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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday June 16, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 108)

ABC & NBC Ignored Rudman's Report; Poll: Most Interested In Chinagate

1) The ABC and NBC evening shows ignored the report on the nuclear labs from the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board which contradicted Richardson's assurances and criticized Clinton team delays. It got 23 seconds on GMA and Today.

2) Dan Rather brooded about "prospects for passage of even limited gun control," but ABC's Linda Douglass pointed out how the "NRA's point man is...the senior Democrat, Michigan's John Dingell."

3) Despite the lack of network interest, a poll found 55 percent of the public "closely" followed the Chinese espionage story.

4) Dan Rather revealed on Larry King Live that while his show's first feed on Monday ran a Gore soundbite which made a false claim, CBS didn't tell viewers Gore was wrong.

5) Newsweek's Howard Fineman: George W. Bush is "a Republican running without anger, which we haven't seen in a long time."

6) Joining the Today bunch. NBC's pick to co-host Later Today, a new 9am show: Florence Henderson, the mother on The Brady Bunch.

7) George Stephanopoulos debuted Wednesday morning as co-anchor of ABC's World News Now.

     >>> June 14 Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now online. Quote headings include "Dan Rather at Hillary's Heel"; "The Phantom Red Menace"; "Hitting Clinton from Left on Guns"; "'Extremists' Threaten U.S., China"; "CNN: Chinagate Overcovered"; and "Bias Discovered...on Fox." Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/1999/nq19990614.html. For back issues: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/1999/welcome.html <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board issued a 57-page report on Tuesday critical of how the Clinton administration handled nuclear lab security after learning of Chinese espionage and recommending that, given Energy Department problems, the labs be run by another agency. Previews of the report's findings were played on the front pages of the Tuesday Los Angeles Times and Washington Times.

     Network reaction: full reports on CBS's This Morning and Evening News as well as on CNN and FNC. ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today each allocated a mere 23 seconds. But in the evening: Zilch on ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News. Instead, ABC and NBC viewers sat through stories on car thefts, curfews and coded sculpture.

     Though the report from the Clinton-appointed panel headed by former Republican Senator Warren Rudman offered specific criticisms of the Clinton administration and contradicted Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's insistence that all the problems have been corrected, the broadcast networks largely either ignored the Clinton criticism or, as Dan Rather did, spread the blame around by stressing how secrets were stolen during previous presidencies. Only CBS's Sharyl Attkisson pointed out how the report contradicted Richardson's assurance all is well.

     The June 15 Los Angeles Times story by Doyle McManus and Bob Drogin relayed how the report "warned that the labs are still vulnerable to foreign espionage and said that the administration's efforts to tighten security have been well intentioned but tardy and inadequate."

     The LA Times quoted the report: "'Organizational disarray, managerial neglect and a culture of arrogance -- both at Energy Department headquarters and the labs themselves -- conspired to create an espionage scandal waiting to happen,' it said.
     "'The Clinton administration has reacted forcefully but it took pressure from below and outside the administration to get the attention of the leadership, and there is some evidence to raise questions about whether its actions came later than they should have,' the report said.
     "Richardson 'overstated the case' when he said in May that U.S. nuclear secrets are now safe and secure, it added."

     Later, the Times reporters noted: "And the report criticized the administration for failing to investigate other possible sources for the leak of advanced nuclear warhead data to China. 'Despite the disclosure of information concerning seven warheads, despite the potential that the source or sources of these disclosures were other than the bomb designers at the national weapons labs and despite the potential that the disclosures occurred as early as 1982, only one investigation was initiated,' the report said."

     Here's how each network treated the report on Tuesday, June 15, starting with ABC and then followed out of alphabetical order by CNN, NBC and lastly CBS since it has reporting worth quoting:

     -- ABC. GMA news reader Antonio Mora, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, announced this 23-second item that didn't mention any Clinton misdeeds:
     "A presidential advisory panel is calling for major steps to protect the country's nuclear secrets. In a report issued last night, the panel criticized the Energy Department for disarray, neglect and a culture of arrogance that has made secrets vulnerable for decades. President Clinton created the panel after allegations the Chinese stole U.S. nuclear technology at the Los Alamos lab."

     World News Tonight skipped the report. In addition to pieces on the Kosovo situation, the Pope's health and the gun debate on Capitol Hill, the ABC show found room for A Closer Look at how new "cash balance" retirement plans favored by employers hurt older workers and a story about the successful partial deciphering of a sculpture built at the CIA nine years ago. John Martin noted: "This curved, copper sculpture contains 1,706 letters stacked in 31 rows..." To see the sculpture and what's been de-coded, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/onair/WorldNewsTonight/wnt9990615_ciacode.html

     -- CNN. Not a word on Tuesday's Inside Politics, but CNN beat everyone with a story on Monday's The World Today. CNN's Pierre Thomas, MRC analyst Paul Smith observed, also avoided any mention of Clinton delays and focused instead on lab employee resistance to tougher security rules and the panel's call for a separate agency to oversee them.

