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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday June 25, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 113) 

Whistleblower's Punished; Rather Not Biased; Co-host Stephanopoulos

1) A DOD analyst said he was forced to delete a warning about a transfer to China, but only FNC cared. CBS's Bob Schieffer didn't cite gun control in noting how "Congress has been busy with symbolic things." He named the Ten Commandments and flag burning.

2) On CNN's Crossfire Dan Rather claimed that conservatives see liberal bias in him only because he's "an independent reporter." The "on the right" co-host concluded that CBS News is not biased.

3) George Stephanopoulos again co-hosted Good Morning America this week and conducted political interviews, but generated no indignant media outrage. Two years when CBS hired Susan Molinari reporters called it an "insult to journalism" and "disturbing."

4) On Nightline Joe Klein claimed it is Giuliani's "Natural impulse" to treat Hillary "the way he Serbs treated he Kosovars." Party for Hillary and Tina and Diana Sawyer's pad?

Clarification: The June 23 CyberAlert referred to how Dan Rather brought a "Horned Toed Frog" onto NBC's The Tonight Show. As more than one reader pointed out, that's a "Horned Toad" and it's really a lizard.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) A House committee heard testimony Thursday from five Energy and Defense Department employees about how their efforts to limit China's acquisition of dangerous technology was thwarted and they were victims of retribution for their efforts. Fox News Channel ran a full story on Special Report with Brit Hume and a briefer summary of the Fox Report but all the other networks ignored the session -- even CNN which didn't have a word about it on either Inside Politics or The World Today.

     Broadcast network viewers instead saw stories on an auction of Eric Clapton guitars, a barbecue competition in Des Moines and a two-year-old who tests computer software for toddlers. CBS's Bob Schieffer was pleased that now that Congress is done with "symbolic things, voting to post the Ten Commandments in schools last week, voting on the flag today," they can get on to important matters. Of course, he did not consider gun control bills to be "symbolic."

     The June 24 Special Report with Brit Hume aired at 6pm ET and 9pm PT, actually anchored by Tony Snow, opened with a piece from Julie Kirtz. She began:
     "The five employees of the Departments of Defense and Energy told the House Government Reform Committee their careers are in jeopardy because they have pushed internally for tighter controls on U.S. military and nuclear secrets and because they've gone public....Jonathan Fox, an arms control specialist for the Defense Department, testified for the first time that he was ordered to re-write a critical memo on the eve of a 1997 state visit by China's President. According to his copy of the memo, Fox was told to delete his conclusion that a nuclear technology transfer to China should be rejected because it posed a 'real and substantial risk to the common defense and security of the United States and allied countries.'"

     After Fox recounted his experience, Kirtz went on to review the case of senior Defense analyst Peter Leitner who said he's been harassed, before she aired competing clips of Congressmen Dan Burton and Henry Waxman on the relevance of the testimony.

     The next hour Fox Report anchor Paula Zahn ran a 35-second item on the whistle-blowers and played a soundbite from Edward McCallum of the Energy Department.

     What were the other networks finding more newsworthy? ABC's World News Tonight led with the hunt for serial killer Ramirez and ran full stories on how hunger is supposedly increasing, a Closer Look at children and anxiety and ended with a look at how Eric Clapton raised $5 million to fight alcohol and drugs by auctioning off many of his guitars.

     The CBS Evening News also began with Ramirez and ended with a piece on a barbecue competition in Des Moines. CBS featured a full report on how the CPSC has recalled dive sticks, even though they've been around for 20 years. Nothing in the report about how many actual injuries they have caused, just that they lead to "rectal impalements." Now that should cause anxiety among children.

     CBS's David Martin provided the toughest wording of the night about how a CIA analyst's warning was ignored during the war: "From almost the moment it happened administration officials have portrayed the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade as a stupid but honest mistake. However, a still secret report by the CIA suggests the bombing was a result of carelessness if not outright negligence..."

