable Quotables, and Tim
Lamer will write a Media Reality Check fax report, so look for those to be
posted on the MRC home page (http://www.mrc.org) next Wednesday, Thursday
and Friday. -- Brent Baker
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