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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday July 23, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 129)

Tax Cut Helps Rich; Clinton's JFK Jr. Tale False But Media Buy It 

1) JFK Jr.'s death again led all the networks with multiple stories Thursday night as ABC and CBS examined the "solace" the Kennedy family finds in the sea.

2) "Thousands for the rich. Pocket change for working Americans. That's the Republican tax deal," thundered liberal John Lewis in a soundbite highlighted by ABC, CBS and CNN. But the rich pay more.

3) CNBC's Chris Matthews proved Clinton's claim, that he afforded JFK Jr. his first chance to visit the White House since 1963, was false, but USA Today and NBC's Today promoted the yarn. CBS's This Morning and ABC's GMA refused to tell viewers Clinton was wrong.

4) Friday night on a repeat of NBC's Homicide the attack on a Ken Starr-like character continues: He spread "forty million dollars worth of misinformation."

     >>> "Exploiting Tragedy to Polish Up Camelot: National Media Use Funereal Feeding Frenzy to Recast the Kennedy Family as Heroic Fount of Values." The latest Media Reality Check fax report by Tim Graham is now up on the MRC home page thanks to Webmaster Sean Henry. The report opens by citing what NBC's Tom Brokaw elucidated during coverage of the burial at sea, just before 10:30am ET on July 22, about why this death means so much: "I came of age with John F. Kennedy. I was 20 years old the year that he was elected. It was a sea change in American life, in our politics, in our culture, in the way that we looked at life. Here was this large, very dynamic family, of extraordinary wealth but with an ability also to connect with the populist classes of America....I think many people in my generation believe that they would define our lives in terms of accomplishment and achievement and triumph." To read the whole issue go to the MRC's home page or directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/fax19990723.html <<<

Editor's Note: As usually happens when I plug a media appearance, MSNBC canceled Brent Bozell's Thursday appearance. Actually, they canceled the whole show so they could continue showing a far away shot of a blurry image of a Navy ship.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The networks all led again Thursday night, for the sixth straight evening, with multiple JFK Jr. death-related stories. Like Wednesday night, however, only NBC Nightly News devoted more than half the newscast to the topic. (CNN's The World Today allocated the first half its one-hour show plus its last story to JFK Jr.)

     Each began with the burial at sea for the three victims and added a look at the effort to recover the plane. NBC's In Depth segment examined how "America mourns a favorite son" and the show ended by looking at how different generations view JFK Jr.

     Both ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News featured pieces on the "solace" the sea gives the Kennedy family.

     CBS's Diana Olick concluded her story: "It is a testament to their unquestioning love of these waters that this family can continue to find peace in a sea that has stolen so much from them."

     At 6pm ET Thursday night CNN and MSNBC went live with the Irish community-arranged public memorial service at St. Patrick's in New York City. FNC stayed with a regular Special Report with Brit Hume until 7pm ET but then joined the service for a hunk of the 7pm ET Fox Report.

     In addition to the cable networks, CBS and NBC will offer live coverage of today's 10am ET private service at St. Thomas More church, according to promos run Thursday night. But since it is private I'm not sure what they plan to show exactly.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Loving that liberal soundbite: "Thousands for the rich. Pocket change for working Americans. That's the Republican tax deal." So thundered Democratic Congressman John Lewis on the House floor Thursday in a soundbite played by ABC, CBS and CNN, the only clip that made it onto all three networks.

     The CBS Evening News did not run a full story on the House passage of a tax cut bill, but Dan Rather still managed a tilt to the left as he relayed Clinton's spin without mentioning a pro-GOP argument:
     "The Republican-controlled House voted today for tax cuts totaling almost $800 billion over ten years. President Clinton says he will veto any legislation of the sort. The President favors a more modest tax cut in the $300 billion range. The President says his plan will leave some money to knock back the national debt and shore up Medicare and Social Security."

     On ABC's World News Tonight, Linda Douglass opened with Congressmen Jim Nussle and Dick Armey saying how the money earned belongs to the people and should be returned to them. In order to win over resistant moderates, she noted, the leadership had to craft a "shaky compromise" saying that if interest on the debt rises then the income tax cut would be suspended for that year. Douglass continued:
     "But some economists warned that plan might be unworkable because interest on the debt is hard to calculate and the IRS might have to keep revising tax rates. At the same time other parts of the tax reduction package would go into effect. The cut in capital gains and the phase out of the inheritance tax. So Democrats argued the only people sure to benefit would be the wealthy."
     John Lewis: "Thousands for the rich. Pocket change for working Americans. That's the Republican tax deal."
     Douglass concluded: "The President says he would veto the House plan and the Senate won't pass it either. But House Republicans think they have scored points with their core voters, the ones most likely to turn out next year."

