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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday May 25, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 90)

Reno as Victim; Clinton in on Cover-Up?; McCarthyite Republicans

1) ABC and CBS, but not NBC, previewed the Cox Report Monday night but avoided the donation angle. Dan Rather complained: "With 20 years worth of blame for both Republicans and Democrats to go around, some in Congress are now singling out" Janet Reno.

2) FBI wiretaps, FNC's Carl Cameron disclosed, "indicate that President Clinton and China's President Jiang Zemin had agreed on how to spin the story if it got out." Blame "princelings."

3) Eleven weeks into the scandal ABC's Good Morning America finally aired its first interview about Chinese espionage.

4) "Where have you gone, Joe McCarthy, oh, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you," Time Daily wondered in impugning Republicans as McCarthyites for daring to hold Reno accountable.

5) Los Angeles Times reporter Jane Hall tried to discredit the MRC ad on China coverage by using a preposterous and false statistic.

6) MRC fax report lists coverage gaps: So far just two morning interviews, one Nightline edition and several shows have yet to tell viewers about how Chung got $300,000 from China's military.

7) When Charles Krauthammer noted that in contrast to Hillary Clinton, Nita Lowey "didn't build her career on his [her husband's] back," Nina Totenberg blurted out: "Shame on you!"

>>> More Rosie vs. Tom. Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will post an extended excerpt from the May 20 Rosie O'Donnell attack on Tom Selleck over his ties to the NRA. Last Friday we posted a couple of news stories with clips from the show, but since then MRC analyst Jessica Anderson managed to obtain a tape of the original Rosie O'Donnell Show from which we've now taken a clip. To see the excerpt in RealPlayer format, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html <<<

Correction: The May 24 CyberAlert quoted Senator Richard Shelby as saying: "I believe that the Attorney General ought to resign and she ought to tale her top lieutenants with her." That should have read "...take her top lieutenants with her."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) On the eve of the release of the Cox Report, every network but NBC on Monday night previewed its expected content. But while ABC's Sam Donaldson raised the issue of how Republicans will try to connect espionage with campaign contributions from China, the preview piece on ABC's World News Tonight failed to inform viewers about how the Clinton administration withheld knowledge from Congress, rejected wiretap requests or how the head of one of the two companies accused of passing along secrets is a large Democratic contributor.

     The CBS Evening News also skipped the donation angle as Sharyl Attkisson portrayed Bill Clinton as the victim of bad staff who failed to brief him about evidence of espionage, instead of as a dissembler who misled the public. Just after she assigned culpability, asserting the Cox Report will "raise more concerns about" why Clinton's "national security advisers would keep him in the dark on crucial details," Dan Rather painted Janet Reno as the unfair victim of GOP blame: "With twenty years worth of blame for both Republicans and Democrats to go around, some in Congress are now singling out Attorney General Janet Reno."

     CNN's Inside Politics and Moneyline led with multiple stories Monday night previewing the Cox Report and CNN devoted most of its 10pm ET The World Today to the subject. FNC's Fox Report carried a full story and Special Report with Brit Hume ran more than one piece, including an exclusive about Clinton agreeing to a Chinese cover story. See item #2 today for more. (NBC Nightly News skipped Cox Monday night but ran a story and an interview with Cox last Friday. See the May 24 CyberAlert for details.)

     Here's how the ABC and CBS evening shows approached Chinese espionage and the impending Cox Report on Monday night, May 24:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. John Martin summarized the report's findings about how over the last 20 years China has obtained information about seven weapon design concepts, rocket guidance systems and super-computers with which to conduct nuclear tests. Martin elaborated:
     "The security lapses reportedly stretch back over four American presidencies and also involve private companies, including the Hughes and Loral corporations. But the committee is expected to come down hardest on the Clinton administration for not upgrading security at its nuclear weapons laboratories. This morning the administration conceded security had been terrible."

     Martin did not mention how Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz was the largest donor in 1996 to the Democratic National Committee.

