Leonardo DiCaprio, ABC News Reporter; ABC Muffled Elian; NBC's George Roche
1) Best line of the weekend: Tony Blankley suggested how Al
Gore could become credible on campaign finance reform.
2) The April 1 Notable Quotables may have seemed all too real,
but be assured they were made up. April Fools.
3) No April Fools joke: ABC News had actor Leonardo DiCaprio,
emcee of an Earth Day celebration, interview Bill Clinton about Earth Day for
an upcoming ABC News special. On Fox Brit Hume chastised: "This is a once
great news division that has completely lost it's way and it is diminishing
almost by the day."
4) ABC initially refused to show Elian Gonzalez saying he did
not want to go to Cuba. ABC relented, but had Diane Sawyer talk over his
comment. On FNC Cal Thomas contended: "If he had said he did want to go
back to Cuba it would have been a soundbite."
5) Friday night Peter Jennings revived the story about
President Bush and the supermarket scanner, a media tale discredited years ago
by Brit Hume.
6) George W. Bush avoided a question last week about the
investigation of Gore campaign manager Tony Coelho, FNC's Carl Cameron
observed. The media are also avoiding it along with other fresh Clinton
scandals, the MRC's Media Reality Check detailed.
7) CyberAlert's seconds-count on the minimal TV time given
to a ruling that Clinton violated the Privacy Act was trumpeted by FNC's
Special Report with Brit Hume and the Fox News newsletter.
8) George Roche meets Jerry Falwell. NBC's Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit aired a plot about a Christian college President who
impregnates his son's wife. One detective: "Think tank for the
neo-conservative movement?" Another: "That's an oxymoron."
>>> MRC gun study highlighted by the
NRA's magazines. The April editions of the American Guardian and the
American Rifleman magazines feature articles by MRC Senior Media Analyst
Geoffrey Dickens summarizing the MRC's gun study, "Outgunned: How
the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate." You can
also read the article by Dickens online, complete with a color photo of
MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell announcing the results alongside Oliver North
at a January press conference. Go to:
line of the weekend. Tony Blankley, columnist and former Press Secretary
to Newt Gingrich, on the McLaughlin Group: "The only way Gore can be
credible on campaign finance reform is to turn himself in."
anyone goes and quotes them as accurate, let me make sure everyone is
aware that all of the quotes in the April 1 edition of Notable Quotables,
which was distributed to the CyberAlert list on Saturday, were made up --
hence the April 1 date on all of them and the April Fools! at the end.
In addition to one I wrote, those
impersonating liberal media figures were MRC staffers Geoffrey Dickens,
Paul Smith, Rich Noyes, Tim Graham, Brad Wilmouth, Liz Swasey and Tom
apparently no April Fools joke, but it sure makes a joke out of ABC News
and has disgusted former ABC News reporter Brit Hume.
"ABC News" had actor Leonardo DiCaprio,
star of Titanic, interview President Bill Clinton on Friday for an April
22 ABC News special on Earth Day, Howard Kurtz reported quite seriously in
the April 1 Washington Post. Chris Cuomo, a 20/20 correspondent and
brother of a Clinton cabinet member, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, will
narrate the show. Contravening any journalistic standards of independence,
DiCaprio got the assignment even though he's Chairman of the Earth Day
2000 celebration committee and will emcee the left-wing political event on
An impassioned Hume lit into his former employer on
Fox News Sunday, but only after Juan Williams got first crack during the
show's roundtable segment. Williams showed it's not only conservatives
who think ABC has gone too far:
unbelievable. At first I thought it might be an April Fools joke. I mean
it seems so ridiculous that they would put him in the position to act as a
journalist and that they would risk their journalistic credibility, not
only with a Hollywood actor and one who's 25 years old, but that they
would risk their credibility with someone who in fact is the head of the
Earth Day celebration here in Washington, therefore has a sizable
commitment to a particular perspective on this issue. I mean I don't
understand, it seems to me that they're out of control."
