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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday February 10, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 25)
ABC Put Sex Survey Ahead of "Real Issues"; CNN: Clinton Accepts Responsibility

1) Instead of using a slow day on the Lewinsky sex scandal front to delve into "real issues," ABC led with how "sexual dysfunction in America is a very serious problem."

2) CNN devoted a piece to how Clinton's friends "say he accepts his responsibility for his misbehavior." Bob Franken dismissed the call for a probe of phone call tapes as "one more sideshow."

3) "Who gives a rat's tail about Sidney Blumenthal?" demanded Geraldo Rivera in badmouthing Christopher Hitchens as "Snitchens."

4) Mayors are suing gun makers, but for Dan Rather the NRA is the bad guy: "The National Rifle Association has leveled withering fire against cities seeking damages for gun-related violence..."

5) A former Democratic Senator acknowledged that the media were a force against impeachment. Cokie Roberts on how journalists will react to the end of the trial: "Oh, I think we'll rejoice."

>>> February 8 Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometime humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now online. Quote headings include "Clinton, A Republican?"; "Republicans Remind One of Nazis...And/Or Stalinists"; "'Secret Clique' of Conservatives," and "Thank Heaven for Dan Quayle and His 'Backward Remarks.'" To read all of the quotes in the issue go to the MRC's home page or go directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/1999/nq19990208.html
     For previous issues from this year, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/1999/welcome.html <<<


pjennings0210.JPG (9527 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) We must "move on" so we can address the "real issues" that concern Americans. That's been the media mantra over the past several month with pundits and reporters insisting the obsession with Clinton scandal has prevented the media from focusing on issues like Social Security and education.

     With the Senate session closed on Tuesday and the trial generating little news, ABC decided to lead World News Tonight with something other than the Lewinsky scandal, which is after all not that important because at its base it's all about sex. Or so goes the liberal/media line. So, what did ABC consider the most important story of the day, a story they put ahead of a new analysis of Clinton's Social Security plan? A survey about how satisfied people are with their sex lives.

     Peter Jennings opened the February 9 broadcast:
     "Good evening. We begin this evening with what the American Medical Association publishes today as a significant public health concern: a study from the University of Chicago, published in the AMA's journal, which finds that sexual dysfunction in America is a very serious problem for a large percentage of Americans young as well as old. Nearly half of the women and a third of the men in the survey report dysfunction of some kind. The study's authors say that what they have found in the data is stunning."

     Dr. Tim Johnson proceeded to explain how 31 percent of men and 43 percent of women reported a problem, mainly a "lack of desire, arousal problems or inability to climax." Johnson added: "As many as 33 percent of all women and 15 percent of all men surveyed reported lack of interest in sex."

     It's a safe bet Bill Clinton is part of the 85 percent of men who don't lack interest.

     And just how hot, shall we say, is this news which ABC considered compelling enough to lead with? Johnson told Jennings the survey results were actually published in a book in 1992 and the AMA Journal article just delivered a fresh extrapolation of the numbers.

     (With sex out of the way, Jennings introduced the second story of the night: "There was a very harsh review today of the President's Social Security plan..." John Cochran reported on the Senate testimony of David Walker, the Comptroller General.)

     The other networks managed to control their excitement. NBC's Tom Brokaw gave the sex article 25 seconds and while the CBS Evening News brought aboard Dr. Bernardine Healy to talk about it with Dan Rather, CBS placed the story deep into the show. When Healy explained that the dissatisfaction of young women came as a surprise, Rather expressed concern: "Doctor, we know that Viagra has been a solution for many men in taking care of sexual dysfunctional problems. Is there any such magic pill on the horizon for women?"

     (Wednesday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will work together to post on the MRC home page a RealPlayer clip of how Jennings began World News Tonight. Go to: www.mrc.org)


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) While ABC led with sex and NBC went first with the work slowdown at American Airlines, the Senate trial topped the CBS, CNN and FNC evening shows. ABC allocated the least time to the trial, a 13 second item from Peter Jennings on how they decided to debate in private. Displaying her feelings on the decision, NBC's Gwen Ifill complained that "the people who voted for these lawmakers will never get to see how they voted to convict or acquit the President." Only CNN's Bob Franken offered any detail about what happened behind closed doors.

