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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday January 13, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 7) 
ABC Flaunts Flynt, CBS & NBC Refrain; Admiring Nancy Reagan for Moderating Husband 

1) Tuesday night CBS and NBC skipped Flynt's attack on Barr, but ABC jumped on it and blamed conservatives for starting it all with investigations of Clinton. In the morning, ABC and CBS interviewed Flynt, but at least CBS's Thalia Assuras challenged his premise.

2) Geraldo Rivera lectured: "If you live by the politics of personal attack, you may end up slitting your own throat....Say what you will about Larry Flynt, but he has made it open season on hypocrites."

3) Promoting her new book, Lesley Stahl praised Hillary Clinton and, in standard liberal fashion, revealed that she ended up admiring Nancy Reagan "greatly" because "she moderated the administration."



cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) ABC News jumped all over Larry Flynt's hit on Bob Barr, though they have no independent knowledge of its accuracy, while every other network managed to show some restraint.

     After a year of much media consternation about how the "new media" irresponsibly lack editors and gatekeepers to properly assess what's really news and factual, the networks could have taken the high road and ignored Larry Flynt's attack on Congressman Bob Barr. Actually, one did: NBC News, ironically part of the same company which gave Flynt a platform on CNBC's Rivera Live on Monday night. But Tuesday morning, Today avoided Flynt while he appeared on both ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's This Morning. On CBS at least the interviewer noted the difference between adultery and the charges against Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice.

     Tuesday night neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Flynt while CNN's The World Today and FNC's Fox Report held their pieces to brief updates. But not ABC which alone featured a full story on Flynt, complete with this line from John Cochran: "Democrats sympathize but say the sexual McCarthyism started when wealthy opponents of President Clinton financed investigations into his relations with women in Arkansas."

     Then Tuesday night Flynt got solo time on CNN's Larry King Live after Bob Barr. As Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, reminded me, Flynt is benefitting from a much more receptive media than did Gary Aldrich. As noted in the July 1996 MediaWatch, after the former FBI agent wrote a book on shenanigans at the White House where he had been assigned to handle security clearances, he was invited onto ABC's This Week. But after his appearance "reporters denounced Aldrich, and ABC's Nightline, Dateline NBC, and CNN's Larry King Live canceled interviews with him, echoing the White House line that guests meet a 'bare threshold of credibility.'"

     -- Morning Shows, January 12. "A bare threshold of credibility"? Good Morning America, now America's third-rated morning show, brought aboard Flynt with Arianna Huffington to talk about Flynt's charges that Barr lied in a deposition about an affair and paid for his wife to have an abortion. But in a question to Huffington co-host Elizabeth Vargas simultaneously conceded she didn't know whether the abortion charge was true as she contended it demonstrated Barr's hypocrisy:
     "Well, in fact the information that Mr. Flynt released last night, if it's true, and certainly Representative Barr vehemently denies it, but it would sort of indicate a disconnect between what he has said publicly on abortion and perhaps what might have occurred privately?"

     As MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, earlier in the interview a question from Vargas to Flynt implied that the Starr and GOP impeachment efforts against Clinton demonstrated "sexual McCarthyism" which Flynt is just complementing:
     "Many believe, though, with this news conference last night, that you have brought the politics of sexual McCarthyism to a new, distressing low. What are you trying to accomplish by doing this?"

     Over on what is now America's number two-rated morning show, CBS's This Morning, Thalia Assuras narrated a piece on Flynt and then interviewed him alone during the 8am half hour. Assuras at least challenged his premise that Barr and Clinton are guilty of the same thing:
     "But Mr. Flynt adultery is one thing, the allegations of course against the President are that he lied under oath and that he obstructed justice. Are you equating the two?"

     But, fresh from that good question, she then posed this inquiry hitting on Starr's report: "Your Flynt Report, as it's being called, is it going to be as salacious as some called the Starr report?"

