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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday March 27, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 51) |


E-Mail Bounced by Nets; ABC's Clinton Retraction; Shriver's Edelman Glorification

1) Not a word Friday morning on CBS or NBC about e-mail. ABC's GMA gave it 17 seconds. CBS's Bob Schieffer didn't ask Henry Waxman about it and a federal judge is dubious about the Justice probe.

2) Peter Jennings retracted an ABC story about how much Clinton's sightseeing cost taxpayers: "Mr. Clinton has spent the great bulk of his time trying to...reduce the danger in the region of nuclear war. And his efforts have been very well received." Really?

3) Maria Shriver abused her role as Today co-host to boost a liberal friend. She promoted the "incredible" Marian Wright Edelman's liberal crusade for government action on kids and guns.

4) GMA gave a platform to the organizer of the anti-gun Million Mom March: "You say you got the idea of doing this on Mother's Day because of a story you heard once about mothers uniting during the Civil War. Tell me about that."

5) ABC's Jack Ford repeatedly pressed John McCain about another bid in 2004 and questioned how he could support Bush, who "some have said...has mortgaged the soul of the Republican Party to the, the right wing conservatives."

6) The latest MediaNomics: "TV Reporters Ignore Gore Gaffe on Economy," on how the networks have failed to correct Gore's false claim about a Bush-era depression; and "Networks Add Fuel to the Furor Over High Gas Prices," on how gas prices are not high.

7) On the McLaughlin Group Tony Blankley noted how the broadcast networks refused to inform viewers of McCain's attack on Gore.

     >>> Sunday night, actually Monday morning in the east, American Beauty won the Academy Award for the "Best Picture." Check out MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's take on the film. To read his Creator's Syndicate column on the liberal movie, descriptively titled "American Beauty: A Moral Inversion," go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/bozellcolumns/entertainmentcolumns/col20000321.asp <<<


No White House e-mail scandal story in the morning on CBS or NBC and a piddling 17 seconds on ABC. Two Sunday interview shows briefly raised the topic, but CBS's Face the Nation missed an opportunity to question the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee which had held a hearing on the subject on Thursday.

    That hearing featured White House computer contractors and supervisors and the same day the Justice Department announced a probe of the matter, but two of the three broadcast network morning shows on Friday skipped the story despite top of the front page play in the Washington Post and New York Times.

    NBC's Today, instead, dedicated a hunk of time to the fifth installment of Katie Couric's week-long interview with the Ramsey's as well as a promotional interview conducted by substitute co-host Maria Shriver with Marian Wright Edelman. CBS's The Early Show ran a full story during the 8am news update about the controversy over the House chaplain. (See item #3 for more on this interview.)

    MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth timed this brief item read by Antonio Mora, during the 7:30am news update, at 17 seconds:
    "The Justice Department is investigating whether subpoenaed e-mail missing from White House computers was hidden intentionally. The White House blames human error and a computer glitch. Republicans charge the messages were concealed because they deal with fundraising by Vice President Gore and other matters under investigation."

    Sunday morning ABC's This Week broadcast from Jerusalem and held its roundtable to the Middle East peace process and the Pope's visit. CBS's Face the Nation brought aboard Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Reform Committee, but not to discuss e-mail. Host Bob Schieffer only asked him about his efforts to have Congress give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco.

    On NBC's Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert posed one question about e-mail to guest Trent Lott. Fox News Sunday's roundtable opened with a discussion about the e-mail after moderator Tony Snow had earlier in the show asked Speaker Dennis Hastert about it. Hastert suggested the Justice probe may be aimed at bottling up the matter until after the election

    Hastert's concern matches that of federal judge Royce Lamberth, as relayed in a front page story in Saturday's Washington Times by Jerry Seper. He began his March 25 story:
    "A federal judge yesterday ordered the Justice Department's campaign finance task force to tell him in person why he should delay a pending 4-year-old 'Filegate' lawsuit while the department investigates missing White House e-mail.
    "U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who questioned the administration's 'track record' in conducting investigations of various White House scandals, ordered Justice Department officials to meet with him behind closed doors Thursday to discuss a pending government motion in the matter.
    "Judge Lamberth said prior investigations turned out to be 'bogus' and told Justice Department lawyer James Gilligan, who represents the Executive Office of the President, that he faces 'an uphill battle' to convince him the delay is necessary...."