     -- NBC. Like GMA, Today's total coverage on Tuesday was represented by a 23-second item. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down Ann Curry's words: "Today a presidential panel releases a scathing report on spying at the nation's nuclear labs. The report says a culture of arrogance at the Department of Energy and at the labs has made atomic secrets vulnerable to theft for decades. It also says nuclear labs are still resisting reforms. The panel was set up after reports that China had stolen secrets from the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico."

     NBC Nightly News ignored the report, preferring to run stories on how one-third of stolen cars are shipped overseas, the ineffectiveness of vehicle anti-theft devices and the controversy over how some murders have prompted the police in Hilton Head, North Carolina to impose a 9pm curfew at a majority-black public housing project.

      -- CBS. Sharyl Attkisson provided the only full report in the morning and she was back again on the June 15 Evening News, the only broadcast evening show to care about the report. But, just as CBS decided on the day the Cox Report was released, the China story was run after a story on gun control.

     Anchor Dan Rather announced: "There is blistering criticism today of security, or lack of it, at this nation's most-sensitive nuclear weapons labs. Even now, after disclosure that China got U.S. atomic secrets in the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton years."
     Attkisson told viewers: "Rudman's report accuses the Department of Energy, which runs the labs, of having 'a bureaucratic culture thoroughly saturated with cynicism and disregard for authority,' even presidential authority."

     She cited some examples of security resistance, such as how lab workers are still not being polygraphed even a year after so ordered. Attkisson uniquely highlighted how the report contradicted Richardson's assurances: "Just last month Energy Secretary Bill Richardson declared the espionage crisis at U.S. nuclear weapons labs over."
     Richardson, May 25: "I can assure the American people that their nuclear secrets are now safe at the labs."
     Rudman: "I just find that statement incomprehensible and I'm just not sure why he's saying it."
     Attkisson concluded: "The Rudman report recommends a drastic change: put nuclear weapons functions under a new independent agency. But that's a non-starter for the Energy Secretary who believes only his office can guard the nation's nuclear secrets."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Tuesday night CBS and ABC focused on Democratic attacks on how Republicans are improperly watering down gun control legislation, but at least ABC's Linda Douglass noted a top Democrat is leading the charge against the liberal regulations.

     "Now about the latest prospects for passage of even limited gun control measures currently before the U.S. House," Dan Rather announced on the June 15 CBS Evening News. One suspects there's no limitation on the First Amendment that Rather would characterize as "limited."
     Reporter Diana Olick opened with a clip of Bill Clinton blasting Republicans and then she summarized how a study cited by Clinton found that the Brady Bill has blocked 400,000 illegal gun sales. She concluded by suggesting why the GOP separated proposals on gun control and children's access to violent games and videos into two bills: "Splitting the bill in two allows Republicans to claim they've done something about crime even if the gun bill goes down to defeat."

     Over on ABC's World News Tonight Linda Douglass began by focusing on how Democrats are upset by the decision to put juvenile measures, such as banning the sale of violent video games to minors and posting the ten commandments in schools, into one bill and putting gun control in another. Leading into a soundbite from Republican David Dreier, Douglass relayed: "Democrats say putting guns in a separate bill gives the NRA its best chance to defeat it; Republicans insist that was not their goal."
     But, Douglass refreshingly pointed out: "In fact, the NRA's point man is not a Republican but the senior Democrat, Michigan's John Dingell, a former NRA board member." She concluded:
     "As many as fifty Democrats may join with Dingell to try to weaken the gun control proposals. Said one Republican aide, if the NRA wins this one don't blame us."

     Now that's standing for principle.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The public does care about Chinese espionage, really. Tuesday's CBS Evening News story on the Rudman report was the show's first mention of Chinagate since May 27, NBC Nightly News hasn't touched the subject since the May 25 release of the Cox Report, and ABC's World News Tonight had avoided it all month as have all the morning shows.

     Nonetheless, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey taken June 9-13 and released Tuesday found that 55 percent said they followed "very closely" or "fairly closely" the "accusations that China stole nuclear technology from U.S. laboratories." Specifically, 21 percent of the respondents answered "very closely" when asked "if you happened to follow this news story very closely, fairly closely, not too closely, or not at all closely?" Another 34 percent replied "fairly closely." That compares to 43 percent who were not so interested: 22 percent said they followed the China story "not too closely" and 21 percent answered "not closely at all.'

     Pretty amazing for a story that was hard to follow on network news.