A flabbergasted Hume asserted: "I worked there
for 23 years and when I read about this I didn't know whether to laugh
or cry or just scream with outrage. This is a once great news division
that has completely lost it's way and it is diminishing almost by the
day before our eyes. And this whole fiasco this week in which they had
Diane Sawyer interview the little boy and then kept off the air the most
newsworthy thing that he said, and then when there was, because of some
principle that they were observing, and then when they was a dust up about
it immediately abandoned that quote 'principle' and put the thing on
the air the next day. These are people who no longer-"
Snow: "And the thing was?"
Hume: "It was
the boy saying he'd like to stay here, something that you don't know
how seriously to take it, but if he said it it's newsworthy, if you do
an interview that's what your looking for -- news. It is a news
division, believe it or not, Leonardo DiCaprio notwithstanding. I mean
this is a group of people who don't know what they're doing. They have
completely lost their way."
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz broke the
DiCaprio news in an April 1 story run on the front page of the Style
section. Though ABC insisted to Kurtz that the show will not reflect
DiCaprio's viewpoint, a White House official told Kurtz that he hopes
DiCaprio "will bring some attention to issues that could use some
more attention in Washington."
Here's an excerpt of the story by Kurtz:
In what can only be described as a journalistic decision of Titanic
proportions, ABC News sent its newest star to interview the President of
the United States yesterday.
His name is Leonardo DiCaprio.
We are not making this up.
In its wisdom, the news division of Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel decided that the heartthrob was the ideal
person to chat up Bill Clinton for an hour-long special on the
"I thought it was an interesting, innovative opportunity for us to
take a very important subject and, with someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, be
able to direct it to a young audience," said Phyllis McGrady,
executive producer of the prime-time program. "It's a little bit of
an experiment. It's a little different for us. That's what's good about
"We thought it was a good opportunity to educate Americans about
the importance of climate change and a host of other issues," said
White House spokesman Jake Siewert. DiCaprio, he said, "will probably
help bring some attention to issues that could use some more attention in
DiCaprio is chairman and emcee of the main Earth Day 2000 event on April 22, a day of activities on the National
Mall here with a four-hour show featuring such luminaries as Melanie
Griffith, Chevy Chase, David Crosby, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen....
The hard-partying 25-year-old star of "Titanic" (huge) and
"The Beach" (a bit of a washout) was "the catalyst"
for the ABC program, his publicist said. "He approached ABC and said,
'I'm willing to be part of something in conjunction with Earth Day if you
devote a serious hour to it,' " said [Ken] Sunshine. McGrady said the
idea grew out of conversations between DiCaprio and his friend Chris Cuomo,
a "20/20" correspondent and son of the former New York governor,
who will anchor the program....
In denying that ABC was attempting a triple pander off the high board,
ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy stressed that the late April special, pegged
to Earth Day, was not a forum for DiCaprio's environmental musings.
"Don't think you'll come away from this hour and all you'll know is
what Leonardo DiCaprio thinks is important about the environment,"
she said. "To prejudge us based on who we're working with is a bit
unfair. I don't think we're uncomfortable with it in any way."....
While ABC chose to dispatch DiCaprio, not Cuomo, to see Clinton, the
network made clear he had plenty of adult supervision. "He went to
the White House with our producers," Murphy said. "It was
completely under the supervision of ABC News."....
How reassuring. And how unfair is it to
"pre-judge" a show when you send the spokesman for the political
cause being examined to conduct your principle interview?
To read the entirety of Kurtz's story, go to:
Leonardo DiCaprio for a couple of hours came after ABC drew widespread
criticism for its suppression of what Elian Gonzalez told Diane Sawyer. As
Brit Hume alluded to in item #3 above, ABC initially refused to air, on
Good Morning America last week, Elian saying that he does not want to
return to Cuba, but soon relented, though muffled his Spanish words under
a translation by Sawyer because ABC News President David Westin didn't
want to have Elian's words used in a political campaign.
AP's David Bauder quoted Westin in a March 29
dispatch: "We believe it would be carried around the country, if not
the world, almost instantaneously as part of a campaign....We've said from
the beginning that we're not going to do this in a political way. We're
not trying to take a position in a highly-charged political atmosphere. We
are simply trying to report Elian's point of view."
Without actually presenting it.
