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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday July 16, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 124)

Killing Health Rights; Hockenberry Gun in Mouth; NBC Repeats Starr Bashing

1) CBS and NBC Thursday night portrayed the GOP as taking away rights in rejecting the Democratic HMO plan. Tom Brokaw lamented how you can't sue your HMO "if something goes terribly wrong," yet Republicans "made sure that remains the case."

2) Hillary referred to a man as having been "murdered," though he was sitting in front of her. All but GMA ignored the gaffe as Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer commiserated over the error.

3) Contrary to initial denials, WGBH and other PBS stations have now admitted they swapped fundraising lists with the DNC. A Boston Globe reporter regretted the ensuing threat to tax money for PBS.

4) John Hockenberry planned to sign off MSNBC by play-acting -- putting a toy gun in his mouth and then having Olbermann save him.

5) NBC is repeating the Law & Order/Homicide crossover episodes which portrayed Ken Starr as a sex-obsessed prosecutor who prompts a victim to recall Joe McCarthy in demanding "Have you no shame?"

Corrections: The July 15 CyberAlert referred to MSNBC's July 8 story on George W. Bush, calling that "last Friday." July 8 was really "last Thursday." The same item quoted Howard Fineman as saying "I'm here at a big conventional minority journalists..." I'm sure they are conventionally liberal, but that should have read "a big convention of minority journalists." Another sentence read: "Al Gore will be here to tomorrow." That should have been "too tomorrow."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The Senate debate over the so-called Patients' Bill of Rights led the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC evening newscasts Thursday night with CBS and NBC portraying Republicans as taking away rights from people -- even though they never had those rights.

     "Health care reform for millions of Americans is headed for the morgue," declared Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News just before Bob Schieffer blamed Republicans "pushed by the insurance industry." But he ignored how Democrats were being pushed by trial lawyers. "What happens if something goes terribly wrong? Can you sue? Not if the HMO is regulated by the federal government. The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate made sure that remains the case," lamented Tom Brokaw in opening the NBC Nightly News.

     ABC's Peter Jennings provided a refreshing alternative in opening World News Tonight. He tried to hold each side equally accountable for the lack of enactment of a new law:
     "Good evening. In Washington today the status quo rules. After a long debate in the Senate about health maintenance organizations and a patients' bill of rights, it doesn't look as if anything is going to change. The Democrats made numerous proposals which were killed by the Republicans, and the Republican proposals are going to be vetoed by the President. Millions of Americans care about better health care at affordable prices, but now the debate will take place in next year's national elections."

     Here are some more details on how the CBS and NBC shows handled the subject on Thursday evening, July 15:

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's top of the show tease:
     "Health care reform for millions of Americans is headed for the morgue. The Patients' Bill of Rights is lobbied to death in the U.S. Senate."

     He then opened the broadcast: "Good evening. The centerpiece of President Clinton's Patients' Bill of Rights was sent down to defeat today. The Republican-led U.S. Senate rejected the President's proposal to let people sue their HMOs. This is all part of high stakes, heavily lobbied fight over the best way to help people and their doctors fight decisions by health insurance companies."

     Bob Schieffer began his piece by showcasing a liberal gimmick: "Outside the Capitol the paralyzed son of one of Ronald Reagan's top advisors made a final appeal for passage of the Democratic reforms."
     Justin Dart, Jr., disabled advocate: "I'll tell you this: I'm willing to die for my country but not for my insurance company."
     Schieffer picked up: "But inside, the Republican majority held. Pushed by the insurance industry it killed every Democratic reform, from letting doctors make the final decisions on treatments and specialists to allowing patients to sue HMOs..."

     The Democratic plan, Schieffer noted, would have covered all people while Republicans pushed a "more modest" effort to protect fewer: "But most of their reforms covered just the 48 million Americans in big company plans. The Vice President said that wouldn't do."
     Al Gore: "President Clinton will veto it in a minute. It has zero chance of going past his desk."