     You can access all of the Pew Research Center's surveys by going to: http://www.people-press.org
     To read the complete results of this monthly survey, go to: http://www.people-press.org/nato99rpt.htm


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Tuesday night on CNN's Larry King Live Dan Rather revealed that his show's first feed on Tuesday ran a Gore soundbite, which made a false claim, without telling viewers Gore was wrong, asserted that "I don't think history in the short and medium run will be kind to Ken Starr" and urged Starr to not issue a report critical of Hillary Clinton if he does not indict her.

     As detailed in the June 15 CyberAlert, in the June 14 7pm ET feed carried in Washington, DC, Rather highlighted how "Vice President Al Gore sees gun control as one way to define himself and his differences with Bush. Today, addressing a Mayor's conference, Gore noted almost a quarter of gun murders are committed by young people under age 20."
     Rather then played this Gore soundbite: "Incredibly, while these 18 to 20 year-olds cannot legally buy a beer, cannot purchase a bottle of wine and cannot order a drink in a bar, right now they can walk into any gun shop, any pawn shop, any gun show, anywhere in America and buy a handgun."
     Rather timidly followed-up: "You may want to note that critics say Gore misspoke himself today. Handgun sales to those under 21 are forbidden by federal law though other firearms are available."

     In contrast, NBC's Tom Brokaw decisively declared: "That's simply wrong. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal to sell a handgun to anyone under the age of 21."

     Now we learn that the plurality of CBS Evening News viewers (most ET and CT affiliates pick up the 6:30pm ET feed) never learned that they heard a false assertion from Gore.

     Asked about the Gore gaffe, on Tuesday's Larry King Live Rather replied: "Well, number one, he certainly misstated the facts. We caught it on the Evening News, and put a note in the second broadcast -- in our subsequent broadcast last night. The answer on both counts is yes and yes, which is to say he misstated the facts, and yes, he should know the law. And my guess is that somebody on the Gore staff caught a lot of hell today about that."

     To watch the Monday CBS item on Gore, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html

     For a collection of Gore Gaffe videos, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/goregaffesvideo.html

     Earlier, King asked about Starr's legacy. Rather suggested:
     "I don't think history in the short and medium run will be kind to Ken Starr. That may be justified or unjustified. It may be fair or unfair. But it's hard for me to write any script where in the short to medium run history -- long-term history, you know, who knows?"

     Of course it's the media which write short-term history, so Rather is indicting the anti-Starr hostility of his own industry.

     King then asked: "Does he make a report as reported that vilifies the Clintons?"
     "I think the answer is yes. I think he's virtually said so himself. And that raises some questions and may have something to do with how he's seen in history. The question is, look, if you're an independent counsel, i.e., special prosecutor, if you can't indict someone, if you don't have the goods to indict them, or you don't have the goods and/or the guts to indict them, then where is the brief for you issuing a report, that says, well, I couldn't prove these things but I think you should have them in mind and particularly right on the cusp of a very important Senate race. That raises some questions."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) George W. Bush fell off the network agenda Tuesday night, but Newsweek's Howard Fineman managed to use his launch weekend to take another potshot at Republicans. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this from Fineman on the June 14 Hardball on CNBC:
     "It's not traditional Republican party stuff. The interesting thing about his whole speech all the way along is there isn't a drop of anger anywhere. He's a Republican running without anger, which we haven't seen in a long time."

     So George Bush was full of anger in 1992 and Dole was too in 1996, but not Bill Clinton?


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Then we all became the Today bunch. The co-host this fall for the new Later Today show scheduled to run from 9 to 10am weekdays after the regular Today: Florence Henderson, mother "Carol Brady" on the 1969 to 1974 ABC sit-com, The Brady Bunch. I'm not kidding. She's been teamed with Jodi Applegate, current co-host of Today on Saturday and Sunday.

     "But how, you might ask, did the 65-year-old cult figure segue into a co-host gig on an NBC News program?" mused Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes. She provided an answer in her June 15 column which can be sung to the Brady Bunch theme, well, almost:
     "Here's the story of a lovely lady, who was bringing out her very lovely new cookbook on the morning-show circuit last September. Then one day, she was seen on Today by Jeff Zucker, and he knew it was much more than a hunch that Mrs. Brady must somehow join his family, and that's the way she became part of the Later Today bunch."

     Actually, this is a return gig for Henderson. De Moraes reminded her readers: "Before there was the Today show's Barbara Walters, there was Today's Florence Henderson. She was a "Today Girl" in 1959, when Dave Garroway was the program's host, and concepts like "Today Girls" were politically acceptable. Henderson contributed interviews and features to the broadcast."

     So much for any pretense that you must be an experienced journalist to host a news show.


steph0616.jpg (16452 bytes)cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) Speaking of non-journalists as anchors, George Stephanopoulos had his debut Wednesday morning as co-anchor of ABC's World News Now, the network's overnight show. Most ABC affiliates carry an hour or two of the show between 2 and 5am local time.

For details on how this three-day substitute selection came about, check out an item in the June 14 CyberAlert:

 http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990614.html#7. -- Brent Baker


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