Not letting something said by an interviewee be used
in the political process is a novel concern for a news operation. Indeed,
on FNC's News Watch over the weekend, which airs at 11am Saturday ET and
Sunday at 2pm ET, columnist Cal Thomas suggested ABC wouldn't have had
such a concern if Elian answered differently. Thomas told host Eric Burns:
"I was amused
by Diane Sawyer's comment Eric that she didn't want to inflame the
climate by broadcasting his literal words that he didn't want to go back
to Cuba. I can guarantee you because of the media's coverage, for over
30 years of Fidel Castro's island as a socialist paradise, that if he
had said he did want to go back to Cuba it would have been a soundbite."
As evidence, fellow panelist Jim Pinkerton, a
columnist for Newsday, picked up on a quote cited in the March 29
"If you want a
reminder of how ABC looks at all of this, they were happy to get the
interview because they're competitive and they wanted to elbow out NBC
and that's why the NBC guy was so mad, Peter Jennings on the World News
Tonight show says 'the government met with the family' -- the Elian
Gonzalez family -- 'in Miami and failed to get,' this is a quote,
'failed to get the kind of cooperation from the relatives that might
allow the case of this young boy to end in a civilized manner that is best
for him.' Which is pure, means go back to Castro."
To catch you up on this story, the week before last
Diane Sawyer crawled around on a playroom floor with Elian Gonzalez,
asking him questions for what turned into a March 27-29 three-part Good
Morning America series and a piece on the March 29 20/20.
During the segment shown on the March 28 GMA Sawyer
revealed Elian's choice, but refused to let viewers hear it: "As we
said before, the relatives in Miami say Elian repeatedly insists he does
not want to go back to Cuba. He told us that, too, but in this inflamed
climate, on this inflamed subject, we thought it best not to broadcast the
exact words of a six-year-old child."
But everything else he said was just fine to exploit
for ABC's ratings benefit.
Apparently responding to criticism for suppressing
Elian's answer to this one question, the next day ABC relented, sort of.
As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, on the March 29 GMA Sawyer
"And as we
told everyone yesterday, Elian Gonzalez did tell us when we saw him that
he does not want to go back to Cuba, but we didn't want to broadcast his
words yesterday in a way that might inflame a sensitive situation. We
wanted to make sure that the context was careful, that we never lose sight
of the fact that this is first and foremost a six-year-old child."
Then why do the interview in the first place?
Introducing a piece of her interview, Sawyer
advised: "I'm going to play another clip in which we talk to him a
little bit about his dad and about his not wanting to go back to Cuba, and
again, see if it just says anything about the manner in which the whole
issue should be disposed of."
Getting to the key exchange, she noted: "He
seems happy drawing a picture of his dad, and when I asked if his dad is
big, he says, mischievously, 'gordo,' heavy. And then later, we had this
like it if your dad came to visit here?' we asked. [Elian continues to
play, not answering the question].
ask, 'Elian, if your dad came here, would you like it if he came to
ask. 'Why not?'
'Because he'll take me to Cuba and I don't want to go to Cuba.'
'Would you like it if he stayed here?'
'He can stay here. I don't want to go.'"
In relaying each of Elian's answers, she talked
over his Spanish response.
Introducing the same segment later that day on
20/20, Sawyer cautioned: "The relatives in Miami also say Elian has
repeatedly asked to stay in the United States. He said it to us too. But
we emphasize a six-year-old child has a limited sense of a future."
Peter Jennings revived a made-up media story Friday night, reminding
viewers of how President George Bush was supposedly once baffled by a
Running through a
series of short "On the Money" items, over video of a grocery
scanner, on the March 31 World News Tonight Peter Jennings snidely
everyone, but former President Bush might take note. Self-scanning
check-out systems are catching on at supermarkets. Customers scan and bag
the groceries themselves and then to keep people honest, it checks to see
if the weight of the groceries equals the weight of the items which were
Jennings was alluding to a February 1992 front page
story in the New York Times which portrayed then-President Bush as amazed
during a factory tour by the concept of a grocery scanner. But as Brit
Hume, then still with ABC News, revealed in the January 1993 American
Spectator, that story was "almost wholly untrue." Hume
explained: "Bush's wonder was mostly politeness and the scanner, far
from being ordinary, was a new and different device of which the company
was especially proud."