     Schieffer relayed how Senator Lieberman unsuccessfully tried to craft a compromise, but both sides want a campaign issue. To illustrate, Schieffer played a soundbite from Clinton criticizing the Republican vote. Schieffer concluded:
     "So the Patients' Bill of Rights is dead, but the American people may deserve an award for patience. Patience with putting up with this kind of partisan maneuvering by both sides."

     Partisan maneuvering, but with only one side motivated by greed for campaign cash as Schieffer never suggested trial lawyers, who would benefit from all the lawsuits, are backers of Democrats.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw started by spinning the story into a tale of how Republicans denied people something they need:
     "Good evening. You and your HMO. What happens if something goes terribly wrong? Can you sue? Not if the HMO is regulated by the federal government. The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate made sure that remains the case in a heated debate and a vote that tonight has the Democrats in full cry."

     Gwen Ifill described it as "a huge victory for HMOs" and actually included a rare soundbite from a representative of the evil HMOs, allowing Karen Ignagni of the American Association of Health Plans to assert that "some of the proposals on Capitol Hill are so extremist."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Hillary's gaffe, referring to someone as having been murdered when in fact he was siting in front of her, forgiven and forgotten by the network media.

     In a July 15 New York Daily News reporter Michael Blood highlighted how "she made an embarrassing flub with TV cameras rolling." The incident took place at "an anti-violence forum in Nassau County." Specifically, Blood relayed:

In front of a room of invited guests and media at a Rockville Centre middle school, L.I., the First Lady alluded to the death of the son of one of her panelists, Alice McEnaney.

The problem: He isn't dead.

He was in the audience.

In the front row.

Appearing with Clinton at the school, McEnaney discussed the trauma she experienced when her son Jason was shot in a 1994 hostage standoff at SUNY Albany.

The First Lady turned to her and said, "You've really spent a lot of time in the years since your son's murder," but was cut off abruptly.

"My son is alive," McEnaney told her.

Realizing her mistake, Clinton flinched. "Thank God. Amen," she told McEnaney....

     END Excerpt

     Major media coverage? Not a second on the broadcast network evening shows Wednesday or Thursday night, nor on CNN's Inside Politics. I didn't see much of FNC Thursday night, so don't know if they did anything. Thursday morning, zilch on NBC's Today and CBS's This Morning. ABC's Good Morning America did take a few seconds to discuss the incident, but not to make fun of her. Co-hosts Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, commiserated with her:
     Barbara Walters: "She also made a mistake, and I have to say that I did this at one point in my long career. She talked about someone who has, who had died, and the mother of this person said, no, he is alive and he's in the front row. Oh!" [covers her face with her hands]
     Diane Sawyer: "Yeah, that's tough when you're out on the trail."

     The media would have been a lot tougher if the candidate's name were Marilyn Quayle.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) PBS station executives aren't any more accurate in their statements than Bill Clinton, as the Boston Globe has discovered. Despite initial denials, it turns out that several top PBS stations have exchanged or rented Democratic Party donor lists in order to solicit funds. But that seemed to disappoint Globe reporter Anne Kornblut because it puts ever soaring PBS funding in jeopardy.

     -- May 8. This story all started back on May 8 when the paper first revealed how leading PBS show-producing station WGBH in Boston rented a Democratic National Committee donor list. The Globe stumbled upon the news when a mother complained how her four-year-old son, in whose name she had made a donation to WGBH to support Barney, received a fundraising letter from the DNC. Angela Lifsey, WGBH's Director of media and community affairs, assured the Globe it was a one-time mistake as she was "not aware of any other occasion when the station violated its mailing list policy. When asked if the Republicans were approached about exchanging lists, she said they were not."

     The news generated little publicity at the time, but eight days later Bob Novak did make it his Outrage of the Week on CNN's Capital Gang: "The Boston Globe reports that four-year-old Sam Black of Wellesley, Massachusetts received a fundraising letter from the Democratic National Committee. It turns out that Sam's mother Jody donated last fall to WGBH, the public TV station in Boston, in both their names. Next, WGBH turned over the names of its donors to the DNC in return for some of its contributor names, a swap. No wonder the Democrats just love public television."

