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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday July 1, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 117) 

CBS's "Good Thought" to Restrict Free Speech; Another Spy Case?

1) CBS anchor John Roberts lamented that "for all of the talk of campaign finance reform," Bush set a record. Bob Schieffer said "that's a good thought" to McCain's case for banning soft money.

2) The national media in Washington don't care, but an Alabama editorial writer is out in front on the fresh revelations of an Energy agent: "Whistleblower's Tale May Detail Another Spy Case."

3) On CNN Howard Kurtz pressed Dan Rather about the contrast in how he approached Bush in 1988 versus Clinton in 1999. Rather claimed Clinton had already been asked the tough questions.

4) Joe Klein on how impeachment will be viewed: "A hundred years from now, people are gonna look back on that period kind of the way we look back on Salem."


rather0701.jpg (16154 bytes)     >>> A Holiday Weekend Video Treat: See and hear Dan Rather look goofy singing a train song, The Wreck of the Old Ninety-Seven, on the Late Show with David Letterman back on June 22, 1994. He really did try to sing and even imitated the sound of a train whistle. Rather has not been nearly so wacky in his appearances since this one five years ago. MRC Webmaster Sean Henry posted the video clip in RealPlayer format and it will stay up until the middle of next week. Go to: http://www.mrc.org <<<

Correction: The June 30 CyberAlert misspelled the name of an Energy Department counter-intelligence agent. It's Bob Henson, not Hensen.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Prompted by George W. Bush's record fundraising CBS reporter Bob Schieffer argued there's too much money in politics, saying "that's a good thought" to McCain's case for banning soft money.

     All the networks led Wednesday night with the Federal Reserve's quarter point hike of the discount rate, but all also looked at the predicted second quarter FEC filings of the presidential candidates. On ABC Peter Jennings noted of Bush's money intake: "It's a staggering amount of money to have raised a year and a half before the election." NBC Nightly News concentrated on Bill Bradley as Gwen Ifill explained that his $11.5 million raised, compared to Gore's $18 million, makes him a credible opponent for the Vice President.

     Introducing Schieffer's story on the need for campaign finance reform anchor John Roberts lamented: "For all of the talk of campaign finance reform, new fundraising figures show one Republican candidate already has raised multi-millions more than all of his GOP rivals combined."

     Bob Schieffer began: "Presidential candidate John McCain is a long-time reformer and critic of pork-barrel politics, but this New Hampshire stop was gilded with irony."
     After a clip of McCain in New Hampshire making the case for his "reform" bill, Schieffer explained his assertion and revealed that to him raising a lot of money is bad in itself:
     "Ironic because his plea came on the very day campaign fundraising was breaking all known records. As powerful Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which regulates thousands of American businesses, McCain himself has had the clout to raise a whopping four million dollars, more than all the other Republicans except George Bush" who has raised $36 million, double the $18 million raised by Gore as Bill Bradley hauled in $11 million.

     Bradley claimed his fundraising shows support for his candidacy before Schieffer continued his case for more regulation:
     "Whatever the case, modern politics with all its trappings, has become so expensive even the reformers like John McCain see nothing wrong with candidates raking in so much from individuals. So McCain concentrates instead on just trying to outlaw the huge backdoor contributions from special interests."
     McCain: "What I find wrong is six figure numbers amounts of money which then buys people nights in the Lincoln bedroom, seats on official trade missions, all kinds of influence which is inordinate."
     Schieffer concluded by endorsing McCain's view: "That's a good thought, but with Congress showing almost no interest in reform don't expect anything to change anytime soon. Campaign spending is through the roof, about to set new altitude records and the election isn't until next year."

     Schieffer didn't bother to explain that soft money is rising because of the $1,000 per person donation limit which has not been raised since 1974, so with inflation that means the amount an individual can give each cycle effectively drops year by year. But as Newt Gingrich observed a few years ago, liberals see the problem as too much money in politics while conservative realize there's really too little. Major corporations spend far more on advertising each year than all the presidential candidates combined. In 1998, according to Advertising Age, one cable channel -- ESPN -- earned $756 million from advertising sales. That's 21 times more than Bush has raised so far.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) If a guy hundreds of miles away in Alabama can work the phone to figure it out why can't network producers and reporters in Washington, DC? After reading the June 30 CyberAlert item about Carl Cameron's Fox News Channel story on explosive secret testimony to the House Government Reform Committee from Energy official Bob Henson, Quin Hillyer, an editorial writer at the Mobile Register, alerted me to how he revealed the basics of the intriguing story in an op-ed run in Monday's Washington Times.

     Indeed, in the June 28 piece for the Times on reprisals against the whistleblowers, Hillyer wrote:
     "Finally, there's Bobby Henson. He's the physicist who alerted Dr. Trulock to the Chinese espionage. The Wall Street Journal has detailed how he was twice fired despite Dr. Trulock's protestations, and only was reinstated earlier this month after the spy case came to public attention. His testimony to the committee was so explosive that it had to be conducted as a classified briefing. He reportedly outlined previously unknown examples of spying by both China and Russia."