In fact, the New York
Times reporter who wrote the story had not even accompanied Bush on the
factory tour and drew his anecdote from the pool reporters, an
extraordinary insight Hume thought: "Only the Times drew from that
pool report the picture of Bush as a man awed by a supermarket scanner. It
may be the only time on record where anybody got an exclusive story out of
a pool report. Such is the Times's influence, however, that the story
became part of the legend of a President who just didn't know how things
were out there in the real world."
Carl Cameron highlighted last week how presidential candidate George W.
Bush won't take on the latest of Al Gore's scandals, and as a MRC
Media Reality Check summarized, neither will the broadcast networks. On
the March 29 Special Report with Brit Hume, Cameron observed:
opportunities to blast Al Gore come up, lately the Governor has
side-stepped them, preferring to focus instead, aides say, on issues, and
trying to beef up his policy portfolio. Bush was asked at a news
conference if Gore campaign manager Tony Coehlo should step down or be
given forced leave of absence because of a criminal investigation of non
campaign related activities. Bush left it up to Gore."
Bush: "I would
hope he'd take it seriously because it's a serious issue when
someone's under criminal invest, I didn't meant to say indictment,
As detailed in the
March 28 CyberAlert, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN all skipped the Coelho
investigation, which was revealed in March 23 and 24 print stories, while
CNN mentioned it and FNC ran a full story.
For Thursday's Media Reality Check fax report the
MRC's Tim Graham outlined how the broadcast networks and weekly news
magazines have refused to tell their viewers and readers about Coelho or
three other Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton or Al Gore-related scandals. The
fax report began:
Clinton's post-impeachment press conferences sound more like friendly
bull sessions in the faculty lounge than the dodge-the-beanball
approach of the Reagan years. Yesterday, not a single reporter asked
Clinton about former Justice Department investigator Charles LaBella's
long memo arguing the President and Vice President received preferential
treatment in the DNC fundraising scandal. But it's just a small part of
a continuing scandal blackout among the broadcast networks and news
The other scandals largely avoided: E-mail, Air
Hillary and the judge's ruling that Bill Clinton violated the Privacy
To read the fax
report posted by Webmaster Andy Szul, go to:
the air and via e-mail, Fox News Channel relayed to a much wider audience
an item from the March 30 CyberAlert.
-- On the March 30 Special Report with Brit Hume FNC
used a calculator to add up some numbers presented by CyberAlert. With a
graphic reading "Oblivious Networks," Hume informed viewers:
Research Center says ABC, CBS, and NBC News devoted a total of 66 seconds
to that federal judge's ruling Wednesday that President Clinton had
committed a crime in releasing the famous Kathleen Willey letters. As for
cable outlets, CNN and MSNBC, they gave the ruling a total of 51 seconds.
There was no reaction to the judge's decision from George W. Bush or his
campaign, and at mid-day Wednesday Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said she
didn't even know about it."
-- The March 31 edition of The Balance Sheet, the
Fox News viewer newsletter, featured this article:
A federal judge finds that President Clinton violated the Privacy Act
by releasing Kathleen Willey's personal letters to the press. News? We
thought so. That's why FNC filed full-length reports on Special Report
with Brit Hume and The Fox Report with Shepard Smith. But according to
independent media watchdog Media Research Center, if you didn't hear it on
FNC, you probably didn't hear about it at all. Here's a breakdown of how
much time the networks gave the story Wednesday night*:
ABC's World News Tonight: 19 seconds
CBS Evening News: 29 seconds
CNN's The World Today: 28 seconds
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams: 23 seconds
NBC Nightly News: 18 seconds
FNC: 9 minutes, 18 seconds
*Source for ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and NBC coverage times: Media Research
Center CyberAlert, Thursday, March 30th, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 54).
To read this newsletter online, go to:
producer Dick Wolf has struck again, once more using cartoonish
conservative characters as the evil-doers in one of his growing list of
prime time shows, a plot line which again afforded dialogue to one
detective for some conservative-bashing.
Friday night's episode of NBC's Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit, was clearly based upon the case of Hillsdale College
President George Roche who allegedly had a long-time affair with his
son's wife, leading to her suicide last year. In the Wolf/NBC version,
Roche became a Christian college President and his son's wife met her
demise not by suicide but by murder.
