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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday September 20, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 156) 

Pothead Sam; Video of Pardoned FALNers Making Bomb; Delete 2nd Amendment 

1) Sam Donaldson admitted marijuana use; George Stephanopoulos filed his first pre-taped evening news story; and the entire Fox News Sunday team squeezed onto the set with a former Miss America.

2) FNC immediately played an FBI surveillance video from 1983 showing two pardoned Puerto Ricans making a bomb, but ABC, CNN and NBC avoided it in the evening though Meet the Press did show it.

3) FNC's panel took on Rivera's political advocacy for the pardons: "This guy is a total shill for Bill Clinton."

4) "It's Time to Gun Down the 2nd Amendment," argued USA Today's Walter Shapiro in a Friday column advocating the amendment be deleted so we don't cringe "every time we hear a car backfire."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Notes from the Sunday news and interview shows: Sam hesitantly admitted smoking marijuana, George Stephanopoulos filed his first pre-taped evening news political story and the entire Fox News Sunday team squeezed onto the set with a former Miss America.

     -- Turning the tables on Sam Donaldson on This Week. After the ABC News star asked Bill Bradley if he ever smoked marijuana, Bradley conceded he had and then asked Donaldson: "Have you?" Donaldson replied: "I think a couple of times I've tried it. And I inhaled."

     -- "George Stephanopoulos, ABC News, Washington." The weekend of the Republican straw vote in Iowa in August Clinton enabler/ABC News political analyst George Stephanopoulos delivered an on-scene live report for World News Tonight/Saturday. He's provided stories for Good Morning America and a week and a half ago the show allowed him to go solo in interviewing Bill Bradley. Now on Sunday night, September 19, Stephanopoulos took another step in his grooming by the network to be a news correspondent: He narrated a pre-taped news story. The subject: Pat Buchanan flirting with running for the Reform Party's presidential nomination.

     -- Getting up close to Miss America. Usually Fox News Sunday has one or two or sometimes three panelists interview a guest with the make-up of the panel changing in each guest segment. Yesterday's show opened with interviews with Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch about the FALN pardons. Host Tony Snow and panelist Mara Liasson of NPR handled the interviewing duties.
     Next, Snow alone handled an interview with Dan Quayle.
Then, to discuss the controversy over the Miss America pageant proposing that those once married or who have had abortions should be qualified, the show brought aboard 1997 Miss America Tara Holland-Christensen. Suddenly, the set grew unusually crowded with the entire FNS team squeezing onto the riser: Holland, plus Snow, Liasson, Brit Hume and Juan Williams.
     I guess she's a bit more appealing to be near than a Congressman or Senator.


faln0920.jpg (9231 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The FBI made available to the media a blurry, black and white surveillance videotape from August 3, 1983 showing two of the Puerto Rican terrorists, released by President Clinton, making a bomb, thus contradicting the claim that none pardoned were directly tied to violence. FNC's Carl Cameron appeared briefly on last Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume and Fox Report to show it as Fox affiliate WFLD in Chicago was the first news outlet to obtain it. Both programs showed it again on Friday and Fox News Sunday played it too.

     Though Tim Russert showed it Sunday during a Meet the Press interview with Congressman Dan Burton, Nightly News skipped it in a pardon-related story aired Friday night and did not play in on Saturday or Sunday night. ABC's This Week featured an interview segment with Congressmen Charles Rangel and Vito Fossella about the clemency and while Fossella and George Will mentioned the video, ABC did not let viewers see it then or on World News Tonight. CNN did not show it on Inside Politics on Thursday or Friday night. (The MRC will post it. See the end of this item.)

     President Clinton's claim of executive privilege to deny congressional committees access to documents related to the pardon decision was showcased on the front pages of Friday's Washington Post and New York Times, but none of the broadcast networks mentioned it Thursday night. ABC and CBS skipped it again Friday night when NBC did run a full story on the controversy.

     NBC's Lisa Myers began: "While eleven Puerto Rican terrorists celebrate their first days of freedom, the President now confronts a firestorm in Congress for refusing to turn over potentially embarrassing documents on how and why he freed them. Today, House Chairman Dan Burton prepares a subpoena, this time for Justice Department officials and documents. So far, the President has given Congress only letters to him urging the terrorists' release, claiming all else is covered by executive privilege."