     Over on the NBC Nightly News Gwen Ifill outlined how the bill's passage was a big victory for Speaker Hastert, but he had to twist arms to get a victory. After allowing Republican Tillie Fowler to argue that tax money does not belong to the government but to the people, Ifill contended that by winning Hastert "trounced Democrats who argued the massive tax cut is outsized and reckless."
     She then played the Lewis soundbite: "Thousands for the rich. Pocket change for working Americans. That's the Republican tax deal."

     Viewers of CNN's The World Today also heard the Lewis bite in the piece filed by reporter Bob Franken.

     None of the stories pointed out how the rich pay a lot more than their fair share in taxes. As Washington Times Inside Politics columnist Greg Pierce noted July 22 in picking up a Wall Street Journal item, "the top ten percent of individual income tax returns for 1996 accounted for 62.5 percent of such taxes collected," but "those taxpayers accounted for only 41.6 percent of total adjusted gross income."


jfkjr0723.jpg (17364 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) President Clinton's claim at his Wednesday press conference that he afforded John F. Kennedy Jr. his first chance to visit the White House since 1963 was false, but USA Today and NBC's Today gullibly bought the yarn. CBS's This Morning skipped over Clinton's misstatement and just told viewers JFK Jr. had first returned during the Nixon years and on ABC's Good Morning America Ann Compton rationalized: "President Clinton seemed to think that the visit helped John Kennedy come to terms not only with his own life, but his family's history."

     None of the broadcast networks or CNN pointed out Clinton's error on Wednesday night, July 21, but both MSNBC and CNBC did, though that didn't stop their sister network's Today show from repeating the false story the next morning.

     On MSNBC's the News with Brian Williams the anchor of the same name, MRC analyst Mark Drake noticed, asserted after a story about the press conference which showed Clinton's claim: "We should also, to end this topic, point out that minutes after the President's emotional remarks about John Jr., CBS Radio pointed out that John Jr. and his mother had been back to the White House during the Nixon administration."

     An hour before, on CNBC's 8pm ET Hardball, host Chris Matthews observed:
     "Well a rather strange thing happened at the President's press conference today. President Clinton talked in some detail about a moment that occurred rather recently, a year or two ago, last year in fact, where he had John Kennedy Jr. to the White House. The President made a point of saying it was the first time that John Kennedy had been back to the White House since his father was killed by in 1963 in Dallas. Quite pointed on this mark, let's hear the President and what he had to say."
     Clinton at press conference hours earlier: "John Kennedy had actually not been back to the White House since his father was killed until I became President. First he was on an advisory committee that made a report to me and he came back to the Oval Office where he saw the desk that he took the famous picture in, you know, coming through the gate for the first time since he was a little boy."

     Matthews then played a clip from his February 6, 1996 interview with JFK Jr. in which JFK Jr. confirmed a revelation in Matthews' book, Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Post War America, about how Nixon invited him, his mother and sister Caroline to dinner at the White House in 1971. JFK Jr. recalled how "it was very warm and he was a wonderful host and we saw the rooms where we had lived," which clearly suggested he saw the residential quarters, thus eliminating Clinton's out that he first allowed JFK Jr. to see where he once slept. JFK Jr. also recounted how at the dinner he spilled milk into Nixon's lap.

     After the 1996 show excerpt Matthews asserted that proves Clinton's dissembling: "It strikes me as another Clinton moment." He then asked guest Tom Squitieri of USA Today: "What is it about this President that makes him make claims that are really irrelevant. It's not important except that it's a character problem I think, he just keeps doing this." Squitieri couldn't bring himself to call Clinton a liar, instead he impugned politicians: "This often happens to some politicians. They overreach when they don't really need to overreach."

     Matthews added that during the 1971 visit Nixon took John and Caroline to the Oval Office so they could see it for first time since 1963 and Nixon's children "stayed out of the way so that their father could have this moment with the kids."

     +++ Watch and listen to JFK Jr. in 1996 recalling his 1971 visit to the White House. Friday morning the MRC's Sean Henry will post a RealPlayer clip of Wednesday's Hardball when Chris Matthews played the archive video. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

     Squitieri apparently failed to inform the USA Today copy desk of what he learned from Matthews as Thursday's USA Today featured a story by Susan Page which began:
     "John F. Kennedy Jr. was 2 years old when his father was assassinated, and more than three decades would pass before he returned to the White House..."


