Gun Control Before Espionage at CBS & NBC
1) Of the broadcast nets, only
ABC led with the Cox Report and only FNC raised specific complaints about
how Clinton policy made things worse. CBS relayed how China blames
America's "right wing."
2) Pushing aside Cox NBC and
CBS led with guns. NBC focused on the nation's post-Columbine mood swing
against guns as represented by Rosie O'Donnell, Sharon Stone and a woman
who called a Boston talk show, but NBC ignored many more pro-gun callers
3) Investor's Business Daily
illustrated the media double standard in Chinagate versus Iran-Contra.
Every network covered the Cox Report release on Tuesday night, but only
ABC, CNN and FNC led with it. The CBS Evening News went first with the
backing of more gun rules by Speaker Hastert, NBC Nightly News began with
the gun lawsuits announced by California cities and how Sharon Stone
symbolizes the public mood's shift against guns (see item #2 today for
details) and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams was topped by
speculation about Hillary Clinton's Senate run.
During the day,
the three cable news channel all carried the select committee's press
conference in which all nine members made comments from 11am to 12:15pm
ET, but only FNC stayed through all the questions. Reaction to the report
dominated cable news the rest of the day, but MSNBC still made room from 6
to 7pm ET for a Time & Again on JonBenet Ramsey. Chris Cox appeared on
CNN's Larry King Live.
In the evening all
the networks highlighted how Republicans blamed the White House for
inaction and how the White House countered by noting how the spying
occurred in the 1980s, but only FNC explicitly raised specific criticisms
of Clinton policy. On FNC's Fox Report Carl Cameron noted: "The
Clinton administration, and specifically former Commerce Secretary Ron
Brown, come under fire for emphasizing trade with China over national
security." He added: "Satellite technology and spaced-based
weapons involving lasers and other futuristic U.S. technology have also
been stolen through espionage or acquired by exploiting export controls
that have been loosened during the Clinton administration."
ABC and CBS aired
pieces on Beijing's reaction and in CBS's reporter Barry Petersen
passed along how China sees itself as "victims of a right-wing
American propaganda machine out to make a relationship already deep in
trouble a whole lot worse."
Sounds like a spin
Hillary Clinton recommended.
focused in the report Tuesday night, its first show about Chinese
espionage since March 12 and only its second on the subject all year.
Here's how the
three broadcast networks approached the Cox Report on Tuesday night, May
25, with the intros offered by each anchor to give you a flavor of the
spin heard by viewers.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the show with this rather convoluted
evening. Twenty years of Chinese espionage. Not surprising that China
wants American nuclear technology. What is a shock in the report by a
congressional committee today is how much the Chinese appear to have
acquired in twenty years. According to the Cox Report, so named for the
Republican Chairman of the committee, the Chinese have managed to steal or
buy or be given classified information on every warhead in the U.S.
ballistic missile arsenal. The report itself is so sensitive that nearly a
third of it is classified and will not see the light of day."
handled the story, starting by playing a soundbite from Cox about how the
espionage is still ongoing. She then gave equal time to the spins from the
two parties: "Republicans accuse President Clinton of being too eager
to do business with China. They charge his administration relaxed security
and failed to go after spies....Administration officials counter that they
have taken unprecedented steps to tighter security in the labs and Mr.
Clinton defended America's economic relationship with China."
Following a clip
of Clinton she noted how the report recommends verifying that super
computers are being used for non military purposes, but that would require
expensive monitoring and thousands of front companies set up by China also
make it tough to track where exports actually end up. Douglass concluded
by reporting how Republicans want heads to roll, specifically Reno and
Next, from Beijing
Mark Litke found that while the People's Liberation Army uses outdated
equipment, they are upgrading their technology faster than realized,
especially with the W88 allowing multiple warheads. After a soundbite from
former U.S. Ambassador to China James Lilley, Litke ominously warned:
"When China fired missiles to threaten Taiwan three years ago, the
U.S. sent a task force to the region warning China to back off. Former
Ambassador Lilley believes that in a future showdown a better armed China
could threaten a counter-attack on say Los Angeles if the U.S. chose to
-- CBS Evening
News. After stories on gun control winning in Congress and the lawsuits
announced by California cities, Dan Rather got to the Cox Report:
"A new round
of trading shots and political spin today to go with the official release
of the already-leaked-well-in-advance investigation into how China got at
least some stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets."
noted how the report found lax security to this day, that it goes back to
the Carter years and that China did most of its spying through students,
scientists and visitors. Rather continued: "Now congressional
Republicans and others have put a large share of blame on President
Clinton for all of this. In response, top Clinton members dispute that,
they say much of the stealing was done during the Reagan and Bush years
and claim that secrets are still spilling out of U.S. weapons labs, well
they say that simply isn't true. They also question some of the
report's other findings and criticisms. The President himself today
emphasized the importance of good U.S.-China relations."