Strongly suggesting NBC and Wolf knew the real-life
connection informed viewers would draw, an on-screen graphic at the top of
the 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT show cautioned: "Although inspired in part
by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict
any actual person or event."
The show revolves around the New York City Police
Department's Special Victims Unit which investigates major sex crimes.
As detailed in the January 18 CyberAlert, the January 14 episode had
liberal actor/activist Richard Belzer as "Detective John Munch,"
assault Newt Gingrich for "being a pedantic megalomaniac who espouses
family values while serving his cancer-stricken wife with divorce
papers." Go to:
Last year, Wolf's Law & Order NBC series, from
which SVU spun off, portrayed a Ken Starr-like independent counsel as a
sex-obsessed character assassin. "Have you no shame?" a star
asked in reminding viewers of McCarthy before denouncing "forty
million dollars worth of misinformation." Go to:
Now to the March 31 episode of Law & Order: SVU.
A woman with semen in her vagina is found strangled to death in New York
City hotel room. The detectives learn that she's "Sylvia
Hadley" and she was in New York with her father-in-law, "Dr.
Benjamin Hadley," and his wife, to attend the "National
Conference of Christian Colleges." Sylvia Hadley is married to
"Benjamin Hadley Jr.," a professor at the fictional Baltimore
college for which she is s fundraiser, just like the real Lissa Roche.
The Hadley name prompts Richard Belzer as
"Detective John Munch" to launch into this polemic in the squad
room: "Not the Benjamin Hadley, more powerful than Pat Robertson,
able to leap a tall Democrat in a single bound? President of 'Midvale
College,' which used to be a podunk nothing, now it's suddenly a think
tank for the neo-conservative movement."
Olivia Benson" chimes in her own insult: "Although that's an
Munch: "I love
you Olivia. 'Family values,' other euphemisms for smug sanctimony:
'study the dead white men,' 'freedom from government.'"
Only writers in Hollywood could be so naive as to
not understand that a conservative Christian college would hardly be a
place for a "neo-conservative" anything.
The detectives initially pursue the case assuming
the crime was committed by a hotel burglar who escalated to robbery/rape
homicide. In the midst of their investigation Dr. Benjamin Hadley holds a
press conference to decry his daughter-in law's murder as "part of
the moral decry of America. At Midvale we still believe in the absolute
truth, that morality and family strength is still important. This sick has
taken a taken a valiant member of our organization, of our family away
from us. We will not rest until the killer is found."
When the detectives learn Sylvia was two months
pregnant they follow the theory that she was having an affair and zero in
on college financial officer
"Brad Weber" who was seen with her in the hotel bar before the
murder. Detective Munch pursues the angle of the college's financial
problems and how the senior Hadley alienated his professors. Munch visits
one now at New York University who had left Midvale. Munch asks: "We
understand Dr. Hadley learned some of his management technique from
Stalin." The professor replies: "On the Origin of Species was
the first to go. The college became something I hated. I fought with
Hadley but I realized to him the curriculum was nothing more than a way to
tap into wealthy conservative donors."
The "DNA evidence" excludes Weber, so the
detectives talk to "Mrs. Hadley," wife of Hadley Senior. She
reveals that her husband has been having an affair for two years with her
son's wife, Sylvia. Detective Benson then realizes a possible motive as
Hadley Senior is "a religious huckster...and he knows that once
he's exposed the money stops."
Hotel elevator video shows that Hadley Junior was
not in Baltimore at the time of the murder as he'd claimed, so the
detectives bring in father and son for a dramatic showdown. They show
Hadley Junior the DNA results which match his father, news that shocks him
and prompts him to confess that he suspected his wife was having an affair
and so confronted her, an encounter that led to a fight in which he
strangled her to death.
The show ends with Mrs. Hadley saying in disgust:
"Fathering his own grandchild."
As of Sunday night Wolf gained another forum for his
political views: DC, a drama on the WB network about twenty-somethings
running the government. One leading character, in the show for which he is
Executive Producer, is a lobbyist for something called "Animals
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