     In a column in Wednesday's (June 30) Mobile Register, "Whistleblower's Tale May Detail Another Spy Case," Hillyer outlined what happened in Washington, DC last week, which all the DC electronic media but FNC have skipped, and what it might mean:

The more Bobby Henson talked, the more his interviewers blanched. Should we get ready for the next spy scandal?

Bobby Henson is the twice-fired nuclear physicist who first alerted his boss, Notra Trulock, to possible espionage at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. Trulock, in turn, alerted the world. On June 18 The Wall Street Journal ran a 1,100 word story about how Henson had finally gotten his job back, courtesy of publicity about the spying he had so bravely identified.

Five days later, members and staff of the House Committee on Government Reform were debriefing Henson about testimony he would give the next day. He was a scheduled witness in the committee's hearing about federal whistleblowers who had been punished, rather than praised, for their efforts. By the time he was finished, the whole scenario had changed. It seems he had more to talk about than mere mistreatment at his job.

The next day, the hearing began as planned, with four other federal workers telling of being harassed or demoted for trying to warn about national security lapses. But when Henson's turn arrived, the hearing suddenly became classified. It was moved to a secure room where reporters were disallowed, as were any staff without the highest security clearance.

What Henson had started to say the night before involved yet more security breaches, reportedly by the Chinese and the Russians. The committee followed up with another classified meeting on Monday.

This could be big.

     Interrupt Excerpt

     Indeed it could, but you'll probably have to order a subscription by mail to the Mobile Register or watch Fox News Channel to hear any more about it.

     Back to Hillyer's column, he filled in some details on the treatment of the whistleblowers whose testimony last week was ignored by all the television networks except FNC:

It comes against the backdrop of testimony that already was chilling. I spoke with two of the whistleblowers, and have a copy of the memorandum submitted as evidence by a third.


Edward McCallum, the director of Safeguards and Security at the Department of Energy, was placed on administrative leave in April, within days of testifying to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (the Rudman commission). The department claims that he "may have been involved in a potential unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

The allegation involves two phone conversations he had with a contractor at the Rocky Flats nuclear facility. The charge is absurd. The transcript of the calls is available on the web site of the Government Accountability Project. McCallum and the contractor talked in only generic terms about security problems at the site -- the supposed "unauthorized disclosure" -- but spent most of the time discussing plans to bring the problems to light before a "mushroom cloud" erupts over Denver.

The conversations were clearly not a security breach, but rather an example of a concerned official trying to ensure the public safety.

McCallum told me that he has asked the Energy Department to let his case be decided by an impartial third party, such as the inter-agency U.S. Security Policy Board. The department has not yet responded.

Even Rep. Henry Waxman, the Californian with a reputation as being among the most partisan Democrats in the House, concluded at Thursday's hearing that DOE had badly mistreated McCallum.

Peter Leitner, a civil servant for 22 years, is a strategic trade adviser for the Defense Technology Security Administration. He says that since 1990 he has been warning against various technology transfers to China, and that the Bush administration often ignored him just as the Clintonites do now. "But the Clinton appointees are by far the most vindictive," he told me.

"I refused to approve a license which would have allowed the Chinese to obtain an entire defense factory full of very advanced machine tools which they can use for a variety of militarily productive goals. [When his superiors approved the license anyway], the tools were diverted to a cruise missile factory."

Leitner says his performance reviews suddenly started dropping, and that he was denied bonuses and within-grade pay increases. "I became a GS-15 before many colleagues who are now ahead of me on the pay scale," he said. "I, my wife, and my four children are now between $75,000 and $100,000 poorer than we would have been if I had simply gone with the flow ... and all for just following my job description and keeping an eye on national security."....

     END Excerpt


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Making the rounds to plug his book collection of radio commentaries, Deadlines and Datelines, Dan Rather, who gave puffball interviews this year to Bill and Hillary Clinton, insisted that he believes in posing "tougher questions."

     CNN's Howard Kurtz pressed him about his tough approach to George Bush in 1988 compared to his softball approach to Bill Clinton at the end of March this year. Rather defended his Clinton interview, maintaining Clinton had already been asked the tough questions about the Lewinsky scandal "at news conferences and at other forums." Putting the inaccuracy of that aside, repetitiveness didn't matter to Rather in 1988. Defending that interview style to CNBC's Chris Matthews, Rather maintained: "I was doing what reporters do and that is asking the tough questions and keep pressing it either until he answered or until it was clear he wasn't going to answer."