After a soundbite
from Clinton CBS's David Martin looked at the impact of what China
gained, asserting China "now has nuclear weapons design information
on par with the U.S. That according to the Cox Report and it's only a
matter of time before those designs are turned into weapons."
Next, from Beijing
Barry Petersen checked in with China's denials and how the regime there
claims the espionage report is an attempt to divert attention from the
bombing of their embassy in Belgrade. Petersen concluded with China's
Hillary-like reasoning: "The Chinese claim is that they are not
thieves of American nuclear secrets, but victims of a right-wing American
propaganda machine out to make a relationship already deep in trouble a
whole lot worse."
-- NBC Nightly
News. Following two gun stories, a full report on the Louima police
brutality case in New York City and an ad break, Tom Brokaw arrived at the
finally out tonight, the congressional report on China's espionage and
the political fallout in Washington and beyond. This report by a committee
of five Republicans and four Democrats concludes..." After a quick
rundown of what the U.S. lost reporter
noted it was a unanimous and bipartisan conclusion. Unlike ABC and CBS she
highlighted remarks by George W. Bush: "The political fallout
immediate: Although the report says the espionage began at least under
Jimmy Carter an went on under four Presidents, including George Bush,
Bush's son, a likely candidate, leaped to blame this White House."
Following a bite
from Bush she and a counter clip of Clinton saying his administration is
working to resolve the problems Mitchell raised the satellite issue but
failed to note how Loral's Chairman was a big donor to Democrats:
"The report says a major failure on Clinton's watch: After several
failed tests China's leap forward on rocket technology, traced to
possible illegal help from two U.S. companies: Loral and Hughes
Loral and Hughes
deny doing anything wrong, Mitchell noted, before concluding with how
Senator Shelby wants Reno fired and a clip from Reno saying she disagrees.
China may soon be able to fire nuclear missiles at Los Angeles, as ABC
News reported above, but NBC understands what's really important now:
LA's lawsuit against the gun manufacturers and actress Sharon Stone's
feelings about guns and children.
NBC Nightly News
led Tuesday, May 25, with two gun pieces. First, the lawsuits. Second,
America's changing mood post-Columbine as represented by Rosie
O'Donnell, Sharon Stone and a woman in Massachusetts. Now that's
(The CBS Evening
News also led with guns. Dan Rather topped the show by introducing pieces
on Congress and the city lawsuits: "Good evening. Prospects for final
congressional approval of landmark, yet very limited, gun control measures
improved some today. House Republican leaders now say they will support
mandatory trigger-lock sales for handguns and some other Senate-approved
proposals to keep guns out of the hands of the young.")
It all began
on NBC with this long-winded introduction from Tom Brokaw:
evening. There's something happening here. In the Spring of 1999 after
the massacre at Columbine High the political climate for gun control in
this country suddenly changed. Those who fought any change in the past are
now saying it's time to do something. Even gun manufacturers are in on
the changed attitude, worried that if they aren't they'll go the way
of Big Tobacco and lose billion to lawsuits. More of those lawsuits did
come today in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so tonight we begin with two
reports on the legal challenges and the new political attitudes."
Talk about burying
Williams looked at how Los Angeles and some other California cities are
suing the gun industry for not tracking how their guns sold.
Second, Lisa Myers
examined America's changing mood, though she did not cite a single poll
figure. She began with how bells tolled in eight cities for victims of gun
violence. After a soundbite of a father, who lost a son, blasting the gun
industry, Myers asserted:
massacre at Columbine High School the gun control debate has shifted
dramatically and become almost impossible to escape. A usually friendly
talk show host takes on a supporter of the gun lobby."
on her show last week : "I don't think it's in the Constitution
to have assault weapons in the year 2000."
Tom Selleck on
same show: "I didn't come on your show to have a debate. I came on
your show to plug a movie."
Wow. A usually
liberal woman is liberal.
actually treated Sharon Stone's publicity stunt announcement last week
as something worth taking seriously: "Even some gun owners are having
second thoughts. Recently actress Sharon Stone turned over her shotgun and
three handguns to police, saying 'our children are in danger. I choose
to surrender my right to bear arms.' Pollsters say public opinion has
shifted dramatically, that large majorities now favor moderate
restrictions on guns."
Linda DiVall, GOP
pollster: "I think where the ground is shifting is primarily in
suburban America and with those people who have not owned guns."
any numbers, Myers plowed forward: "Suburban women in particular have
changed their minds. One who owns guns called a Boston radio show."
Caller to a radio
talk show: "I think this is entirely reasonable and neither my
husband nor I are impacted in any bad way from this."
"One reason for shifting opinion is the debate itself has changed
from the rights of gun owners to the need to protect children. And
pollsters say this issue now has such momentum it could become the key hot
button issue of the next election."
with Dennis Hastert's announcement about how promises action on gun
control as politicians are being pushed by a public "they know that
they dare not ignore."