    The front page of Saturday's Washington Post featured a time line summary of events in the e-mail scandal, including how technicians kept alerting higher-ups to the problem but no action was taken and the extent to which Al Gore's e-mail was never archived. Here's an excerpt from the March 25 story, "A Glitch Grows Into A Scandal: E-Mail Problem May Dog Gore," by John F. Harris and Ruth Marcus:

How odd, White House computer technician Daniel "Tony" Barry recalled thinking to himself. In January 1998, he was told to scour the database for e-mails concerning a former intern named Monica S. Lewinsky.

While searching for documents that had been subpoenaed, Barry came across a particular batch of correspondence that seemed to qualify -- an apparent exchange of missives between Lewinsky and her friend Ashley Raines, a White House employee. The curious thing was that the White House computer archive had saved only one side of what plainly was a back-and-forth conversation. For some reason, only the e-mails coming from the White House -- not those entering the White House system from outside -- were archived....

As has come to light in recent days, programming errors in two different computer systems have produced two sets of missing documents. On the Executive Office of the President computer, incoming e-mail for 500 White House officials, including top aides to the President, was not properly recorded in a computer archive. The glitch meant that e-mails were missing for a 33-month period that could have included material relevant to 1996 fundraising abuses and the Lewinsky scandal.

On Gore's computer system, White House lawyers say they discovered last week, neither internal e-mails nor those coming from outside were properly recorded for Gore and some aides from 1994 onward. That means, potentially, that large numbers of e-mails produced by Gore or senior aides were never reviewed to see if they contained material relevant to congressional and Justice Department inquiries into campaign fundraising. The problem involves a White House archiving system, known as ARMS (Automated Records Management System) set up in 1994 to comply with the legal requirement that White House e-mails -- like other documents -- be preserved for historical purposes. But in the age of scandal, the system has become as much a document production tool to respond to investigators' subpoenas as it has a resource for future historians.

It was in conducting a search in response to one of those subpoenas that Barry first stumbled on problems with ARMS. The fact that the system had only picked up part of the relevant e-mails was dismissed as a computer "hiccup," as White House counsel Beth Nolan described it in a statement.

Six months later, in June 1998, Northrop Grumman Corp. employee Yiman Salim, assigned to a team managing the White House computers, was the first to discover that the hiccup was a symptom of a major programming error. Incoming e-mail messages were not being scanned by the system because uppercase rather than lowercase letters were used in part of the computer code: MAIL2 instead of Mail2....

At Burton's hearing Thursday, several employees of Northrop Grumman, which managed the e-mail recording system, said White House officials Laura Crabtree Callahan and Mark Lindsay told them, in what they perceived as threatening terms, that they were not to discuss the computer problems with anyone. Callahan and Lindsay denied making threats, though Callahan said she told the workers "this was a situation we needed to be careful of, because it was sensitive."

But the error persisted. Documents released by Burton's committee depict Barry's growing anxiety about the matter. "I am growing increasingly concerned about the seeming lack of movement on the Mail2 problem," Barry wrote in a September 1998 memo. "Do you know where the holdup is? We have known about this problem for four months now and not a single record has been passed to ARMS." Two weeks later, Barry again wrote that he had heard nothing. "I need to know, for my own sanity, exactly what my role in this project should be."....

However knowledgeable the White House was about other computer problems, officials say it was not until late last week that they realized even more serious complications with e-mail from the Vice President's office. For Gore, a computer-savvy politician who has boasted of his involvement in the early stages of the Internet and is an avid user of e-mail, the matter has perhaps the most ominous political implications.

That is because the missing e-mails involving Gore and some 20-plus members of his staff include not only incoming missives -- as is the case with the Clinton office -- but also messages written by Gore and his staff....

The problem has its roots in the Gore staff's conclusion, early in the administration, that its computers were inadequate and that they should set up their own separate system. When the archiving system was set up to archive and retrieve White House e-mails, existing vice-presidential office e-mail accounts -- including Gore's -- were not subjected to the new recording system because, according to the White House account, computer technicians believed that replacing old e-mail accounts with new ones might cause a disruption in service.

As a result, when Gore's office was deluged with Justice Department and congressional subpoenas for fundraising information after the 1996 campaign, the archiving system did not find any documents. According to Nolan, Gore's lawyers believed that vice-presidential office e-mail was being archived. "Quite plainly, this understanding was not correct."

Again, however, some of the documents show that at the very least technicians at the White House knew of the problem. A September 1998 memo from Barry said that, while the archiving system contained a "records bucket" for the vice president's office, only mail that had crossed over into the main White House system was being retrieved....