     -- Evening Shows, Tuesday January 12. CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC opened with NBA player Michael Jordan's impending retirement while ABC went first with the controversy over the Salt Lake Olympics, followed by Jordan. Every network noted how Clinton sent an $850,000 check to Paula Jones with about half coming from an insurance policy, but none explored how an insurance policy would properly cover Clinton's actions.

     All but ABC also aired pieces on the latest White House attack on the House case, but in a refreshing and unusual spin NBC actual made the Clinton team out to be the "harsh" bad guys. On NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced: "In Washington tonight, with just one day left before opening arguments in the President's impeachment trial, the White House again had some harsh words for the Republican's case, while the trial managers held their fire and the Senate tried to savor the calm before the storm."

     On the Flynt front, as noted above, CBS and NBC rose above it and CNN aired a short clip of Wolf Blitzer talking about it with Barr. Fox Report anchor Todd Connor delivered a brief item which uniquely highlighted Larry Flynt's hypocrisy: "Porn king Larry Flynt says he's too sick to go on trial, but he's not too sick to hold news conferences. The Hustler publisher is supposed to go on trial next week for selling obscene videotapes to a 14 year-old in his Cincinnati store. But he was well enough to try to fling more dirt at Republicans in Congress last night. Flynt accused conservative Congressman Bob Barr of lying under oath about having an affair and paying for an abortion for his ex-wife." After a clip of Flynt blaming Starr for starting the process, Connor noted Barr's denial.

cochran0113.jpg (12123 bytes)     And now to ABC's World News Tonight which alone gave Flynt full billing. After noting the White House attack on the House managers, anchor Peter Jennings announced:
     "One of those House managers is getting roasted today by the publisher of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt. Mr. Flynt says that Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia is a hypocrite because he refused to answer questions under oath about an alleged affair and that Mr. Barr, a very public opponent of abortion, paid for his former to wife to have one. Mr. Barr is not happy to be in Mr. Flynt's sights. In fact throughout Washington Mr. Flynt makes a lot of people unhappy."
     John Cochran began: "Whatever you think of Larry Flynt or his pornographic magazine, he has shown that if you've got enough money you can put an ad in the paper offering up to one million dollars for dirt on Congressmen. And then mainstream journalists will report your allegations about the personal life of, well Bob Barr for starters."

     At least ABC will.

     Following a soundbite from Barr, Cochran continued: "But Flynt has others scared by saying he's moving on to new targets, more Republicans who he feels are persecuting Bill Clinton."
     Cochran showed a clip of Flynt from GMA saying he has eight other ongoing investigations of "right-wing conservative Republicans."
     Cochran proceeded: "So under the Capitol dome many now wonder and worry about whose private lives and sexual preferences may be put on public view next. Republicans have sent letters to broadcast organizations asking them not to put Flynt on television."
     Pat Harrison, Co-Chair of the RNC, complained about how the media have given legitimacy to Flynt as "all of a sudden it's Mr. Larry Flynt." (Indeed, check the intro from Jennings.)

     Cochran then concluded by relaying the Clinton defender's spin that it's all really the fault of conservatives:
     "Democrats sympathize but say the sexual McCarthyism started when wealthy opponents of President Clinton financed investigations into his relations with women in Arkansas, including Paula Jones. Larry Flynt says he's just evening the score, making Clinton's enemies pay and making others wonder, will this ever end?"


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Geraldo Rivera rejoiced in the afterglow of his Monday night exclusive on Rivera Live with Larry Flynt, scolding conservatives for daring to hold Clinton legally accountable and saying "amen" to a 1992 Clinton prediction that the public will know he tries to do what's best for them even if he's not perfect.

