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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday September 8, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 144)

Light on Lieberman; Zuckerman's Late Grasp; NPR's "Balanced Journalism"

1) CBS gave 20 seconds and NBC just 19 seconds to Senator Lieberman's momentous remarks last Thursday denouncing Clinton's "immoral" behavior. Both also skipped Moynihan and Kerrey.

2) From MediaWatch: Mort Zuckerman now upset by Clinton's recklessness, but back in 1992 he dismissed the Flowers evidence. ABC's polling analyst rejoiced at how public put Lewinsky aside.

3) NPR denied blacklisting Steven Emerson. Indeed, "NPR has a reputation for fair and balanced journalism."


Senliebcap.jpg (15169 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Senator Joseph Lieberman's remarks on the Senate floor late Thursday afternoon (September 3), in which the Connecticut Democrat said Clinton's behavior was "immoral," that his lying sent a bad message to children, and that his behavior is not a private matter, is already proving to be a pivotal moment in Clinton's descent, but last Thursday evening CBS and NBC only gave it a few seconds. And supporting floor remarks moments later by Democratic Senators Bob Kerrey and Patrick Moynihan went unnoticed that night and the next by all but ABC and FNC.

     Last week had a lot of developments on the Monicagate and campaign fundraising front. With the input of the MRC analyst team of Geoffrey Dickens, Jessica Anderson, Paul Smith and Mark Drake, and the coordination of Tim Graham, here's a rundown of how ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today, FNC's Fox Report and NBC Nightly News, as well as the three morning shows, covered these advances.

     -- Tuesday, September 1: A Washington Post story revealed that, in a footnote to a new ruling on the Paula Jones case, Judge Susan Weber Wright raised the possibility of holding Clinton in contempt for "misleading testimony" during the deposition she supervised. Also, Attorney General Janet Reno announced a 90-day probe of Harold Ickes.

     Evening Coverage: On Wright's ruling, zilch on ABC and NBC; brief items read by the anchor on the other three. The probe of Ickes for possibly misleading statements about fundraising: brief items on all five networks. For a sense of the priority put on these stories, CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts dispensed with both in a mere 33 seconds, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson clocked.

     -- Wednesday, September 2: In a Moscow press conference which began at about 5am ET, just before the morning shows, Clinton expressed "regret" over the Lewinsky matter and claimed he had already apologized, though he had yet to do so. Wright and Ickes remained fresh news in the morning from the day before and stories in the New York Times and Washington Post revealed that during August 17 questioning Clinton admitted making an effort to bring Lewinsky back from the Pentagon for a White House job.

     Morning Coverage: ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and NBC's Today all ran full reports on Clinton's comments in Moscow. ABS and CBS also ran short items on Wright and Ickes. But Today stood out with a full story by Lisa Myers on the implications of Wright's comments followed in the second half hour by an interview about the development with Georgetown University law professor Paul Rothstein.

     Evening Coverage: All ran full stories on Clinton's lack of contrition in his press conference and, unlike the broadcast networks, on CNN Wolf Blitzer did mention Clinton's efforts to allow Lewinsky to return to the White House staff. Picking up on an item first revealed by the Drudge Report, but not giving Matt Drudge any credit according to a story posted at drudgereport.com, NBC's Lisa Myers delivered a full piece on an Easter Sunday tryst. Through Friday night neither ABC or CBS had picked up on Clinton's post-Church activities. Myers asserted in her network exclusive: "Monica Lewinsky had a sexual encounter with the President in his White House study, hours after Clinton attended Easter services with his family."

