MS Lost, But Consumers Won; Scandal Avoidance, Except Hillary's VRWC
1) The networks led Monday night with the "sweeping
defeat for Microsoft." CBS touted "consumers" as the winners,
suggesting the ruling will mean "lower prices down the road." Tom
Brokaw scolded Bill Gates for his bad deposition and for not settling.
2) ABC and CBS promoted the move in Massachusetts, in the
words of CBS's Jim Axelrod, to make "an end run around the traditional
gun control debate by making gun safety a consumer product issue."
3) NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer raised the charge of
"kidnapping" against the Miami family taking care of Elian Gonzalez.
4) "There's a decided lack of aggressive pickup on
Clinton administration scandal stories these days," suggested Fox's
Brit Hume to Howard Kurtz. On the e-mail scandal, The Washington Post's John
Harris conceded: "We had not really taken the time to figure out what it
was about...much less explaining it to our readers."
5) Today resurrected Hillary's VRWC, giving air time to the
left-wing authors of a new book, "The Hunting of the President: The Ten
Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton." Matt Lauer wondered
that as "supporters of this President" if "you've connected
some dots that other people might not connect?"
Corrections. A bunch of errors in the Monday,
April 3, CyberAlert kept Webmaster Andy Szul busy correcting them for the
Web-posted version. First, the item on "those impersonating liberal
media figures" by writing April Fools quotes, left out two
contributors: Liz Swasey and Tom Johnson.
Second, an item stated "ABC initially refused to air, on Good Morning
America last week, Elian saying that he does not want to return to
Florida." Obviously, since he's in Florida it's Cuba to which he
said he does not wish to return.
Third, the same item quoted Cal Thomas as suggesting on FNC "that
if he had said he didn't want to go back to Cuba it would have been a
soundbite." That should have read "if he had said he DID want to
go back to Cuba."
three broadcast network evening shows led Monday night with multiple
stories on the federal judge's ruling against Microsoft after CNN, CNBC,
FNC and MSNBC offered live coverage starting at 5pm ET of the
announcement. The ABC, CBS and NBC stories on the ruling leaned heavily in
favor of the government's case as each outlined the judge's
conclusions and then only provided a quick single soundbite from Microsoft
for a response.
Looking at the impact of the decision, ABC stressed
how the fast pace of changes in technology make the issues in the case
less relevant, but CBS News declared consumers the victor. Jerry Bowen
asserted: "So what's in it for consumers if Microsoft is forced to
open the window to greater competition? Maybe, lower prices down the
Taking advantage of its partnership with the news
subject, NBC Nightly News landed the only broadcast network interview of
the night with Bill Gates. (At least on the east coast feeds. Tuesday's
Good Morning America ran an interview with Gates taped the night before
with Charles Gibson.) Sounding like an upset Microsoft stock holder,
Brokaw held Gates accountable for the court's ruling, telling Gates his
deposition went over poorly and that many say he was "stubborn, even
arrogant, not to try to find a way to solve this outside of court."
Here are some notes and quotes from April 3 coverage
of Microsoft on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Filling in for Peter
Jennings, Gibson opened the show:
defeat for Microsoft today. A federal judge ruled the computer software
giant quote, 'maintained its monopoly by anti-competitive means.'
Microsoft stock took a tremendous beating today in anticipation of the
ruling and that triggered a massive sell-off of other technology stocks.
The NASDAQ market suffered its worst single day loss ever..."
"Microsoft lost on almost every point,"
ABC's Bob Woodruff emphasized in summarizing the judge's ruling.
Woodruff did note that the decision will make it easier for other
companies to win suits against Microsoft. Up next, Jack Smith looked at
how "the industry is changing in ways that make the present legal
face-off look less relevant." Specifically, he pointed out how
operating systems are less important in new "smart devices" so
Microsoft is now becoming a supplier of Internet services and software via
-- CBS Evening News.
"It was a major defeat for the software giant," Eric Engberg
announced before reporter Jerry Bowen decided the decision would help
consumers, though it obviously hurt consumers who are also investors.
