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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday June 1, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 95)

CNN: Cox Manipulated Media to Hype China Coverage; Clinton's Cover-Up

1) CNN argued the Chinese spy scandal has been overplayed: "Has the press been spoon-fed by congressional investigators?" asked Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz, suggesting: "So have the media been used to prolong, perhaps even hype the story?"

2) Chris Cox revealed on Fox News Sunday that if the committee had caved in to Clinton administration pressure "to release what we had after two months there would be nothing out."

3) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs a Guest at Your Memorial Day Barbecue is a Spy."

     >>> Media Bias Video Excerpts. Check out the MRC's collection of video clips displaying bias or reporting an angle not covered by the other networks. Amongst the most recent videos viewable in RealPlayer format: 1) 5/28/1999: "Many of the [Cox] report's scary findings are open to question," insisted CBS News reporter Eric Engberg in a "Reality Check" he ended by scoffing at how China only has a few missiles. 2) 5/27/1999: Dan Rather slobbered all over Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes II, urging her to run for President and gushing, "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning." 3) 5/27/1999: FNC's Eric Burns explored how "conservatives suggest that the story [Chinagate] is not being covered for reasons of politics... that there is a liberal bias at the big three networks." To view these video excerpts, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html
     Also online: Video of a Dan Rather Bias Contrast: Iran-Contra a Scandal, But Not Chinagate. Watch via RealPlayer how Dan Rather attacked George Bush in 1988 over Iran-Contra but turned deferential this year with Bill Clinton, avoiding Chinese espionage and donations. To watch these videos, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/rathervideos.html <<<


kurtz0601.jpg (14378 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) CNN's Reliable Sources over the weekend took up coverage of Chinese espionage and the Cox Report, but not to explore how the networks have buried it. Instead, the show's premise was that the media overplayed it and were manipulated by Cox's staff.

     Plugging the segment host Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media reporter, announced: "When we come back, the Chinese spy scandal. Has the press been spoon-fed by congressional investigators?"

     After the ad break, Kurtz introduced the segment while holding up the cover of a magazine: "We turn now to what one magazine, National Journal, calls 'The Red Scare.'"
     CNN then played a clip from Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, but Kurtz didn't bother telling viewers the story aired several minutes into the newscast: "A new round of trading shots, blame, 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."

     In the CNN show run Saturday, May 29 at 6:30pm ET and again Sunday, May 30 at 11:30am Et, Kurtz pressed on: "On Tuesday, the House committee report completed back in January was finally released on Capitol Hill after months of wrangling over its declassification. A big story for the media, right? All over the front pages and the airwaves."

     To illustrate, Kurtz showed Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News but again failed to note how NBC didn't get to the Cox Report until after two gun control stories and an ad break: "It's finally out tonight. The congressional report on China's espionage."
     Peter Jennings, ABC's World News Tonight, which did actually lead with China last Tuesday: "The Chinese have managed to steal or buy or be given classified information on every warhead in the U.S. ballistic missile arsenal."

     Kurtz continued his case for how there really was saturation coverage: "Committee Chairman Christopher Cox did plenty of TV, seven different appearances just Wednesday morning."

     I have no idea how he got to seven, but Cox has yet to appear on NBC's Today, the highest-rated morning show. After a clip of Cox from CNN, over images of USA Today, New York Times and Washington Times headlines, Kurtz asked:
     "But how much of the report was already old news? Plenty. Just look at these headlines from before the report was released: 'Report on China to Detail National Security Violation'; 'China Stole Data, Report Concludes'; 'No Warheads Secret After China Spying.' Reporters don't have a crystal ball, of course. They've got something better: the leakers who have been feeding them details about this report for months. Even Chris Cox turned up on several networks last week spilling the details days before his committee's work was made public."
     Cox on the Fox News Channel: "No other nation has stolen from the United States what the People's Republic of China has gotten away with."

     To his guests, Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon and Slate columnist and former Newsweek reporter Timothy Noah, as well as Reliable Sources regular Bernard Kalb, Kurtz proposed: "So have the media been used to prolong, perhaps even hype the story?"

     Turning to Sammon, who appeared via satellite from Florida, Kurtz finally touched on White House spin, though gently:
     "The Cox Report, I have all three volumes here. Obviously, there were kind of an orchestrated series of leaks that kept this in the news over and over again. Were the media manipulated by these leaks, and what role, if any, did the White House play?"

     Sammon claimed: "I don't think they were manipulated because I think they were willing partners. They were the ones that wanted the leaks. And I do think it's a good point to talk about what role did the White House play. You mentioned that Chris Cox talked about some of the details before it was actually released. Well, we have to keep in mind that the White House had the report as well, and as you have documented in your book, the White House is very good at getting the bad story out preemptively so they can dismiss it later as old news, which is what they're sort of doing right now down here in Florida."

     Kurtz did allow as to how "there was a sort of a fight between Capitol Hill and the White House to not only put the information out but to shape it, to spin it to the best political advantage?"
But, the show soon returned to the evil manipulation of the media by Cox. Holding up the professionally laid-out three volumes of the Cox Report, Kalb saw ominous maneuvering and asked Noah:
     "Normally when the government issues a report, it's on that blank white paper, it's tiny little print, you go blind reading it all. Here they've Hollywoodized it up. You know, three handsome books with photographs and whatnot, color. What do you make of the sheer presentation? In this kind of packaging, what is the political message out of this?"

     Noah agreed "the production values are absolutely fabulous," before complaining: "I think the political message is this is a very big deal and, clearly, the Cox committee wants to make a very big deal out of this. The deputy chairman of the committee has said this is presenting a worst-case scenario, and I haven't seen that reported quite as widely as I would like."