     -- July 14. "Citing Hub incident, GOP questions PBS funding," read the headline over a story by the Globe Washington bureau reporter Anne E. Kornblut. ("Hub" refers to Boston, as in "Hub of the universe.") She seemed to regret what the Globe had revealed a couple of months earlier:

What had promised to be a triumph for public broadcasting erupted into a bitter dispute yesterday, as House Republicans discovered that a Boston television station had divulged its donor list to Democrats.

This was supposed to be a new era for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who once threatened to "zero out" funding for the public network, was gone. Political support from both parties was at an all-time high. House members were planning to work today on a bill that would give an unprecedented $525 million in new funds to public broadcasters nationwide.

But after learning yesterday that Boston's WGBH-TV handed its donor list to the Democratic Party earlier this year, several Republicans on the House Commerce Committee shifted their stance, demanding a reexamination of public broadcasting as a whole. Now, instead of preparing to debate a funding increase, House members are poised to again fight the so-called Battle of Big Bird over whether to fund a system that Republicans accuse of pandering to the left.

"We have been besieged with calls this afternoon from Republicans wanting everything from reducing funding for public broadcasting to providing criminal penalties. There are some members who would like to sanction the station," said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Representative W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican who is chairman of the telecommunications subcommittee.

"The worst thing is, it undermines our effort to foster bipartisan support for public broadcasting," Johnson added. Johnson said Tauzin and Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, had "worked very hard in recent years to dispel the myth that public broadcasting is a left-leaning, liberal organization."

But, Johnson added, "this type of activity by WGBH feeds all the old stereotypes."....

     END Excerpt

     What a bunch of worthless Republicans. It's no "old stereotype." It's current reality and why bother having a Republican Congress if it sees increasing PBS funding as a noble cause?

     -- July 15: "More swapping cited of WGBH donor lists," announced the Globe headline as the paper discovered WGBH misled it. Anne E. Kornblut reported from Washington:

WGBH-TV, Boston's publicly funded station, has been swapping names of contributors with the Democratic Party since 1994, a party official said yesterday, handing over a total of more than 32,000 names despite clear prohibitions against tax-exempt groups engaging in political acts.

Republican House members yesterday called for a criminal investigation of the station after learning of a single account of name-swapping between WGBH and Democrats this year. An official at WGBH initially downplayed the incident, saying it was a onetime mistake committed by new employees who did not understand the rules.

But last night, Jenny Backus, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said the party has been sharing donor information with the public television station for years and to a much greater extent than WGBH officials had admitted.

Even before that disclosure, a House subcommittee canceled yesterday's meeting to authorize an additional $525 million in funding for public broadcasters nationwide, saying the Boston incident was enough reason not to give blanket approval to the proposed increase....

The disclosures occur at an inopportune time for public broadcasters. Republicans, once convinced the public broadcasting system was partial to the liberal cause, seemed to have largely changed their minds.

This week a number of Republicans had said they hoped to increase funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the umbrella organization of the nation's public broadcasting stations, including the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

But with the report that WGBH was deeply connected to Democratic politics, the Battle of Big Bird broke out again. It appeared last night that Republicans would once again attempt to link national public broadcasting and liberal politics....

     END Excerpt

     The Boston Globe only makes stories accessible for two days, so this will be up through Friday night: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/196/nation/

     -- July 16: It's not just WGBH which swaps lists with the DNC. Anne E. Kornblut in Washington and Don Aucoin in Boston disclosed:

Amid growing evidence that public television stations in several cities have shared their donor lists with both political parties, House Republicans last night considered holding hearings to determine whether any wrongdoing had occurred.

As disclosures that Boston's WGBH-TV shared donors' names with the Democratic Party touched off a furor on Capitol Hill, two major public stations, WNET in New York and WETA in Washington, D.C., admitted to a similar practice....