     After a soundbite from Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Good Morning America saying all is now fine, Martin moved on to criticism of Reno without offering any specifics as he concluded his story:

     "Based on leaks from the report Congress has raised questions of whether the Justice Department, including the FBI, looked hard enough for the source of espionage. There are calls for the resignation of Attorney General Janet Reno. Late today Reno said there was not enough evidence to prosecute anyone, but admitted mistakes had been made. Questions about who made those mistakes and who's to blame are likely to provoke the kind of suspicion and recrimination not heard here since the Cold War."

     In fact, the complaint is that Reno's department rejected two FBI requests for approval to wiretap Wen Ho Lee. As the March 30 Investor's Business Daily reported, from 1993-97 the Justice Department approved 2,686 of 2,687 wiretap requests. The one and only request rejected: The FBI's wish to wiretap Wen Ho Lee.

     Next, from the White House Sam Donaldson observed that "this President is particularly sensitive because of the accusations that foreign money from China may have come into Democratic Party coffers in 1996. Now Peter, there may be absolutely no connection between the investigation of money in the 1996 election from China and the possibility of espionage by China during the administration, but the intersection of these two events gives the Republicans a big stick with which to beat the President over the head and they're doing it."

     A big stick that hits without sound as the networks fail to highlight the "intersection."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned: "Politically motivated leaks, furious spin control and the blame game are underway over how China got its hands on this country's most sensitive nuclear weapons secrets in the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton years."

     Sharyl Attkisson summarized the key findings of the Cox committee before portraying Clinton as the victim of bad staff work:
     "The report doesn't blame any President but there are serious questions as to why, when intelligence officials discovered the Chinese conspiracy, it took so long for President Clinton to be briefed. The CIA found out about the theft of design information for the W88, America's most advanced nuclear warhead, in 1995 but it was a year or more before the President was told about it. And recently Mr. Clinton said there had been no espionage on his watch."
     Clinton, March 19: "I can tell you that no one has reported to me that they suspect such a thing has occurred."
     Attkisson: "But by then the White House already had a copy of the classified congressional report which detailed the FBI's case against Peter Lee who admitted spying for China in 1997. Today the President's spokesman said Mr. Clinton was briefed on that only when he asked about it, after the March news conference."
     Following a clip of Joe Lockhart Attkisson concluded by assuming Clinton was truthful on March 19: "The public release of the China spying report tomorrow will raise more concerns about what the President knew and why his national security advisers would keep him in the dark on crucial details."

     Having impugned the national security staff, CBS then castigated Republicans for daring to blame Reno. Rather asserted: "With twenty years worth of blame for both Republicans and Democrats to go around, some in Congress are now singling out Attorney General Janet Reno for what they see as her failure to investigate the long-leaked nuclear secrets."

     Bob Schieffer explained how she gets it from both sides as "she exasperated the White House by recommending a record seven independent counsels to investigate the administration and infuriated congressional Republicans who accused her of foot dragging on campaign finance probes of the President and Vice President."
     After allowing Republican Senator Richard Shelby to call for her to resign, Schieffer then contradicted Rather's thesis by noting how a Democrat is criticizing her: "Democrat Robert Torricelli called it incredible that the Justice Department twice turned down FBI requests to wiretap the chief suspect."


cameron0525.JPG (9859 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Was President Clinton in on the cover story? Following up on his Fox News Sunday piece about how Chinese intelligence operative Robert Luu told Johnny Chung to say the money he donated came from "princelings," relatives living in West of Chinese leaders, FNC's Carl Cameron on Monday night revealed how a wiretap suggests Clinton agreed to the cover-up strategy. Luu works for a Los Angeles law firm.

     Noting how the FBI tapped calls between Chung and Luu, on Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume Cameron relayed: "A transcript of the wiretap obtained by Fox News contains the following:
     "Luu: 'Shove the blame on the shoulders of the princelings.' "Chung: 'So blame it on the princelings, do not implicate the Chinese government.'
     "Luu: 'Yes. Chairman Jiang agreed to handle it like this. The President over here also agreed.'"
     Cameron: "Since both men were in the U.S. when the call occurred, those words, 'the President over here also agreed,' indicate that President Clinton and China's President Jiang Zemin had agreed on how to spin the story if it got out. The White House strongly denies any such thing occurred."