    END Excerpt


The White House called and ABC News jumped. On Friday's World News Tonight, which he anchored from Jerusalem, Peter Jennings made this unusual concession:
    "We need to clarify something that was said on the broadcast last night. As you know, we're mostly on the road this week, first in India and now in the Middle East. Last night we reported from Washington on the expense of the President's trip to India and the drain on Air Force assets. The White House takes issue with our characterization that the President has 'spent days of protected sightseeing' in India. Those were the words. The White House makes a good point. Mr. Clinton has spent the great bulk of his time trying to improve U.S.-India relations and reduce the danger in the region of nuclear war. And his efforts have been very well received."

    Jennings was referring to a March 23 story by John McWethy about how the trip cost $50 million, mostly for the use of 77 Air Force transport planes, though the words Jennings repeated were from anchor Kevin Newman's introduction.

    As for Clinton's efforts being "very well received," compare that assertion to the first sentence of a March 22 Washington Post story from New Delhi: "India rejected President Clinton's calls for further curbs in its nuclear program today in the main round of high-level talks during Clinton's four-day visit here."


Substitute Today co-host Maria Shriver cheered on the liberal crusade of Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, whom she dubbed "incredible." On Friday's show Shriver eagerly relayed Edelman's statistics without any skepticism, urged Edelman to criticize Clinton from the left and prompted her to tell viewers how they can assist her crusade.

    Plugging the March 24 appearance, Shriver gushed to co-host Matt Lauer:
    "Also Matt, the Children's Defense Fund will release its annual report today. And the figures in it are shocking and disturbing. They say one in five American children live in poverty. 13.5 million kids in this country are poor. Marian Wright Edelman, the incredible head of that organization will be here to tell us today what can be done about it. And she firmly believes that mothers, in particular, across the country can get involved in this fight and should get involved because everybody's children are all of our children."

    If you haven't puked yet, there's more as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

    Shriver started the subsequent interview by repeating Edelman's claim about 13.5 million kids in poverty and how 74 percent live in working families, proclaiming: "These statistics were shocking to me, disturbing. One out of every five, thirteen and a half million poor children. But perhaps most troubling was that you said that you don't think people care about the issue."

    Edelman blamed prosperous times, which prompted Shriver to fret: "What's the answer to that? You were telling me before we went on that we need a movement in this country but people don't seem to be focused on it."

    Shriver's next question: "You talk about this is the prosperous time. And this administration talks constantly about the booming economy and their record on the economy. Has this administration let down the children of America?"
    Edelman: "I think they have not led. They've got an enormous opportunity to end child poverty now that welfare is off the table. This administration ought to insure every one of those children health care. Ought to insure that we end child poverty, not just welfare that adequate child care has gotten this year. And that every child gets a head start. We've got the capacity if our President and Congress and Governors would lead."

    Shriver soon expanded her promotion of Edelman's liberal agenda: "You also call in this report. It's a call to arms really for America's mothers to get involved in the gun debate. Silence the NRA. Get involved. You say it is all of our fights!"
    Edelman naturally agreed: "It is all of our fights that a child is killed by guns every two hours. It cuts across race and class. Our children are not safe. And until the mothers and the grandmothers and other women stand up and say we will not stand for the killing children! And we're gonna protect children over guns. Will we begin to not let the NRA be in charge of our nation's policies on guns?"
    Shriver: "What about dads?"
    Edelman: "Dads should be involved. Everybody should be involved. But no, I think mothers who bear and nurture children and who have that extra responsibility have got to say, 'Just enough! We will no longer look on the killing of our children.'"
    Shriver worried: "You have been in this fight for a long time. Out there on the front lines talking about it. Do you find a more receptive audience today? Do you feel that you're talking to deaf ears?"

    As if she hadn't already done enough to promote Edelman's cause, Shiver last asked: "Very quickly, someone's watching this interview right now wants to get involved, wants to do, what do they do?"

    You don't really appreciate Katie Couric until she's replaced by such a ding-dong who is probably clueless about her bias. Doesn't everyone love Uncle Ted and Marian?

    ++ Since this is such an idolizing interview that really should embarrass anyone with respect for journalism inside NBC News, Monday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of it. Go to: http://archive.mrc.org


NRA representatives get grilled on the morning shows (see the March 21 CyberAlert for a recent example), but those who wrap their liberal political agenda in motherhood and apple pie get a free ride. Just check out how ABC's Good Morning America last Thursday treated the organizer of the upcoming anti-gun Million Mom March set for Mother's Day.