     Here are brief excerpts from two recent Rather appearances:

     -- CNN's Reliable Sources on June 26. Host Howard Kurtz asked about George W. Bush: "Is the press giving him a pretty easy ride. Should there be tougher questions toward Governor Bush?"
     Rather replied: "Well Howard, good question. I always believe in tougher questions..."

     Kurtz later made the MRC's point about the interview contrast:
     "You were also very aggressive with Vice President Bush when you interviewed him on CBS during the Iran-Contra affair. But when you interviewed President Clinton a couple months ago, after this long impeachment ordeal, you asked him such things as: 'How is the first family holding up?' 'Did the past year have a moral?' 'What can parents tell their children about this whole episode?' Why didn't you ask him, you know, 'Mr. President, with all due respect, you put the country through a terrible ordeal, you lied to your friends and closest advisers, and how can anyone trust you again?' Were you pulling any punches?"

     Rather insisted: "No, I don't pull punches. I go into each interview thinking to myself, 'How can I make this the best interview I've ever done, and how can I make the best interview he's ever done?' But the question is fair. First of all, he'd been asked a version of those questions at news conferences and at other forums -- that's number one. Number two, you know, I've learned that there are three things that every man at CBS News thinks he can do better than any other man: one is to judge a Miss America contest, two is coach the Knicks, and three is to do big interviews. Everybody has their idea about how the interview should be done. I sized up the moment -- the news moment, if you will, sized up President Clinton, and I thought the interview was as revealing as anything he had done. On another day he might have done it a different way."

     -- CNBC's Hardball on June 28. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this illuminating exchange about the 1988 Bush interview. Rather told Chris Matthews he didn't agree with the view that he was too aggressive:
     "Well you know I have a little different view of that Chris. I recognize that what you just described is widely believed. I having gone through it, I think the situation was that President, then Vice President Bush, didn't want to answer questions about Iran-Contra. And the reason and again there is no joy in saying this that he was at the very least skirting the truth about his involvement in sending some of America's best technology to the Ayatollah Khomeini. He didn't want to answer the questions. And he was advised going in, this is my view of things, 'well if Rather starts pressing you on that then you need to turn to the attack.' Which he did."
     Matthews: "Right, he did. He got personal."
     Rather: "And I think that part was planned. Yeah. Now Bob Woodward in his new book says well when he launched the attack Rather didn't have an answer. I have no argument. Bob is a friend of mine I understand the book is great. But the fact of the matter is I did then what I did with the Nixon thing which is to say, 'Okay let's pause. Let that sink into the audience and can we please get back to the subject at hand.' I did have an answer of course. You can argue it wasn't a very good answer but I had an answer for it. But you know when you play anywhere near the top, at or near the top in politics you expect rough play. You better expect it because it's gonna happen and it goes with the territory. I thought about that time, 'Look he was doing he felt what he had to do as a politician trying to position himself to get the presidency.' I was doing what reporters do and that is asking the tough questions and keep pressing it either until he answered or until it was clear he wasn't going to answer."

     You can view evidence of Rather's bias by watching RealPlayer clips the MRC has posted of three of his interviews.

     -- Dan Rather Video Bias Contrast. Compare these two interviews as noted by Kurtz.
     1/25/1988: In his infamous January 25, 1988 CBS Evening News interview an aggressive Dan Rather grilled VP George Bush about Iran-Contra, repeatedly cutting him off and arguing with him. Rather declared "You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world."


     3/31/1999: But on March 31 of this year when Rather interviewed President Clinton for 60 Minutes II he avoided Chinese espionage and donations and gave Clinton plenty of time to portray himself as defender of the Constitution against partisan conservatives who tried to impeach him. Rather asked about Clinton's "feelings" on Kosovo and lightheartedly wondered what he'd do as the husband of a Senator.

Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/rathervideos.html

     Click on "for more details" to go to the CyberAlert report on the Clinton interview. The direct address: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990401.html#1

     -- 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."

     Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html and scroll down to the 5/27 entry.

     Again, click on "for more details" to go to the CyberAlert report on this interview. Or, go directly to:  http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990527.html#4


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Clinton as a victim in a Salem witch trials atmosphere. On the first edition of CNN's summer run of 8pm and 1am ET on Tuesdays of Late Edition/Primetime, The New Yorker's Joe Klein dismissed the credibility of the impeachment process.

     MRC analyst Paul Smith caught this on the June 29 show from the author of Primary Colors:
     "I think that the impeachment process was a culmination of a 25-year period of insanity that began with Watergate and culminated in this. It's been a period where Washington, the public discourse has become incredibly noxious. The public has finally, has over the last three or four years sent a message that they're not interested in this and I think a hundred years from now, people are gonna look back on that period kind of the way we look back on Salem."

     I'd assume Klein's reference to "that period" means the "last three or four years," not the Reagan or Nixon years. Klein may be on to something when it comes to the media elite. After all, Dan Rather has already forgotten about the impeachment. -- Brent Baker


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