     Cameron then reminded viewers how Chung's contact in China was Liu Chao-Yang who had ties to General Ji Shengde, the Chinese military intelligence chief who provided the $300,000 he wanted Chung to give to help Clinton's re-election. Cameron added: "Robert Luu told Chung never to tell investigators about two U.S. satellite firms, Loral Space and Hughes Electronics, or their relationship with Liu Chao-Yang who negotiated their Chinese contracts."

     +++ Watch Cameron's exclusive story. Tuesday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post a RealPlayer clip of Cameron's piece. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) A mere 56 weekday mornings after the March 6 New York Times revealed the Chinese espionage, ABC's Good Morning America conducted its first interview segment on the subject. This doubles the morning show total to two interview segments so far about the Chinese espionage scandal. The last one: Today's March 9 interview with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. But while it took ABC 11 weeks that's still sooner that CBS's This Morning which spent Monday with a soap star and talking about toy action figures.

     Monday morning, May 24, GMA made the same guest pick, bringing aboard Bill Richardson. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted that co-host Charlie Gibson began by focusing on criticism of Reno:

     "The report has some Republicans and even some Democrats asking why Attorney General Janet Reno and other administration officials didn't do more to stop the alleged espionage."
     Sen. Trent Lott: "It's not just a question about how did this happen. I do agree with some others that some heads should roll."
     Sen. Richard Shelby: "I believe that the Attorney General ought to resign, and she ought to take her top lieutenants with her, and she ought to do it now for the sake of the country."
     Sen. Robert Torricelli: "I think the failures of judgment by the Attorney General of the United States are inexplicable."
     Gibson: "Joining us now from Boston, the Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. His department oversees the nuclear laboratories the Chinese spies were apparently able to penetrate....Those are strong words from three very influential senators. In 1997, at least two FBI requests to tap the phone and search the computer of a suspected Chinese spy, turned down by the Attorney General. Wouldn't have this have all been uncovered much sooner if she'd said yes?"

     Gibson's three other questions: "But I understand that, and it's very uncomfortable when one cabinet member has to comment on people calling for the resignation of another cabinet member, but we have evidence since 1995 of secrets being systematically stolen and you can't investigate someone who may be at the heart of it?"
     "Let me turn to the Cox report, which is due out tomorrow, which has been worked on for some time. You said that report is scary. How so?"
     "But the report says, as we understand it, that China will soon field a new generation of nuclear weapons based in part on information stolen from the United States. Do you agree that that is possible, given what was taken? Do you have a sense that that's true?"

     Also noteworthy Monday morning:
     -- Today spent 11 minutes in a sappy tribute to the Kennedy family and its Profile in Courage Award this year given to two Senators pushing for more regulation and less free speech: McCain and Feingold.

     Today aired no interview about China, but during the 8am news, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, David Bloom previewed the Cox Report but in so doing blithely referred to how Clinton was "incorrect" in denying spying happened during his tenure: "For five months the White House fought to keep much of this information classified. At a recent news conference the President even said, incorrectly, that there had been no alleged Chinese nuclear spying under his watch."

     You'd think a President making false statements, whether intentional or not, about such a serious national security matter would be a major story in itself.

     Meanwhile, CBS's This Morning ignored Cox and espionage altogether on Monday morning. The interview segments in its prime 8am half hour: How over-muscled action figures lead to "compulsive weight-lifting" and other male health problems and a talk with soap star Susan Lucci.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Time magazine has no shame. The May 24 Time Daily feature story, the MRC's Tim Graham noticed, impugns Republicans as McCarthyites for blaming "fuzzy liberals," for the lack of proper reaction to the national security losses, and for trying to make Janet Reno the "Alger Hiss" of the "Who lost China?" campaign, though Time conceded Democrat Robert Torricelli "joined the Republican chorus."