     Some of the reporting on Clinton's press conference performance was pretty tough, especially from ABC's Sam Donaldson and CBS's Scott Pelley. Here's some of what CBS Evening News viewers heard from Pelley, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson:

     "The burden appears on his face now. At the Moscow news conference, Mr. Clinton confronted questions for the very first time since he acknowledged lying to the American people. With the prosecutor's report to Congress now only weeks away, Mr. Clinton mentioned forgiveness...
     "His address two weeks ago has been criticized for lacking an apology to the public, to Lewinsky, and to 100 others brought before the grand jury. [Clinton on August 17] The Kremlin news conference was arranged to shield Mr. Clinton from the most difficult questions. He did not call on any reporters from American newspapers, networks or news magazines. This allowed Mr. Clinton to avoid questions on alleged obstruction of justice, including why he testified under oath that he couldn't remember being alone with Lewinsky and whether he suggested she get rid of evidence. Again today, he attacked Ken Starr's pursuit. [Clinton at press conference] What may consume Mr. Clinton's thoughts is that he will soon face a report with all of Ken Starr's allegations and evidence. The fight for his presidency is only beginning."

     -- Thursday, September 3. Newspaper reports revealed a preliminary 30-day Justice probe into Clinton and the misuse of soft money for Clinton-Gore ads. Late in the day, Lieberman took to the Senate floor.

     Morning Coverage: Naturally, the SwissAir crash that broke the night before dominated all the shows. ABC's GMA managed a few seconds on the new fundraising probe and caught up with Clinton's job help for Lewinsky.

     Evening Coverage: CBS, CNN, and NBC delivered brief items on the new probe and ABC included the news in a larger report by Linda Douglass on Lieberman. FNC caught up with CNN as David Shuster noted Clinton's job help.
     On the Lieberman front, CBS allocated just 20 seconds and NBC a piddling 19 seconds to the extraordinary event. Both ABC's Douglass and FNC's Carl Cameron provided full reports which also featured soundbites from Moynihan and Kerrey.

     Following a glowing story by Scott Pelley on Clinton's reception in Northern Ireland, CBS Evening News anchor Paula Zahn read two brief items. The first took 18 seconds, the second 20 seconds as timed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson:
     "Back in Washington the Justice Department has begun yet another investigation of the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. CBS News has learned this centers on charges that the campaign may have spent as much as 47 million dollars improperly, and could have to pay huge civil fines as a result.
     "And on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the President's behavior with Monica Lewinsky was, quote, 'immoral and harmful to the nation,' and should be followed by some measures of public rebuke and accountability. However, Lieberman said it's premature for Congress to take any action before receiving a full report from prosecutor Ken Starr."

     While ABC and CBS dealt with the plane crash and moved on, NBC Nightly News spent almost the entire show on it. Anchor Tom Brokaw, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, matched Zahn's sequence:
     "Other news tonight not much of it good for President Clinton. Attorney General Janet Reno opened another front in her investigation of possible campaign finance violations by the Democrats in 1996. This one could lead directly to the President. At issue, whether the Clinton-Gore campaign dodged the spending limits through the use of television ads called issue advertisements. Paid for by the Democratic Party. The investigation could lead to the appointment of still another independent counsel."
     "And on the Senate floor this evening Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, a friend of the President's all the way back to Clinton's days at Yale law school gave a very tough speech about the President's behavior with Monica Lewinsky."
     Lieberman: "The President apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace in the vicinity of the Oval Office. Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral."

     Well, at least NBC ran a Lieberman soundbite unlike CBS.

     Friday, September 4. In Ireland, before the U.S. morning shows went on the air, Clinton uttered the S word: "sorry."

     Morning Coverage: ABC's GMA ran a full story on Lieberman, Moynihan and Kerrey as well as a full story on Clinton's "I'm sorry." This Morning stuck to brief items on both topics. Today delivered multiple segments on each with, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noted, two pieces by David Bloom on Lieberman and the "I'm sorry," a discussion segment on Lieberman with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. And, somewhat making up for Thursday night, a tough piece from Gwen Ifil which also included clips from Moynihan and Kerrey. Ifill opened: "A stinging rebuke from one of the President's closest political allies....essentially turned his back on Bill Clinton, accusing the President not of high crimes but of low ones."