     Later Bob Schieffer checked in on how the House passed a flag desecration amendment for the Constitution, but the votes are not there in the Senate. So, Schieffer concluded:
     "It's the same old news, literally. Still, there is happy news for both sides in this vote today. Until now Congress has been busy with symbolic things, voting to post the Ten Commandments in schools last week, voting on the flag today. Now with those things out of the way it can finally turn to matters like passing the appropriations bills which will be necessary, of course, to keep the government running."

     They were also busy with "symbolic" gun control measures, but liberals and Schieffer don't dismiss bills in that area so quickly.

     NBC Nightly News was topped by the U.S. reward for Milosevic and other war criminals. NBC combined its In Depth and Fleecing of America features into one unit for a couple of stories on a FTC report about deceptive claims on Web medical advice pages. The show ended with a look at a two-year-old whom a computer software company hired to react to its software games for toddlers.

+++ Speaking of Chinese espionage-related subjects uniquely covered by the Fox News Channel, that's the topic of the latest Media Reality Check fax report compiled by the MRC's Tim Graham: "There's No One But Fox to Follow Up Cox: While the Other Networks Air Almost Nothing, FNC's Carl Cameron is Developing Chinagate Scoops." The report begins: "Fox News Channel airs the slogan 'We report, you decide.' On the Chinese spy scandal, FNC has been doing the reporting, while the other networks have offered almost nothing to help people make a decision. FNC's Carl Cameron is all alone on the TV China beat." To read the whole fax report, go to: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/FAX19990624.html


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Thursday night on CNN's Crossfire Dan Rather maintained that conservatives see him a the epitome of liberal media bias only because he has "remained an independent reporter who would not report the news the way they wanted it." After Rather asserted: "I believe in clean water, strong defense and tight money, whatever that makes me, that's what I am," the supposedly "on the right" co-host, Mike Murphy, said he is "coming around" to the view that CBS is not liberal as "I thought the CBS coverage was very even-handed on the Lewinsky scandal."

     So much for a conservative side opposite the liberal Bill Press.

     Liberal co-host Bill Press raised the bias issue on the pre-taped June 24 show: "Dan, I make no bones about it, I'm a liberal, unreconstructed, you know, old-fashioned, proud of it liberal. Are you?"
     Rather insisted: "No. If I were I would say so and I would be proud of it, but I'm not."
     Press: "Why is it that you are the epitome of the left-wing liberal media in the mind of every conservative I've ever talked to? What did you do to get that reputation?"
     Rather asserted: "I remained an independent reporter who would not report the news the way they wanted it or -- from the left or the right. I'm a lifetime reporter. All I ever dreamed of was being a journalist, and the definition of journalist to me was the guy who's an honest broker of information. Now, what happens so often in politics -- and he [co-host Mike Murphy] knows it better than most -- if someone doesn't do what you want them to do, then what you try do is hang a sign around their neck that'd be hurtful to them. I do subscribe to the idea of: 'Play no favorites and pull no punches.' I will not report the news the way anybody says to me, 'You better do it this way or pay the price.' Now, when the Democrats in the 1960s were in the -- if not the ascendancy, when they had the power, I had my problems with Lyndon Johnson."
     Press: "Fellow Texan."
     Rather: "I had my problems with President Carter when he was in office. If you're committed to being an independent journalist, you're going to pay the price that you're going to catch it from all sides, and the side that's in power, or the side that has the strongest voice, will call you the worst names. If, you know, I have my beliefs. I believe in clean water, strong defense and tight money; whatever that makes me, that's what I am."

     That convinced fill-in co-host Mike Murphy, a campaign consultant to Republicans, including Bob Dole in 1996: "I got to confess: in the '80s I had one of those 'Rather Biased' stickers but I thought the CBS coverage was very even-handed on the Lewinsky scandal, when a lot of it wasn't, so it's back in the drawer and I'm coming around."

     Press and Murphy returned to the bias subject in their end of show comments. Press remarked: "Mike, I am glad we had a chance to talk to Dan Rather. First of all, for the insights that are in the book. But secondly, just to destroy once and for all this myth of the liberal media. I mean, you want to see the liberal media in this country, you're looking at him, me. It's not Dan Rather, it's nobody else. This is baloney."
     Murphy joked: "You are the Trotsky of television, my friend."
     Press: "And proud of it."
     Murphy: "The truth is the media is pretty liberal, but having flipped through this book and having watched Dan Rather lately, I am coming around. I think he's for hard news; I am for hard news. I am pretty impressed. I thought it was a good interview."