     In fact, JFK Jr. not only returned to the White House in 1971 but again in 1981. In his Inside the Beltway column in the Washington Times on Thursday John McCaslin reported that the Kennedy clan, including JFK Jr., "also gathered at the White House in 1981 for a ceremony hosted by President Reagan, who presented a gold medal to Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy in honor of her husband's service to the country."

     Today producers apparently don't watch CNBC or MSNBC as just after 8am on Thursday, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, co-host Katie Couric repeated as fact the false claim about the first return visit occurring only recently:
     "John F. Kennedy Jr. spent the first years of his life in the White House and had returned to visit just recently. As NBC correspondent Bob Kur reports, both the President and Mrs. Clinton have very fond memories."

     Bob Kur highlighted Clinton's supposed connection: "The President and First Lady remember meeting John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette many times. But only twice in the White House."
     Bill Clinton at the press conference: "John Kennedy had actually not been back to the White House since his father was killed."
     Kur: "In her newspaper column this week, Hillary Rodham Clinton recalls Kennedy's last visit to the White House, March 1998. A special screening of a TV series about the history of the Apollo space program. Young Kennedy called it his father's proudest legacy."
     Following a clip of John F. Kennedy Jr. Kur continued: "After the screening and the White House reception that followed the night became an emotional journey back in time. Not only for young Kennedy but for the President who was inspired by Kennedy's father."
     Following another clip of Clinton Kur elaborated:
     "From an early childhood scenes that understandably evoked more memories for another generation than for the visitor who lived in the White House as a little boy. In her newspaper column Mrs. Clinton also recalls the White House tour that night with JFK Jr. 'John,' she writes, 'had trouble sorting out what he remembered from what he had seen only in pictures. We showed him the room where he slept and we walked around the grounds where he and his sister played. In the Oval Office he saw the President's desk. The same desk under which he was caught by a photographer playing hide and seek as a toddler.'"

     Kur ended by again repeating the falsehood: "Almost 35 years past since from the time JFK Jr. said goodbye to his father and the White House until he had the desire to come back."

     That was probably a piece produced the afternoon before, but Today didn't have to run it, especially after its two sister networks disproved the Clinton fairy tale.

     But while ABC and CBS knew Clinton had lied, neither pointed that out to viewers on Thursday morning.

     On CBS's This Morning Bill Plante realized how JFK Jr. had visited Nixon but failed to say how that contradicted Clinton. After Plante explained how the Clintons planned to attend the Friday memorial service, anchor Thalia Assuras asked:
     "How much contact indeed have they had with the family, does anyone really know?"
     Plante replied, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "JFK, Jr. and his wife had been here a fair number of times over the years. And believe it or not, the first time that young John Kennedy was back here at the White House was about 29 years ago. He was 10 years old and his mother and his sister and he came to visit the Nixons. And they were taken on a private tour. We have a letter, a copy of a letter which he wrote. A thank you note. A perfect little bread and butter thank you note telling the Nixons that the steak was the best he had ever eaten."

     Over on ABC's Good Morning America on July 22 Ann Compton acknowledged that JFK Jr. had visited Nixon but she refused to say Clinton misspoke and instead, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, simply stressed Clinton's claim that his invitation helped JFK Jr. "come to terms" with his life:
     "When President and Mrs. Clinton attend a closed-door memorial mass for John and Carolyn Kennedy in New York tomorrow, they will no doubt be thinking of the evening last summer when they invited John and Carolyn Kennedy here to the White House for an event and took them upstairs to show them the family quarters. Now John Kennedy had been back, apparently, at least once during the Nixon administration to look at the house where he was a very small toddler, but President Clinton seemed to think that the visit helped John Kennedy come to terms not only with his own life, but his family's history."

     The media certainly don't seem to have any interest in making Bill Clinton come to terms with his made up, self-aggrandizing, history.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) More Starr bashing tonight, Friday July 23, on NBC when the network re-runs part two of the Law & Order/Homicide crossover arc from February. In part one last Friday night independent counsel "William Dell," obviously meant to be Ken Starr, was portrayed as a sex-obsessed prosecutor who prompted a victim to recall Joe McCarthy in demanding "Have you no shame?"

     In part two tonight in the Homicide half of NBC's use of entertainment shows to make a political point, 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, as well as a review of part one, along with a video clip in RealPlayer format, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990222.html#4

     With CBS running a special at 8pm ET/PT, 7pm CT/MT on the Kennedy memorial service and the regularly scheduled editions of NBC's Dateline and ABC's 20/20 focusing on the same thing, your broadcast network prime time viewing choice tonight: More JFK Jr. and Kennedy family tributes, or some Starr bashing. -- Brent Baker


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