     After comments from Burton and Hatch, Myers observed: "Constitutional experts say that legally the President is on solid ground, but that claiming executive privilege on this issue is the political equivalent of taking the Fifth. They say it looks bad. Today, a White House spokesman dismisses it all as politics, saying Republicans prefer investigating the President to solving the nation's problems."

     But after a clip of Joe Lockhart, Myers pointed out: "But this time, it's not just Republicans. Democrats are outraged, too. Even faithful allies say Clinton should turn over documents." Viewers then heard Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli demand: "I hope the committee will learn more about his motivation and the process so that it's never repeated."

     Myers noted how "an NBC News poll finds 74 percent disapprove of the President's decision and another poll shows most believe he did it to help his wife's Senate campaign," before concluding: "That makes this one of the few issues that hurts both Clintons and helps Republicans, which means it won't end anytime soon."

     The same night, FNC's Jim Angle showed the FBI video in his piece. Special Report with Brit Hume host Tony Snow set up his story by reporting that "Congressman Dan Burton plans to use the tape next week at a hearing about President Clinton's decision to offer clemency to the two alleged bomb builders and 14 other members of the FALN." Snow added: "Despite that damaging video, the White House insists that building a bomb isn't the same as using one."

     Over the surveillance video Angle explained: "The FBI shot this hidden video of two Puerto Rican nationalists making bombs in a Chicago safe house 16 years ago, and now that grainy footage has become ammunition in a battle between the White House and Congress over the President's grant of clemency to these two and nine other Puerto Rican nationalists."
     After a soundbite from Congressman Howard Coble Angle noted how the White House maintains those who "got clemency don't have blood on their hands." Joe Lockhart asserted: "In this case, they were convicted of very serious crimes, not of maiming or killing, but of serious weapons offenses."
     Angle continued: "The two people in this video, Edwin Cortes and Alejandrina Torres, were convicted of conspiracy to make destructive devices and possession of explosives, among other things. But the President apparently believes that the people who made bombs are different from those who set them off."
     Clinton on September 9: "Because I did not believe they should be held in incarceration, in effect, by guilt by association."

     +++ See a still shot of the FBI video and a RealPlayer clip of Angle's story. Monday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post a portion of the Friday FNC story. But don't count on seeing much. On a 26 inch TV you can barely tell it's two people at a table handling items on it, never mind on a mini RealPlayer size frame. After 10am ET, go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Geraldo Rivera's defense of Clinton's pardon decision, in which he lashed out at "sanctimonious" Senators, disturbed NPR's Mara Liasson and Roll Call's Morton Kondracke, who realized the obvious: "This guy is a total shill for Bill Clinton."

     On last Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC Hume set up a video clip of Rivera at a dinner: "There is someone here who is backing the President on this, and he is a colleague of ours from NBC. And he spoke at a Hispanic gathering here in Washington, and let's listen to what he had to say."
     Rivera: "In an America where so-called conservative politicians can support clemency, or at least more lenient treatment, for anti-abortion violence, or for the IRA, or for Israeli spies, 311 members of Congress voted to condemn the president for doing what we begged him to do....Ninety-three members of the United States Senate, without a single vote in opposition, voted like those members of the House did before them to condemn our president for releasing the Puerto Rican radicals. Where were those same sanctimonious Senate voices when our government treated as royalty such prominent former terrorists as Menachem Begin and Yassir Arafat? Where was their outrage when we reopened relations with Vietnam, a land where the blood of 50,00 of our fellow citizens, many of them from Puerto Rico, still stains the soil?"

     Actually, two Senators voted against the resolution.

     Hume turned to the FNC panel for reaction. Kondracke exclaimed: "Wow. You know, this guy is a total shill for Bill Clinton, and will attack any enemy of Bill Clinton's, no matter what, no matter how transparently flimsy the grounds. I mean, it makes me speechless."

     Liasson jumped in: "There's another issue. I mean, he's an anchorperson, supposedly a journalist, and there he is, a pretty partisan Puerto Rican there giving a speech. I mean, that was what was stunning to me. I mean, I don't know if, that was more impressive than the fact that he's supporting President Clinton."
     Kondracke: "No, this was an anti-, this was an anti-Clinton-critic diatribe, and in defense of Clinton."