     Of course as attentive CyberAlert readers know that was the topic of a CBS Evening News story on Thursday, so CBS has given that angle more time than many Chinagate developments it has ignored this year.

     Kurtz jumped in to bolster Noah's point: "Let's pick that point up, Tim. These are, of course, very serious charges, make no mistake, but some are saying that the report or the allegations are overblown. A story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune saying there hasn't been a single arrest yet. Many nuclear experts and arms-control analysts say they're skeptical about what benefits China reaped. Overblown?"

     Noah agreed the story has been given too much coverage, prompting Sammon to make the first rational point of the show:
     "I think that's a little bit of a stretch, to suggest that this story has been overblown. You talk about the national security ramifications of this thing, and the fact that it's received really only a fraction of the coverage of something like the Lewinsky scandal which everybody said was really about nothing. I just don't see how this has been overblown. We're already seeing it put in the inside pages of the papers two or three days after it's released. Yes, it was a big splash the day it was released, but I think it's already starting to fade, and I just don't see that it's overblown. This is something the ramifications of which are going to be with us for a generation."

     Naturally, Kalb ignored Sammon's observation and finished up the segment by talking more about "equal time" for the fact that "no arrests have been made, and picking up the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in one of its editorials it says when the dust settles, it is possible that Lee, Mr. Lee will be owed an apology from the U.S. government. Remember Richard Jewel, the security guard, so publicly accused of the Atlanta Olympic bombing? Lee may be the Richard Jewell of Los Alamos with an ethnic twist."

     Speaking of twists, Reliable Sources is the media criticism show with a leftward twist. When was the last time you ever heard a bunch of elite Washington media players site a paper in Minneapolis as the authority on anything? They must have searched far and wide to find something to quote which claimed this story has been overplayed. As MRC documentation, which CNN ignored, demonstrates, the networks have hardly overplayed Chinese espionage. In fact, they've barely played it:

     -- For a look at how only one broadcast network evening show led with the Cox Report and what the other two found more newsworthy, go to the May 26 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990526.html

     -- For a rundown of how the morning shows the next morning treated the Cox Report, with details about how Today gave more time and higher priority to police brutality than Cox, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990526a.html

     -- The MRC's 14 Special Report details the dozens of newspaper stories, many of them leaks from the Cox Report probably put out by the White House, which the networks ignored. "All The News That's Fit to Skip: Network Apathy Toward Chinese Contributions and Espionage" is online at: http://www.mediaresearch.org/specialreports/news/sr19990514.html

     Plus, for a review of Chinagate coverage with a greater connection to reality, watch the May 26 FNC story now viewable on the MRC videos page as listed between the >>> <<<< at the top of this edition. To read about that story, go to the May 27 issue: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990527.html#3

     And, to read about or watch CBS's story about how "many of the [Cox] report's scary findings are open to question," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990528.html#3

     As Sammon suggested, the China story has already faded: Not a word about it on the ABC or CBS evening shows on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday night, nor NBC on Friday night. (NBC basketball bumped Nightly News on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.) NBC Nightly News hasn't aired a story since its May 25 piece on the Cox Report's release, ABC's World News Tonight hasn't run anything since May 26 and since May 25 the CBS Evening News has run only one piece, the above-referenced story on how the Cox Report went too far.

     +++ Watch the opening of Reliable Source's take on China coverage with Kurtz holding up the "Red Scare" magazine cover. Tuesday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post a video clip in RealPlayer format. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) If the Clinton administration had its way nothing of substance would have been released to the public in the Cox Report, Congressman Chris Cox told Fox News Sunday viewers after confirming that the Clinton administration delayed the report for months.

     On the May 30 show panelist Fred Barnes quizzed Cox about the delay in the release of the report finished on January 3 and whether the administration acted in good faith in reviewing it for national security concerns:

     Barnes: "Did the administration act in good faith in delaying the release of his report month after month after month?"
     Cox: "For the first few months it didn't go well. And after two months we had made essentially no progress. We thought 90 days would be ample for the declassification process which is why at the beginning of this Congress we extended for 90 days, but after two months most of the report was still blacked out, certainly most of the overview and we kept at it and as you can see we ended up with three sturdy volumes which at once tell the story and suppress the sources and methods."
     Barnes: "If you had gone along with them how much of the report that was released would have actually been released?"
     Cox: "If we had decided to cave in to the pressures to release what we had after two months there would be nothing out."
     Barnes: "Nothing? No report at all?"
     Cox: "Most of the substance wouldn't be out."

     Maybe we would have heard more about this cover-up attempt if Washington reporters weren't so busy brooding about how they were being manipulated by Cox to overplay his report's analysis and disclosures -- disclosures the Clinton team fought to keep quiet.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) From the May 28 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs a Guest at Your Memorial Day Barbecue is a Spy." Copyright 1999 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. He introduces himself as "00-Larry."
9. Keeps whispering into the potato salad.
8. Embarrassing slip up -- refers to A-1 Sauce as "The B-1 Bomber."
7. Seems oddly knowledgeable about who wants a burger and who wants a hot dog.
6. Kid who beats him in sack race sent to Siberian prison.
5. Asks if the hibachi has a gyroscopic laser guidance system.
4. Wears an apron which reads, "Kiss the spy."
3. You ask him how he likes his burger -- he bites down on a cyanide tablet.
2. After a couple drinks starts telling you nuclear launch codes.
1. He seems awfully interested in the Titan missiles you keep in the shed.

     The CBS Evening News on Thursday dismissed the importance of Chinese espionage and on Friday skipped it altogether, but a few hour later CBS viewers were at least reminded of it on a comedy show. -- Brent Baker


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