Bowen began his advocacy of the Justice Department
position: "So what's in it for consumers if Microsoft is forced to
open the window to greater competition? Maybe, lower prices down the
Computer World: "Reductions in price on Windows, reductions in price
on desktop productivity applications like Word, and potentially reductions
in the price of our PCs, as Microsoft maybe drops the price it charges to
Bowen touted the benefits of a non-Windows world
without explaining the role of the court decision in bringing that about
since it was already happening: "And a computer world where Microsoft
Windows isn't the dominant operating system may also be a simpler place,
where consumers can find just the computerized appliance they want,
without all the complicated bells and whistles. Like the hand-held
organizers that don't depend on the Windows operating system, and smart
phones, already here."
Peter Coffee, PC
Week: "Instead of going into a computer store and seeing this ocean
of beige boxes that all look the same and all work the same, you will see
more opportunity for people to buy what they want to do what they
Bowen then undercut his argument about the benefits
of the ruling by acknowledging it may never be enforced: "The real
impact on consumers may not be felt for years, as Microsoft plays out its
appeals. The irony is that by the time the case is over in the slow-moving
justice world, the computer world that Microsoft now dominates may be a
very different place."
"Ultimately by the end of this case, the question of whether
or not Microsoft has a monopoly on operations systems may
be moot, because we'll all be living on the Web."
"The World Wide Web, where every kind of program from word processing
to spread sheets will be available online with the click of a button, a
place where Microsoft will no doubt be a player but no longer run the
In other words, the marketplace will provide plenty
of challenges for Microsoft and make sure consumers get the best choices.
-- NBC Nightly News.
Tom Brokaw declared at the top of the program: "Tonight a federal
judge threw the book at Microsoft, ruling that it blatantly broke the
anti-trust laws of this country in a variety of ways. It was a tough
ruling, spelled out in uncompromising language and sets the stage for an
epic legal and business battle between the software giant and its
billionaire officers, the federal judiciary and 19 states. Microsoft,
which has a business partnership with NBC, vowed to fight on."
Pete Williams outlined the main points in the
"the blistering legal opinion" and how Justice lawyer Joel Klein
called it a "victory for consumers." Bill Gates got a counter
soundbite before Williams ran a clip of a former Justice official
predicting the judge will impose a stiff punishment. Anti-trust lawyer
Matthew Schwartz got an "In His Own Words" segment to discuss
the impact of the "case of the millennium."
After Mike Jensen examined the reasons behind the
big NASDAQ sell off of high-tech stocks, Brokaw interviewed his business
partner, Bill Gates. Brokaw's questions seemed to reflect the concerns
of a Microsoft stock holder disturbed about how the company's approach
to the case may have contributed to the adverse impact on the stock price:
Jackson in his ruling ruled against you on 23 of the 26 points. Many
people are going to be saying you were not only not wise you were merely
stubborn, even arrogant, not to try to find a way to solve this outside of
> "But his
ruling is bound to give others -- the states and other people who want to
file class action suits against you -- a greater foundation. Don't you
expect to be in court for most of your adult life now as a result of this
judge ruled that Microsoft's conduct and quoting here now, 'as a whole
reinforces the conviction that it was predatory, that it would spend
whatever it needed to protect its share of the marketplace.'"
Gates, a lot of people believe your deposition in which you claimed not to
know a lot about the internal workings of Microsoft rankled this judge. As
you look back on your performance during that deposition do you have any
and CBS Monday night trumpeted how Massachusetts Attorney General Tom
Reilly found a way to get around opposition to gun control by using
consumer protection laws to regulate guns. On the April 3 CBS Evening News
Jim Axelrod admired the tactic:
Massachusetts strategy amounts to an end run around the traditional
gun control debate by making gun safety a consumer product
issue like toys, furniture, and clothing. Instead of arguing the Second
Amendment, the state simply said it had as much right to regulate the
safety of real guns as it did toy guns."
Axelrod didn't bother with another point a view,
running soundbites only from Reilly and a gun control advocate.