     CNN ran a piece by Chris Black who insisted "Mr. Clinton's friends say he genuinely regrets the pain he inflicted on his wife and daughter" and while angry "at Republicans for turning a personal failing into a political crime," they "say he accepts his responsibility for his misbehavior." Really? Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News reported the opposite seconds later on Inside Politics, a perspective missing from The World Today.

     "And one more sideshow," CNN's Franken dismissively remarked in reporting on Trent Lott's request that Ken Starr investigate the possibility that Clinton's calls with Lewinsky were recorded. FNC's Carl Cameron also noted Lott's request, but not stories on ABC, CBS or NBC.

     Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, February 9 evening shows:

     -- CBS Evening News opened with Bob Schieffer hoping: "Dan, it may be hard to believe, but the end is near..." After explaining how the vote to open debate fell short of the needed two-thirds and reporting how support for censure is fading, Schieffer concluded by both explaining the conservative view and accurately summarizing its downside:
     "Some Republicans now want to block censure. Their reasoning is it's cop out, a way for Democrats to say they punished the President without removing him from office. Ironically, if those Republicans succeed, it could be the best of all worlds for the President. He'll get to keep his job without even a verbal reprimand."

     -- CNN did not air 10pm ET special and instead ran Late Edition/Prime Time. The 8pm ET The World Today began with Bob Franken, who proposed: "One big reason for the closed session was to speed things up by taking away the Senator's impulse to posture for the cameras." Following a clip of Trent Lott urging Senators to be brief, Franken offered a reality check: "It didn't work. Fewer than 20 spoke, but most used their entire allotted 15 minutes. Sources say that at several points one Senator questioned another."

     Franken also reported falling support for censure and that Democrats blocked a request to depose witnesses in a probe of possible perjury by Sidney Blumenthal. Franken concluded:
     "And one more sideshow. Majority Leader Trent Lott has sent a letter to independent counsel Ken Starr, asking him to investigate whether in fact a White House taping system may have recorded now infamous phone conversations between the President and Lewinsky. White House officials flatly denied the existence of tapes."

     In the second of CNN's two scandal-related stories Chris Black provided a piece assuring viewers that Clinton is quite contrite and will not gloat. She asserted that his advisers know he must avoid saying he was vindicated and not hold any celebrations or rallies as he did after the House impeachment vote. Political analyst Charlie Cook suggested he should "show real sorrow" and apologize. After a clip of a Saturday Night Live skit with Clinton celebrating, Black ran an old soundbite of Joe Lockhart promising the White House is a "gloat-free zone." Black then launched into this unanswered recitation of a Clinton-friendly take on his attitude:
     "Mr. Clinton's friends say he genuinely regrets the pain he inflicted on his wife and daughter. They say he is acutely aware he disappointed his friends and supporters. They acknowledge his anger at Republicans for turning a personal failing into a political crime, but they say he accepts his responsibility for his misbehavior. The President is expected to make a public statement of contrition shortly after the Senate vote. But White House officials predict nothing he does will satisfy some of his critics."

     The World Today then went to a commercial break. But when her piece aired earlier on Inside Politics, CNN followed up with an interview with Black and two other reporters, including Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News who reported over the weekend that "according to several well-placed sources who recently have spoken with Clinton, his private demeanor is notably lacking in remorse." On Inside Politics he revised his assessment a bit but still delivered a different flavor than did Black. DeFrank told Judy Woodruff: "He apparently feels some remorse Judy. But if you define contrition by a feeling he didn't lie, he didn't lie under oath, he didn't commit perjury, he didn't obstruct justice then he's not contrite."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw followed the lead story on American Airlines by working aviation terms into his introduction to a trial update: "The U.S. Senate appears to be in the glide path, the final phase of its long, turbulent impeachment trial of President Clinton."
     Gwen Ifill's run-on report reflected her disagreement with the Senate's decision to close the session: "After 384 days of Monica Lewinsky and the President and impeachment all conducted in public, the Senate went behind closed doors tonight to make their final deliberations, where the people who voted for these lawmakers will never get to see how they voted to convict or acquit the President."

     Of course, they will see how they voted just not the arguments they forwarded.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Geraldo Rivera suggested the Senate decision to go into closed session is more suited to a time of graft and is a "far greater" scandal than whatever Sidney Blumenthal may have done. But maybe Rivera is just jealous of Christopher Hitchens, who he disparaged as "Snitchens," because he maintained Blumenthal never told him the "stalker" story.