WGBH had initially said its swap with the Democratic Party was a onetime occurrence and a mistake, before the Democratic National Committee revealed the sharing involved thousands of donor names and had gone on for years.

Yesterday, Cecily Van Praagh, a spokeswoman for WETA-TV in Washington, acknowledged that the station also traded donor lists with the DNC and other political organizations, "both conservative and liberal."

Van Praagh said the station had not considered that practice a problem, but will now reevaluate it "in view of the concern that's come up with WGBH."

At a third television station, WNET in New York, dismayed executives said they discovered yesterday that a "list broker" working for the station had shared the names of donors with the Democratic and Republican parties....

At the Republican National Committee yesterday, spokesman Michael Collins said, "To the best of our knowledge, we have never leased any public TV station donor list." He said he could not rule out the possibility that the RNC leased a tax-deductible organization's list, but said the party always used "a list broker and paid market price for the lists."....

     END Excerpt

     This story will remain up on the Globe site for 48 hours: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/197/nation/

     Friday's Washington Times and Washington Post carried more definitives stories about how WETA admitted swapping lists with the Democratic National Committee but not with the Republican National Committee.

The latest syndicated column by MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell is about this controversy. For the column the MRC's Tim Graham came across how in a Reuters/Variety dispatch the DNC's Jenny Backus made a cheap appeal to emotion over substance, complaining about how the GOP is "playing partisan games" with public television: "The Republicans are playing these games and the only losers will be America's children." To read the column go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/columns/news/col19990715.html


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) At a time when media liberals like John Hockenberry condemn the gun culture, he planned to sign off his last show by sticking a toy gun in his mouth, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister reported on Monday.

     Here's the item from her July 12 television column:

John Hockenberry's plan was not to go gentle into that good night. Hours before Thursday's finale of Hockenberry's live MSNBC interview show -- he had gotten word Tuesday that he was toast -- Hockenberry dreamed up an exit that "probably would have gotten me fired."

In the last segment, "I'd completely dissemble," he said Friday from his summer home in Great Barrington, Mass. "Using my acting skills, I'd start sobbing, pull out a toy handgun and put it in my mouth.

"Then the phone would ring. It would be Keith Olbermann [who ditched MSNBC for Fox Sports]. He'd say, 'Remember one thing -- it's cable.' I'd say, 'You're right. Thank you, Keith.'"

When Hockenberry relayed the fantasy sequence to his wife, Alison, "She said, 'John, work through a few more scenarios. And adjust your meds.'"

Having endured the death of his acclaimed weekly MSNBC arts program, Edgewise, after just 10 months in August '97, "I was sort of depressed doing another freaking farewell show," says Hockenberry, 43....

     END Excerpt


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Friday night, July 16, at 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT, NBC will repeat part one of the Law & Order/Homicide crossover episodes from February which portrayed a Ken Starr-like character as a sex-obsessed, out of control prosecutor who inspires his victims to recall Joe McCarthy in demanding "Have you no shame?" Part two will air next Friday, July 23.

     In part one the detectives and prosecutors from New York City investigate a murder of a woman found dead in New York who worked in Baltimore, but who had ties to the White House, thus prompting a clash with the Independent Counsel which is not resolved until the end of part two.

     To read a plot summary and quoted excerpts from the episode to repeat tonight, as well as to watch a RealPlayer clip of the McCarthy-like exchange between IC "William Dell," aka Ken Starr, and Sam Waterston as New York DA "Jack McCoy," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990218.html#5

     In part two next week in the Homicide half of NBC's Law & Order/Homicide arc the attack on Starr will continue as a lead character bemoans how he spread "forty million dollars worth of misinformation" and another character bitterly complains that "in an impeachment report to Congress he can allege just about anything he wants" without proof. For details about part two along with a video clip, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990222.html#4

     NBC has canceled Homicide and stopped running repeats. Nice that they made an exception only for the one which maligns Ken Starr. -- Brent Baker


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