     You have to read it to believe it, so here is the story by Tony Karon from www.time.com:

Washington Braces for China Espionage Report

Where have you gone, Joe McCarthy, oh, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you....Yes folks, Republican efforts to warn Americans of the danger of fuzzy liberals in charge of the nation's political system -- and its nuclear secrets -- are about to go into overdrive. On Tuesday, Representative Christopher Cox plans to release the report of his congressional inquiry, containing "grave" revelations of Chinese nuclear espionage that "continues to this very day."

The Cox committee's star witness, former Energy Department intelligence chief Notra Trulock, on Sunday warned that this was the biggest thing since the Rosenbergs. And if the new "Who lost China?" campaign is to have its own Alger Hiss, the prime candidate appears to be Attorney General Janet Reno. Even liberal New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli Sunday joined the Republican chorus calling for Reno's resignation, on charges that she failed to authorize an FBI wiretap of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, suspected of passing nuclear secrets to Beijing.

"The question here is whether the FBI presented the Justice Department with sufficient evidence to justify a wiretap," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "If Justice turned a blind eye for political reasons, then Reno should be prosecuted. But rather than comparing it with the Rosenbergs, some people are calling this nuclear espionage's Richard Jewell case -- asking why, if Wen Ho Lee is so bad, we don't have enough to arrest the guy." Months of leaks from the Cox committee's classified report alleging nuclear negligence have prepared Washington to expect a damning indictment of the Clinton administration's national security record, and anything less may be an anticlimax.

     END Reprint

     Maybe we'd know if Justice had sufficient evidence to pursue or not if Time pursued reporting along that line instead of filing vindictive left-wing diatribes castigating conservatives.

     This story is posted online at: http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/daily/0,2960,25436-101990524,00.html


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) You don't need much knowledge of network news to be a media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, at least judging by a preposterous claim LA Times media reporter Jane Hall passed along over the weekend.

     FNC's Fox Newswatch show on Saturday briefly discussed the MRC's March 16 New York Times ad asking the networks to stop ignoring Chinagate. The ad listed a dozen or so major revelations not touched by the broadcast network morning or evening shows.

     Referring to the letter in the ad from the MRC Chairman, host Eric Burns asked Hall: "What about the premise Jane of this being the result of a conservative bias. By the way this letter had to do with the coverage on the ABC, CBS and NBC half hour evening newscasts. The charge is it hasn't been covered enough because there is in these three shows a bias against conservatives points of view." [Actually, the ad referred to both morning and evening shows on ABC, CBS and NBC.]
     Hall answered: "I just don't think it's valid. First of all, I called up a rival group that is non-partisan, the Tyndall Report, which counts the minutes. One week in March when this story broke it was on 62 minutes. It was the highest rated story of that week. It's true I think because it's not a visual story that it's not getting a ton of coverage but it has nothing to do with bias."

     If Chinese espionage got 62 minutes in one week that would average more than four minutes per night (for three shows over five weekdays), an obviously preposterous assertion that anyone familiar with recent network priorities would recognize.

     Last week FNC's Bill O'Reilly cited Tyndall in saying the three network evening shows aired 18 minutes of coverage when the espionage story broke in early March.

     O'Reilly is correct. Hall isn't even close.

     On Monday the CyberAlert investigative unit, that would be me, called Andrew Tyndall to figure out what Hall could possibly be talking about. (Tyndall produces a weekly report listing how much time the three broadcast network evening shows spend on each topic Monday-Friday.) Tyndall informed me that teeing off the MRC ad time frame which referred to how the China scandal started with the missile transfer charge in March 1998, he had informed Hall that Chinese espionage/getting U.S. secrets had received 62 minutes of coverage from March 1998 through early May 1999.

     Hall was so eager to discredit the MRC's point that she passed off a number for 15 months of coverage as what the story got in a week. I hope she hasn't done any stories attacking Drudge or other Internet news sources for inaccuracies.

     62 minutes over 15 months averages to about 20 seconds per week per network.

     Tyndall passed along another interesting number: In about a 15 month period in the early 1990s the Alrich Ames spy case generated 125 minutes of coverage, or about twice the attention given to Chinese espionage.