Over on ABC's World News Tonight Terry Moran
traveled to Boston to tout the new strategy. After outlining how Reilly is
regulating guns just like the state regulates cars, Moran ran through a
list of the rules, including trigger locks, tamper resistant serial
numbers, performance tests, and a warning label on every gun sold urging
the owner to keep it in a locked place. Moran gave lengthy soundbites to
Reilly and John Rosenthal of something called Stop Handgun Violence,
before at least hinting of another point of view in allowing a short
comment from Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America.
Moran concluded by justifying the new liberal
maneuver: "The Massachusetts approach to gun control that begins
today is just the latest example of the new dynamic in the gun debate.
With Congress unable or unwilling to move on gun control issues, the
states and the courts are taking the lead."
Monday morning NBC's Matt Lauer raised that charge against the Miami
family. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that on the April 3 Today
Lauer repeatedly pressed Kendall Coffey, an attorney for the Miami family,
about whether they will turn Elian over to his father if he comes to the
At one point Lauer argued: "But let's go back
here because, he has, the family has temporary custody from the INS. That
was granted so that the boy would be okay in the short term. If the father
comes the INS, you know, wants this young boy returned to the father so
what legal right do they have to keep him from the father? That's
tantamount to kidnapping."
media's reluctance to pursue the White House e-mail scandal was the lead
item in Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes" column in Monday's
Washington Post. After noting how the rest of the media initially failed
to pick up on Washington Times stories, he quoted Fox's Brit Hume
contending: "There's a decided lack of aggressive pickup on Clinton
administration scandal stories these days. This is where unconscious bias
has an effect."
As the story went unreported through late March by
major mainstream outlets, Washington Post reporter John Harris conceded:
"We had not really taken the time to figure out what it was about,
even to our own satisfaction, much less explaining it to our
readers." Kurtz attributed the lack of media interest in pursuing the
story to "Clinton scandal fatigue."
Here's an excerpt from Kurtz's April 3 article,
titled "The Missing E-Mail: Flag for Follow-Up."
On Feb. 15, the Washington Times reported on its front page that
"the White House hid thousands of e-mails" involving various administration scandals from a federal grand
jury and three congressional committees.
Most of the media didn't much care. Over the next several weeks,
newspaper coverage of the e-mail controversy was largely limited
to a few wire-service dispatches. But on March 23, when the Justice
Department announced an investigation, the story got
precious seconds on the major networks, and hit the front page of the next
day's New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington
So is this a full-fledged scandal -- the White House insists the
e-mails were inadvertently misplaced through computer glitches -- or a
minor flap pumped up by a criminal probe?
"Almost every story on this has to say high up there is no
evidence that these e-mails were hidden or concealed on purpose," says Doyle McManus, Washington bureau chief
of the Los Angeles Times. "The key question is whether the White
House or anyone else reacted
appropriately after the fact. You're left in this murky zone of
determining people's motivations.
"This one may turn out to be a big deal. Or it may turn out to be
much ado about nothing."
Jerry Seper, the Washington Times reporter who broke the story, says he
wasn't surprised by the tepid media reaction. "This ain't
the first time it's happened to me," he says. "I've done stories
in the past that were basically ignored until The Washington Post and the
New York Times wrote it, and then it was true."
Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, says that
"there's a decided lack of aggressive pickup on Clinton administration
scandal stories these days. This is where unconscious bias has an effect.
People who organize their lives around a belief in media bias believe that
the closer you get to an election, the more pronounced it becomes."
The impetus for the story clearly came from the conservative side of
the spectrum. The allegations were first made by Sheryl Hall,
former chief of White House computer operations, in an affidavit with
Judicial Watch, the conservative organization that is suing the
administration on a number of fronts....
As the controversy grew, the New York Times ran a staff story on March
14. John Harris, a White House correspondent for The Post, says he was
gearing up for a story, covering a Burton hearing March 23, when news of
the Justice probe broke -- revealing for the first time that not just
incoming e-mails were involved but also those written by Vice President
Gore during the 1996 fund-raising scandal.
"We felt like we were averting our gaze from this story,"
Harris says. "It was obviously out there percolating with unanswered questions. We had not really taken the time
to figure out what it was about, even to our own satisfaction, much less
explaining it to our readers."