     Fred Barnes countered some of Rivera's claims: "I don't know where, Mort, maybe you remember him, I don't know conservatives who are out there saying you have to give a pardon to Jonathan Pollard, or ones who are even out there saying that anti-abortion activists who have committed violent acts should be given clemency. I don't know, maybe there are some conservatives who have been involved in either of those things. I don't know of any."
     Kondracke: "You know, and also you -- if a country elects a Menachem Begin or a Yitzhak Shamir as their president, you got to deal with them, right? It's not as though you -- you approve of what terrorist acts they may have committed way back in the distant past."
     Barnes: "See, I don't remember Geraldo getting all worked up when they, when either of those people came over here."
     Hume wrapped up the September 16 segment: "I don't recall Geraldo as a big, as a big supporter of the Vietnam War either, but anyway, he's a sweet guy personally."

     Maybe, but it's nice to see some fellow journalists taking on the political activism of another.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) CNN's Judy Woodruff suggested George W. Bush's reaction to the Ft. Worth shooting was invalidated by the news that the shooter was mentally ill and USA Today's featured news section columnist used his space Friday to say it's time to "gun down" the Second Amendment.

     -- On Friday's Inside Politics Judy Woodruff asked Charles Zewe live in Ft. Worth: "Given the statements that have been made about the possible mental instability on the part of the perpetrator here, is Governor Bush still talking in terms of a wave of evil across the country, or has his office said anything more?"

     -- Under the headline "It's Time to Gun Down the 2nd Amendment," in his September 17 column across page 14A of the news section of USA Today, Walter Shapiro argued that failing to delete gun rights from the Constitution "condemns all of us to spend our lives cringing in terror every time we hear a car backfire." The former Time magazine writer and speechwriter for President Carter wrote:

....At a time when the House has failed to pass even a paltry measure for child-safety locks and background checks at gun shows, it is tempting to join the chorus demonizing the National Rifle Association. But the real problem transcends the legislative machinations of the NRA. With more than 200 million guns in American homes (that's more than two lethal weapons for every presidential voter in 1996), well-intentioned laws attempting to regulate the domestic arms trade are legislative minimalism.

Stymied on Capitol Hill, a grass-roots movement to pressure Congress is gaining momentum. Organizers of a "Million Mom March" hope to send that many women to Washington next Mother's Day to lobby for handgun registration and more zealous background checks for weapons purchases. But if these crusaders want to move beyond feel-good nostrums, they should wave banners that declare, "Repeal the Second Amendment." What? You can't mess with the Bill of Rights. Weren't the first 10 amendments to our sacred Constitution handed down by the Founding Fathers from Mount Sinai?

Let's face facts. America will continue to have its own versions of the killing fields as long as there are millions of handguns floating around waiting for another psychopath with a grudge. As Bradley said in a thoughtful speech on gun violence in June, "There is no doubt in my mind that the Second Amendment confers rights on individuals to own guns."....

That's the dilemma facing the anti-gun forces. As long as the Second Amendment is enshrined in the Constitution, anti-gun efforts will be limited to the margins. Even though 46% of the public favors banning the sale of handguns in a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, such a sweeping measure wouldn't pass constitutional muster....

But those of us sickened by the never-ending stories of gun massacres have no choice but to bite the bullet on amending the Constitution. Otherwise, every token effort to strengthen gun laws will face the persuasive argument that violence will not really be curbed.

Ever since the demise of the Equal Rights Amendment, liberals have been panicked at the thought of amending the Constitution. Conservatives are the ones who force the biennial congressional votes on outlawing flag-burning and mandating a balanced budget in the Constitution. Repealing the Second Amendment is no cause for the faint-hearted, but it remains the only way for liberals to trigger an honest debate on the future of our bullet-plagued society.

So what if anti-gun advocates have to devote the next 15 or 20 years to the struggle? The cause is worth the political pain. Failing to take bold action condemns all of us to spend our lives cringing in terror every time we hear a car backfire.

     END Excerpt

     To read the entire column, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/elect/ew/ew355.htm

     I bet Shapiro doesn't advocate killing the First Amendment in order to eliminate the constitutional defenses for child pornography.

  -- Brent Baker


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