     So, hard news equals non-biased news and fluff equals liberal bias?

     Press argued: "Look at the editorial pages. There's no liberal media. But let me just tell you something: In this book, he calls Ken Starr 'a dangerous man.' I like it. From the left, I am Bill Press. Good night from Crossfire."
     Murphy: "Sitting in on the right, I'm Mike Murphy."

     Yeah, "sitting in" but not being on the right. Wouldn't calling Ken Starr a "dangerous man" put Dan Rather on the left and wouldn't such matching reporting, which did occur, reflect a liberal bias? Oh, I forgot, that would be a "hard news" subject area so it disproves any liberal bias.


steph0625.jpg (15793 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) What a difference the political affiliation makes. CBS hiring Susan Molinari symbolized the breakdown of the wall between partisan politics and journalism, but have you heard or seen a peep of protest over ABC News making George Stephanopoulos a news anchor and co-host of Good Morning America?

     Two years ago leading journalism figures indignantly denounced CBS's decision to hire Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari to co-host a new Saturday morning show which would have little if any political content. "It's kind of an insult to journalism," huffed Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. "I think it's disturbing," declared NPR's Mara Liasson's while Nina Totenberg of NPR and ABC raged: "This really makes me want to puke." The New York Times headlined an editorial: "The GOP News from CBS."

     Molinari was off the show within a year, but if her presence was so upsetting why aren't the same journalism purists concerned about Stephanopoulos? Molinari's Saturday CBS show avoided politics, so she spent most mornings talking about movies and toys and vacation ideas. Thursday morning Stephanopoulos, who co-hosted GMA one day a few weeks ago and co-anchored World News Now for three days last week, conducted a very political interview with two pollsters about the 2000 presidential election. He also co-hosted for a third day this morning, Friday, June 25.

     On Thursday, June 24, Stephanopoulos handled the first big interview segment of the 7am half hour, a discussion with Republicans pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake about their joint poll on the 2000 election. He began by asking why with a good economy 51 percent think the country is going the wrong way. Goeas cited declining moral values, which Stephanopoulos acknowledged was bad news for Democrats and Lake agreed they must shift attention to their issues, like health care and education. Stephanopoulos then asked:
     "Right now, Celinda, there's not a lot of good news for Al Gore in this is there? If I were sitting in the Al Gore war room today I think I'd be going ugh, we're behind by 15 points. Even a generic Democrat loses to a Republican by about eight points and Vice President Gore's favorability/unfavorability is quite high. What do you make of this and what can he do about it?"

     Of course a couple of years ago he was in that war room.

     +++ Watch Stephanopoulos co-host GMA. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will post a RealPlayer clip of this interview. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

     The current media silence about Stephanopoulos is quite a contrast to what greeted Molinari in May, 1997. Back then CNN's Inside Politics ran a story, Crossfire devoted a show to the outrage and it was a topic on both Capital Gang and Late Edition. MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams conducted an interview segment. Kurtz wrote a big piece in the Washington Post, the New York Times delivered an angry editorial and both Fox News Sunday and Inside Washington devoted a segment to the subject. None of that has happened with the elevation of Clinton's former aide from analyst/commentator to anchor/co-host of news shows even though he's now reporting on his former boss who is still in power.

     Imagine the reaction even now if ABC were to give similar roles to Bill Kristol who worked in the Bush years for Dan Quayle who is a current candidate.

     The June 6, 1997 CyberAlert ran through much of the reaction to Molinari's hiring:

     -- "The GOP News from CBS," read the headline over a May 29 New York Times editorial which argued: "With the hiring of Representative Susan Molinari to move directly from Congress to the anchor desk, CBS has reduced the wall [between news and politics] to dust. In fact, having already hired Laura Ingraham, CBS News now employs more famous Republican women than the Republican National Committee does."