Some journalists may be suffering from Clinton scandal fatigue. In the
wake of impeachment, with less than 10 months to go in the President's
term, the prospect of digging again into recycled White House scandals
likely seems less enticing than covering the
But there are certainly questions for reporters to explore. Employees
of a private e-mail contractor have alleged that administration
officials threatened them to keep quiet about the missing records, and the
White House never notified congressional
investigators after learning of the vanished messages in 1998.
Throw in a federal investigation, and the belated press coverage
probably won't subside for a while.
We'll see. I think it already has subsided if ever
really rose in the first place. As Kurtz noted, it only earned
"precious seconds on the major networks." See the March 24 and
31 CyberAlerts. The first House hearing on March 23 and Justice Department
announcement the same day of a probe got 20 seconds on ABC's World News
Tonight, 16 seconds on NBC Nightly News, zilch the next morning on CBS and
NBC while ABC's Good Morning America gave it 17 seconds.
To read all of Kurtz's Monday "Media
Notes" column, go to:
viewers have yet heard a word about the e-mail scandal, but last Friday,
the morning after a House Government Reform Committee hearing with White
House counsel Beth Nolan about the e-mail, an appearance Today ignored,
the NBC show devoted a segment to Hillary Clinton's contention that
there is a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Today co-host Matt Lauer reminded viewers:
"First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on the Today show back in
January of 1998 just after the name Monica Lewinsky had surfaced in the
Paula Jones investigation." After playing the infamous soundbite from
Hillary Clinton in January 1998, Lauer introduced his March 31 guests:
what, two writers took up that challenge and are out with a new book: The
Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and
Hillary Clinton. The authors are Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. Gentlemen,
good to see you. You took up the challenge, you went out looking for that
vast right wing conspiracy. Did you find it?"
Lauer ended the interview by suggesting their
liberalness helped them see the conservative plot: "Do you think it's
possible that being supporters of this President that you've connected
some dots that other people might not connect?"
Before getting to that last inquiry, Lauer allowed
them to elaborate on the "Arkansas Project" and did pose a few
slightly more challenging questions, as taken down by MRC intern Ken
-- "You mentioned the words and it is a word
game. But conspiracy, if you look it up in the dictionary means, 'an
evil, unlawful, treacherous or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by
two or more persons.' In the book you call it a loose cabal which if you
look that up in the dictionary, is very close."
Gene Lyons replied:
"But it's not illegal. We leave out illegal. Although, I think
actually if someone who reads our book carefully could probably make the
case that any number of laws were broken at different times by different
people. But an illegal conspiracy, no. In fact our book begins in the fall
of 1989 with a meeting between Lee Atwater and Arkansas Republicans
discussing a dirty tricks campaign to take out Bill Clinton in the 1990
Arkansas gubernatorial election."
Lauer prompted him:
"Which became known as the Arkansas project?"
"That was an early precursor of the Arkansas Project. The Arkansas
Project became an official effort to get Clinton after he became
President, which was funded by a billionaire in Pittsburgh who was very
conservative named Richard Mellon Scaife and was funded through the
American Spectator magazine. But, but, the idea of an Arkansas Project
began with Atwater back in '89 because they were afraid in the Republican
Party of Bill Clinton's presidential aspirations. They were worried about
him as a candidate."
-- Lauer: "But how much of this is outside the
norm. We have a two party system in this country and when one party is in
power and has the White House, it's pretty standard operating procedure
for the other party to find a way to undermine them. Why was this
scurrilous information was spread, the mainstream media accepted false
allegations and the judicial process was co-opted.
-- Lauer: "So
some people involved -- after reading portions of the book -- some people
involved in this loose cabal it seemed, were merely con men type. Guys out
to make a buck. Which to me, dilutes a little bit the idea that this was
for ideological reasons that they gathered to bring down the President.
Would that be fair?"
-- After soliciting their less than glowing opinion
of Ken Starr, Lauer concluded:
you interviewed hundreds of people for this book. You read an enormous
number of documents. No one's ever accused either one of you of being
great Republicans, okay. Do you think it's possible that being supporters
of this President that you've connected some dots that other people might
How about crediting
Clinton's adversaries with connecting some dots his friends in the media
are unable to connect.
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