As CBS's Eric
Engberg would say, Time Out! That call to a Boston talk show was hardly
representative even in the liberal Bay State. CyberAlert Boston Bureau
Chief Eric Darbe, a former MRC news analyst, sent me an e-mail Tuesday
News is taping calls coming into the Howie Carr show [on WRKO] about guns
for a report for the Nightly News. They have explicitly requested callers
who have changed their minds about the right to keep and bear after school
shootings. They are not getting very many....They are asking for a certain
viewpoint for their story," but "women are calling in and saying
'yeah I have changed my mind, now I want to get a gun, before they take
away my rights.'" Not a view NBC cared to highlight.
After the first
hour of the 3-7pm show, Darbe reported, "there were only two
callers" who said what NBC wanted to hear as "every other caller
said that they still support the right to keep and bear arms, or even more
interestingly that even though they never did before they want to buy a
gun now while they still can."
+++ See NBC's
news priorities. Late Wednesday morning ET the MRC's Sean Henry and Eric
Pairel will post in RealPlayer format an excerpt from the story by Lisa
Myers with O'Donnel and Stone as public mood symbols. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
Tuesday's Investor's Business Daily featured an excellent editorial
nicely packaging points and illustrations from various past MRC reports to
demonstrate the network double standard on Chinagate versus Iran-Contra:
Media Double Standard On Chinagate
Now that TV news producers and anchors have
proof of one of the most explosive foreign-policy scandals ever, will they
give Chinagate the round-the-clock coverage they gave Iran- Contra?
Judging from their disinterest to date, don't bet on it.
Big Three newscasters went into full
feeding-frenzy mode when a Republican administration freed hostages in
Beirut and armed anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.
White House correspondents teed off on
President Reagan. In just one press conference, he was hit with:
"How has this damaged your
"How can you not know?"
"Doesn't it look suspicious?"
"Why don't you just come clean and be
done with it?"
President Clinton was spared such a barrage
at his March press conference. But Clinton could be asked all four
questions just as easily.
Iran-Contra, which involved trading arms to
Iran, was misguided policy. But it never hurt our national security.
Chinagate, on the other hand, has damaged
security. That's the finding of Congress' 700-plus-page bipartisan report,
which newscasters at ABC, CBS and NBC should all have in their hands as of
Thanks to the nuclear warhead data China
stole (and may still be stealing) from U.S. labs, the communist state is
making the missiles it has aimed at the U.S. more lethal. And thanks to
the satellite technology and supercomputers it got due to Clinton's lax
export rules, it's making those missiles more accurate.
Another distinction makes Chinagate a more
alarming story. Iran-Contra had the patriotic goal of driving communism
from our hemisphere.
Yet Clinton's policies were soft on
communism -- and may have been influenced by Beijing bribes in the form of
1996 campaign cash.
In 1987, whole newscasts were devoted to
Iran-Contra. Not so with
Chinagate. In fact, there's been a virtual
TV blackout on the scandal, as IBD reported in the May 10 National Issue.
The most recent example is Energy Secretary
Bill Richardson's May 9 admission that lab secrets were indeed stolen on
Clinton's watch. Evening news coverage? Not a word.
The double standard shows up in White House
Take the grilling that CBS News anchor Dan
Rather gave then-Vice President George Bush in 1988.
Referring to Iran-Contra, Rather
complained: "You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world. How
could you sign on to such a policy?"
But when Rather interviewed Clinton on
March 31 -- just weeks after the Chinese spying story broke -- he didn't
touch the scandal. Not one question.
Make no mistake. Iran-Contra deserved the
attention it got. The networks knew it was a big story for the simple
reason you don't give rogue regimes sophisticated weapons -- for whatever
Here, far more critical technology made its
way to China. It may not be rogue, but it sure doesn't have our best
interests at heart. China has sent nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan
and Iran. It's a close ally of North Korea, which continues to flout an
antinuclear treaty with the U.S.
And yet newscasters yawn.
When they have covered the story, they've
dismissed it as politics. "Republicans believe they've finally found
an issue that will stick to the President," ABC reporter Linda
Or they suspend skepticism. "Isn't
there a possibility that China could have done this (improved its nuclear
warheads) on its own (without spying)?" NBC's Today co-host Katie
Couric asked Richardson.
We doubt TV reporters would have ever cut
Reagan such slack. From the start of Iran-Contra, they thought the worst.
"There is a colossal arrogance at the
heart of the Iran-Contra operation," opined NBC's John Chancellor in
What's arrogant is the Big Three's refusal
to cover this frightening scandal.
Or is there more at work than just
arrogance -- like bias toward Clinton? Or worse, toward communism?
To read today's
IBD editorial, go to: http://www.investors.com
To watch the Dan Rather interview contrast
(with Bush versus with Clinton) go to the MRC's video page and then
click on "Rather Video Contrast" at the top of the list of
videos. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html. --
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