     -- Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz reported on June 2 that "Many CBS staffers are riled about Molinari's hiring, noting that she's married to New York Rep. Bill Paxon, a member of the GOP leadership. 'How many stories is she going to have to recuse herself from?' one correspondent said."

     -- Kurtz on the May 31 Inside Washington: "Well, it really just obliterates the line that used to separate the two professions. And it's kind of an insult to journalism, Gordon [Peterson], because, you know, according to this star-maker mentality, what matters is not reporting experience -- standing in the rain, as you put it -- or experience or fairness, but celebrity, and to take a partisan member of Congress and just magically transform him, or her, with the wave of a wand, into an anchor who can sit behind that CBS logo with a statue of Dan Rather, just is not what I consider journalism."

     -- On the June 1 Fox News Sunday National Public Radio's Mara Liasson complained: "Well, I think it's disturbing. I mean, she's is not going to be a commentator or a part of a show where she's clearly identified with her partisan point of view -- she's going to be an anchor. And I think it means, it sends the message that there's no such thing as journalism anymore. It's all just about celebrity-hood and name recognition and I think it's, I think it's disturbing."

     -- Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister found NBC's Brian Williams less than pleased with Molinari's jump. She reported June 2: "'The first rule for a journalist should be smarts, an awareness of the world,' Williams says. 'We all kind of cringe when this happens. You want to say, Then why am I up till 2am reading everything I have to read every night of my life? Why am I honing journalistic skills when that's not required?'"

     To read this complete CyberAlert item, go to: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1997/cyb19970606.html#2

     A June, 1997 MediaWatch Revolving Door article detailed how "many more liberals than conservatives revolve between media and political slots. The MRC's Revolving Door count now stands at 323 liberals/Democrats versus just 83 conservatives/Republicans....
     "Molinari is hardly the first political operative to join CBS News. While Molinari's influence would be limited to one show, Senior Political Editor Dotty Lynch oversees the entire network. Lynch directed polling for George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, the Democratic National Committee and the 1984 Mondale campaign, all before joining CBS in 1985. David Burke, President of CBS News from 1988 to 1990, served as Chief of Staff to Senator Ted Kennedy from 1965 to 1971. In 1995 President Clinton brought him along to California to, as the Wall Street Journal described, "provide political and communications tips." Last year Clinton named Burke to a board overseeing international broadcasting, but none of this raised a peep of protest...."

     To read this story in full, go to: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1997/mw19970601rvd.html

     You can also check out a June 4, 1997 op-ed piece I co-wrote for the Wall Street Journal in reaction to the Molinari controversy: "Media 'Revolving Door' Spins Faster for Liberals." Go to: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/oped/news/wsj19970604.html


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Giuliani may murder Hillary Clinton? A party at Diane Sawyer's house to celebrate the launch of a magazine with Hillary on the cover?

     MRC analyst Jessica Anderson picked up on two interesting comments made on ABC News shows Wednesday night and Thursday morning about Hillary Clinton's Senate run from New York.

     -- An exchange on the June 23 Nightline.
     Host Chris Wallace: "What I'm wondering about is there a danger of a backlash? If [Rudolph Giuliani] really treats [Hillary Clinton] like another candidate, are there some people, are there a lot of people who are going to be offended by that?"
     Joe Klein, formerly of Newsweek: "If he treats her like another candidate, that'll be okay. If he treats her the way the Serbs treated the Kosovars, which are, which is kind of his natural impulse, he might be in some trouble."

     -- June 24 Good Morning America. Interviewing Talk magazine Editor Tina Brown about the city's cancellation of her party to honor the magazine's launch and Hillary Clinton at the Navy Yard property in Brooklyn, a decision supposedly made by Giuliani, Diane Sawyer asked: "So where are you going to have the party now?"
     Brown: "Well, I'm told that the Statue of Liberty is a federal site."
     Sawyer then offered her place, before catching herself and thinking better of it: "So it's a contender. Well, I guess my backyard -- I don't have a backyard, for one thing. You may be, you may be knocking on doors and searching for a site, right?"

     I'm still waiting to see some of that tough treatment journalists claim Hillary will get from the media. -- Brent Baker


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