     To see the MRC's ad, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nytimesad.html

     To read the MRC's Special Report, "All The News That's Fit to Skip: Network Apathy Toward Chinese Contributions and Espionage," to which the ad directs readers for more details, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/specialreports/news/sr19990514.html


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Speaking of lack of coverage, the MRC's Media Reality Check fax report by Tim Graham, which was distributed overnight last night, runs through five examples of coverage patterns demonstrating how the networks have avoided Chinagate. Here are some excerpts from the May 25 report titled "Will The Networks Cover Today's Big Report on Chinese Espionage? Past Pattern Sparks Skepticism: Will Chris Cox Get a Soap Box?"

-- 1. Fumbled First Report. The Cox committee's first report on December 30, 1998, drew next to nothing on the Big Three networks.

The first report noted the bipartisan finding that national security was harmed when the American companies Loral and Hughes Electronics gave the Chinese missile technology while assisting in satellite launches. That night, ABC gave it 22 seconds, NBC 26. CBS did a full story, as did CNN and FNC. But only FNC noted Loral's Chairman donated $100,000 to the Democrats just before his company received a technology-transfer waiver.

2. Morning Malpractice. The network morning shows have aired only two interviews on Chinese espionage in 1999.

NBC's Today interviewed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on March 9. ABC's Good Morning America interviewed Richardson just yesterday. CBS's This Morning hasn't done an interview. Yesterday its lead 8am interview asked whether action-figure toys cause "compulsive weightlifting" and other male maladies. None have questioned a Congressman or Senator probing Chinese espionage. Tom Brokaw interviewed Cox on Friday's Nightly News, but the MSNBC Web site transcript revealed they edited out questions about what the President knew and whether Chinese donations are linked to Chinese espionage.

3. Koppel Dawdles. Of 55 Nightlines from March 6 (when The New York Times reported China's theft of nuclear warhead technology) to May 21, Ted Koppel has only reported on Chinese espionage once.

On March 12, Koppel threw cold water: "There is probably plenty of incompetence and partisanship to go around, but it is not quite as clear cut as it may seem." Since then, ABC has aired 31 programs on Kosovo, and explored some less explosive topics: autism, genetic testing in Iceland, and the oldest guitar manufacturer in America.

4. Lazy on Lies. TV morning and evening shows have mostly avoided the President's lie about what he knew and when he knew it about espionage on his watch....

5. Chung-Free Channels. Several network shows have still said nothing to the public about Johnny Chung's claim that the head of Chinese military intelligence gave him $300,000 to give to Bill Clinton and the Democrats.

Despite Chung's May 11 congressional testimony, CBS Evening News, MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, ABC's Good Morning America, and NBC's Today have yet to touch Chung's $300,000 story....

     END Excerpt

     Tuesday morning the Media Reality Check fax report will be posted on the MRC home page: http://www.mediaresearch.org


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) Nina Totenberg can't handle the truth if it detracts from Hillary Clinton's image as an independent feminist who hasn't depended on a man.

     In a discussion of the New York Senate race on Inside Washington over the weekend columnist Charles Krauthammer pointed out how Nita Lowey, the Congresswoman who will run for the Democratic nomination if Hillary gets out of the way, is a true feminist:
     "What's interesting, I think it was Richard Cohen who pointed this out in a column, I mean she is the proto-typical feminist. She built her career from the ground up. Her husband is a guy called Steve. You haven't heard about him and she didn't build her career on his back."
     An enraged Nina Totenberg of NPR blurted out: "Shame on you!"
     Krauthammer observed: "I'm simply stating a historic fact."
     Totenberg repeated herself: "Shame on you Charles."

     Totenberg puts liberal icons ahead of accepting reality. -- Brent Baker


     >>> Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions which make CyberAlert possible, by providing a tax-deductible donation. Use the secure donations page set up for CyberAlert readers and subscribers:

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     To unsubscribe, send a blank e-mail to: cybercomment@mrc.org.
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