    GMA substitute co-host Elizabeth Vargas provided a long advertisement for the march in the guise of an interview, observed MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth. Vargas introduced the March 23 segment:
    "On the heels of yet another shooting rampage at a Texas church last night, we have a woman with us this morning, a typical mom you might say, who has made it her mission to stop the bloodshed. You remember the Million Man March? Well, this woman is the organizer of the Million Mom March against gun violence, and it is scheduled for Mother's Day May 14th. Joining us now is Donna Dees-Thomases. Donna, good morning. Good to have you here. You actually got the idea for this march, you say, by watching the television coverage of a shooting at a Los Angeles daycare center. Tell me about that."

    The other "questions" posed by Vargas:
    -- "Within a week of watching this television coverage, you had, in fact, set up a Web site, recruited friends, and applied for a marching permit. Why a march?"
    -- "You're calling it the Million Mom March. Is it limited just to moms?"
    -- "Now you are not arguing for a ban on handguns. In fact, you are actually arguing for a very moderate sort of control, greater control of handguns currently out there, correct? Can you outline what it is you're arguing for?"
    -- "Have you actually thought out specific, for example, waiting times, cooling off periods, and that sort of thing, or are you just leaving that up to Congress, so to speak?"
    -- "Gun control is such a notoriously profoundly contentious issue in Congress and across the country. What do you realistically hope to accomplish?"
    -- "You speak of the gun lobby. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association said, quote, 'The President and Vice President have a strategy here. The pollsters and consultants are telling them scare suburban women on this issue.' Do you feel manipulated?"
    -- "You have actually taken great pains with this march not to politicize it. I understand you've been telling some candidates for different offices, perhaps even Hillary Clinton, that we'd like your support but from the sidelines, thank you, we don't wanna politicize this."
    -- "One last question. You say you got the idea of doing this on Mother's Day because of a story you heard once about mothers uniting during the Civil War. Tell me about that."


ABC's Jack Ford used an interview with John McCain to portray George W. Bush as some sort of extremist, noting how "some have said he has mortgaged the soul of the Republican Party to the, the right wing conservatives." And Ford wondered about a possible return of the Straight Talk Express in 2004.

    Ford opened the taped interview, shown on the March 24 Good Morning America, by raising a strategic error: "As observers are now looking back at your campaign and analyzing it, many are pointing to the speech you gave prior to the Virginia primary where you criticized Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and they're saying that was a serious mistake that hurt you badly among regular Republican voters. As you look back at it, do you think now that that was a mistake?"

    After asking "Why have you not come out and forcefully endorsed Governor Bush?", Ford wondered how McCain could possibly back someone as right-wing as Bush: "Governor Bush does not support your, your signature campaign reform proposals. Governor Bush has proposed much more significant tax cuts than you feel are appropriate. He ran a campaign that you were not happy with. Some have said he has mortgaged the soul of the Republican Party to the, the right wing conservatives. If all of that is true, how then could you step forward and embrace him and support him?"

    Ford soon revealed his hope: "You have said a number of times you had no interest in running for the vice presidency. Are there any circumstances that would cause you to reconsider that position?"

    Ford pressed: "In the year 2004, will we see John McCain yet again as a presidential candidate?" McCain said it's hard to plan that far ahead, which prompted Ford to yearn: "Possibility though?"


The March 24 MediaNomics, a report from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP), is now online. The articles researched and written by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

    -- TV Reporters Ignore Gore Gaffe on Economy. TV reporters usually love to publicize any gaffes made by presidents or presidential candidates. In Houston on March 11, Vice President Al Gore incorrectly stated that the Bush-Quayle administration's economic record included "the worst depression since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s," but there hasn't been a single word of criticism from any of the networks.

    -- Networks Add Fuel to the Furor Over High Gas Prices. Gasoline prices have risen by more than 20 cents per gallon this year, and many network reporters have responded by calling the price increases a "crisis" for the American economy. But sensational TV coverage has obscured the fact that gas prices have merely returned to a level consistent with historical averages, and that prices have been trending lower for most of the past 80 years.

    To read these stories, go to:

    Two weeks ago, in plugging the last issue of MediaNomics, I suggested those interested in this type of analysis of economic reporting sign-up for e-mail notifications about the latest articles and studies from FMP. That spurred about 80 sign-ups. Those who didn't sign-up before still can help to again fill the in-box. Send a message to: mrc@mediaresearch.org.


Another update for the "You Read It Here First" file: On McLaughlin Group over the weekend Tony Blankley noted John McCain's attack on Al Gore over campaign finance reform, then pointed out: "The networks, broadcast news networks, didn't cover his attack on Gore which certainly was newsworthy."

    For details about the lack of coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC of the McCain comments highlighted by CNN and FNC, go to the March 22 CyberAlert. -- Brent Baker


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