     -- Rivera opening the February 9 Upfront Tonight on CNBC:
     "Can you believe their gall? Voting to hold their final impeachment debate behind closed doors. Why don't we just bring back the bad old days of Tammany Hall, smoked filled rooms and precinct captains dispensing patronage to the party faithful? It is in my opinion a scandal of far greater proportions than the one the GOP tried floating today."
     Following a soundbite of Senator Arlen Specter requesting approval for depositions related to Blumenthal, Rivera declared:
     "Who gives a rat's tail about Sidney Blumenthal? If the United States Senate wants him investigated for alleged perjury, so be it. But to try to prolong our national impeachment agony by making a constitutional case out of what Blumenthal may have said to some reporter about Monica is as absurd as deliberating impeachment in private. Anyway, the Senate turned down that request. Maybe they have decided finally to get out of the muck of zippergate."

     -- On Monday night's Rivera Live, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Rivera did a little name calling toward Hitchens:
     "...In so far as impeachment is concerned the Snitchens, check that, the Hitchens allegations are irrelevant but Sidney Blumenthal could indeed charged with perjury."
     "But Alan can I give you a personal story? You know, you always say how close I am to the White House. I quote my sources very close to the President. I've spoken to Sidney Blumenthal three or four times in my entire life. He never, you know, out of all this year long debacle, never once did he mention Monica Lewinsky to me, stalker-wise or otherwise."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Guns don't kill people, blocking lawsuits does. A bunch of liberal mayors in cahoots with trial lawyers have hit upon an idea to raise money. Instead of holding people responsible for their actions, sue gun manufacturers. An assault on the rights of a legal industry to make and sell their product without interference? Not to Dan Rather who portrayed the gun manufacturers as the aggressors though they are reacting to a first strike by opportunistic politicians.

     Note the loaded language in this introduction to a February 9 CBS Evening News story:
     "The National Rifle Association has leveled withering fire against cities seeking damages for gun-related violence. Last week the city of Atlanta filed suit against 17 gun manufacturers. Today the Governor of Georgia, a Democrat, signed a bill backed by the high powered lobbied that prohibits such lawsuits."

     CBS reporter Byron Pitts subsequently delivered a story more balanced than Rather's slanted intro. He featured two soundbites from the NRA's James Baker and two from mayors: Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell who blamed gun makers for "carnage on the streets" and Miami Mayor Alex Penelas who asserted the manufacturers have chosen profit over the "blood of children."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) The media, lead brigade in fighting impeachment and removal. On Monday's 10pm ET Trial of the President special on CNN, Bernard Shaw asked Senator Sam Nunn: "For both parties, what are the perils and the fallout from this impeachment process?"

     MRC analyst Paul Smith picked up on Nunn's response which hit both conservatives and liberals, but note his take on the role of the news media:
     "I think all the institutions involved have looked bad except the Constitution of the United States. I think the Constitution and the founding fathers have come through this with blue ribbons. When you look at the whole series of events, a convergence of a lot of different things, a President who in my view should have had a moral obligation to either tell the truth or to resign, that's my view point. He did neither. You have a special counsel, an independent counsel law that's seriously flawed and an independent counsel whose authority exceeded his judgment on a number of occasions. You have a right wing in this country that basically accused the President of so much before Monica was ever heard of, murder, drug running, that they inoculated him.
     "You have a left wing in this country that's defended the President even though in the past they would accuse people of a capital crime for winking in the workplace. You've had a feminist movement that basically I think has done a backflip and has sort of lost its authority here at least in an intellectual sense.
     "And on top of all that, you've had a news media that's been all summer saying he should resign. But when impeachment got started, they basically shifted and went the other way. So I say at the end of all those events that have come together thank God for the founding fathers because the Constitution has worked."

     Bottom line, even a Democrat realizes the news media have served as a force against impeachment and removal.

     Monday night on ABC's Nightline anchor Forrest Sawyer acknowledged: "We should mention there might be a backlash against the media because so many journalists will be wearing black armbands when this is over and they don't have anything to talk about."
     MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught the illuminating reply from Cokie Roberts: "Oh, I think we'll rejoice."

     Rejoice in victory, that is.

     In case I do not do a CyberAlert on Thursday, I want to make sure you are aware that Linda Tripp will make her network television interview debut on Friday in a taped conversation with Jamie Gangel. -- Brent Baker


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