     On Tuesday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC Rivera lectured:
     "If you live by the politics of personal attack, you may end up slitting your own throat. Remember Dan Burton, the Indiana Congressman who called the President a 'scumbag' only to have his own checkered life exposed? And Idaho's Helen Chenoweth, who savaged the President for his immorality, only to be exposed herself as a philanderer? And the Speaker-elect, Bob Livingston, who put a bull's-eye over the President's privates only to be revealed himself as a Romeo? Say what you will about Larry Flynt, but he has made it open season on hypocrites."
     After a soundbite from Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, Rivera led into a bite from Republican Senator Wayne Allard by noting Republicans say it's about perjury not sex, but Rivera countered:
     "There is no doubt that most Americans believe lying about sex is not the same as lying about say state secrets. And before a politician rushes to expose the moral failures of a rival, perhaps they should heed the advice of a former Southern Governor."
     Clinton on Meet the Press, March 22, 1992: "I believe they're sick of the politics of personal destruction. I believe that as time goes on that more and more of those people will say, 'well this guy told us all along he wasn't a perfect person but he was a person who fought to improve his life, to improve his state and he's fighting to improve this country.'"
     Rivera: "Amen."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Out making appearances to promote her new book on her journalism career, Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes who covered the Reagan White House for CBS News, praised Hillary Clinton, claimed she saw signs of Reagan's Alzheimer's in 1986 and, in standard liberal fashion, revealed that she ended up admiring Nancy Reagan "greatly" because "she grew enormously in the presidency" as "she moderated the administration."

     -- ABC's 20/20 on January 6. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this exchange leading into a discussion of depression suffered by Stahl's husband:
     Diane Sawyer: "What do you wonder about [Hillary Clinton]?"
     Lesley Stahl: "What's going on behind those eyes. I heard her give a talk the other day in New York. And she was brilliant. She was so articulate. She was so intelligent. She's almost poetic and, again, a mask on her face."
     Sawyer: "A mask to conceal suffering. Stahl has some experience with that..."

     -- NBC's Today, January 12. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed and transcribed the part of the interview about Reagan and Alzheimer's and how Nancy Reagan got Stahl's approval when she pushed her husband to the left:

     Katie Couric: "As I mentioned, you've covered a number of Presidents and you give your honest impressions of them. Ronald Reagan. You have an interesting and somewhat sad impression of him as a President."
     Lesley Stahl: "I try in the book to work through whether he may have had Alzheimer's or the seeds of it at the beginning of Alzheimer's when he was President. And of course no one can diagnose Alzheimer's really until the very late stages. So I'm not trying to diagnose but I'm trying to figure it out and I went into the Oval Office one day in 1986 and he seemed to be, I don't want to rosy, make this any rosier than it was, he seemed to be out of it. And I thought I was going to have to report this but my husband was with me and the minute the word Hollywood came up he took my husband off to the side and he was completely engaged and totally alive and I didn't know what to make of it."
     Couric: "You suspected that some of his close staff people suspected that this was happening as well but they loved him so much they wanted to protect him."
     Stahl: "Exactly. They loved him. Well I mean they also had their own jobs to think about and their own investment in his administration which they all believed in deeply as you know but they also protected him as an individual because they adored him. Everybody loved Ronald Reagan. And Nancy Reagan protected him and I think..."
     Couric, jumping in: "You give her a lot of credit for keeping everything together."
     Stahl: "Right. She started out a woman whose values I questioned. I think a lot of the country..."
     Couric, cutting her off again: "Well you broke the story, right, about her designer gowns?"
     Stahl: "Right that she was taking them free without even reporting that they were gifts to her she was supposed to report. And I believe that she grew enormously in the presidency and that she changed and that she moderated the administration and I ended up, I ended up admiring her greatly and thinking that she held things together much more than we ever knew and we may never know because she will continue to protect him forever I think."

     Stahl is the scheduled guest for Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN. So, tune in and maybe you'll hear more of her liberal politics and, I'm confident, her often told story about how upset she was that flags, balloons and other patriotic images around Reagan overwhelmed the text of her derogatory CBS stories.  -- Brent Baker



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