     Evening Coverage: ABC and NBC led again with the Swiss plane crash, but both ran full stories on Clinton's "I'm sorry." NBC did not air any of Lieberman, Moynihan or Kerrey from Thursday, but did get a reaction soundbite from Lieberman. CBS led with Clinton's latest as Scott Pelley did include a Lieberman clip from Thursday, but not anything from the other two Democratic Senators who rebuked Clinton. Following Pelley reporter Phil Jones looked at how Democratic candidates are growing nervous about their ties to Clinton.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The September 7 MediaWatch is now up on the MRC home page thanks to MRC Web Manager Sean Henry and Research Associate Kristina Sewell: http://www.mrc.org. Here are a couple of items from the issue, put together by Tim Graham in my vacation absence, which should be fresh to CyberAlert readers:

-- A Newsbite:

Tortured Mort
U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman lashed out at Bill Clinton in the August 31 issue: "How, we must ask, could someone be so reckless as to stake his public reputation and effectiveness as a national leader on the discretion of a young woman who was looking for a Washington adventure, a woman who would hold on to a dress as a souvenir of a sexual relationship? What appalling judgment to get involved with such a woman in the first place -- and then expect her to keep quiet about it."

But the press never made his recklessness an issue. Take for example, the same Zuckerman in the February 10, 1992 U.S. News, ripping into Gennifer Flowers and an alleged Clinton-hating press: "The prospect of bringing down one of the best candidates in the Democratic field was far too exciting for second thoughts and clouded otherwise sound minds....Legitimate press standards do not include rummaging in the garbage of White House contenders."

END Newsbite

     -- An item under the heading of "www.bias.com"

Sober and Sensible Polls?
Since the beginning of Monicagate, the networks have used their pollsters to reinforce how popular Bill Clinton is and how most people don't care about perjury concerning his "private life." But on August 12, five days before Clinton's grand jury date, ABC News polling analyst Gary Langer rejoiced in the results on ABCNews.com:

"As the Monica Lewinsky affair spins toward its rendezvous with destiny, it's worth celebrating what has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the scandal: the sober and sensible way average Americans have responded to the whole brouhaha....Pundits hate this kind of thing; Those who declared him dead have had to reconfigure their best lines to accommodate -- drat! -- actual public opinion."

Langer explained: "It turns out that most Americans have responded to the Lewinsky affair with more of a head scratch than a knee jerk. Their message on this score has been steady: Clinton's personal behavior, however unsavory it's alleged to be, is indeed personal."

As the President's admission drew nearer, Langer endorsed the White House spin that a strong economy negates sex, lies, and perjury: "Lewinsky's a far juicier story, but when it comes to evaluating presidential performance, average Americans check their wallets. The lowest unemployment in a generation, trivial inflation, growing personal income: What's a stained dress in the face of these? So far, not much."

END of article


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) National Public Radio denies blacklisting Steven Emerson. As detailed in the September 2 CyberAlert, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby learned that NPR had caved into left-wing pressure and promised to no longer use Emerson, an expert on Islamic terrorism. The September 4 Globe ran a letter responding to Jacoby's August 31 column. NPR Vice President for news and information, Jeffrey Dvorkin, insisted:

     "....To accuse NPR of blacklisting is inflammatory, sensationalistic, and just plain wrong.
     "The incident he refers to was an error on the part of the Talk of the Nation producer. She misspoke to a lobby group and now understands that she was in error.
     "The guest in question, Steven Emerson, did appear on Talk of the Nation. He has never been banned from NPR and never will be. Emerson is one of many commentators available to NPR on events involving his area of expertise (terrorism and counterterrorism).
     "No doubt there will be other opportunities for him to appear again.
     "NPR makes choices based on the journalistic requirements of the story, not because of pressure from lobbying groups. NPR has a reputation for fair and balanced journalism. We intend to keep it."

     His next to last sentence really detracts from his believability. -- Brent Baker

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