ABC & CBS Avoided Clinton Lie; Gun to Elian "Warmed My Heart"; "Crazy Family"
1) NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely
noted Al Gore's break with Reno on Elian and how liberal Laurence Tribe
called the raid a "direct violation" of "constitutional
rights." Myers and FNC picked up on Bob Graham's charge that Clinton
promised not to act at night.
2) Questioning Joe Lockhart, The
Early Show's Jane Clayson ignored the Graham charge, but Today's Matt
Lauer pressed him about it. On Meet the Press Eric Holder maintained they did
not go in at night: "We waited til five in the morning, just before
3) Thomas Friedman in the New York
Times: "I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S.
marshal...pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering
him...to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart."
4) "Crazy family," the
Chicago Tribune's James Warren belittled the Miami relatives. Newsweek's
Joe Contreras blamed the raid on "the intransigence of the Miami
relatives." Larry King insisted it's "hard to argue" Elian
wouldn't be "safer" in a Havana school.
5) ABC's Jackie Judd had no
problem referring to "abortion rights advocates," but called
"partial-birth" abortion "a term created by abortion
opponents." CBS's Jim Stewart highlighted the cause of a woman in favor
of the procedure, but not any woman opposed.
6) Out of the blue Tuesday, four
weeks after she testified to a House committee, Good Morning America conducted
the first morning show interview with Betty Lambuth about White House e-mail.
General Janet Reno's meeting with Senators and the move of Elian and his
father to the Wye Plantation topped the CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC evening
newscasts while ABC went first with the Supreme Court hearing arguments about
partial-birth abortion (see item #5 today for more).
gained two unlikely allies," NBC's Lisa Myers noted on NBC Nightly News
as she uniquely picked up both on how Al Gore broke with the administration
policy and an op-ed by Laurence Tribe: "The liberal Harvard
constitutional scholar charges that the raid was an illegal search."
At a Tuesday afternoon press
conference Democratic Senator Bob Graham repeated his charge that President
Clinton made a commitment not to seize Elian at night. Lisa Myers highlighted
his charge as did FNC's Brian Wilson on the Fox Report, but ABC, CBS and CNN
all skipped it. On CNN's The World Today Chris Black showed a soundbite from
Graham, but one of him complaining about how the administration did not get
assurances Elian will not be "used as a trophy child for communism"
if he returns to Cuba. CBS's Byron Pitts instead featured a clip of Chris
Dodd demanding the Senate take up gun control.
All the networks reported
how "playmates" from Cuba will soon visit Elian at Wye, but only ABC
and FNC addressed the issue of contact with Cuban officials. ABC's Linda
Douglass relayed how "the Justice Department insists no Cuban government
officials are staying at the farmhouse." But on the Fox Report FNC's
Rita Cosby acknowledged: "The official said no Cuban officials would be
staying there, but they can visit at the request of Elian's father."
Here are highlights of Elian
coverage on the broadcast network evening shows for Tuesday, April 25:
-- ABC's World News
Tonight. With only one story, ABC devoted the least time to Elian. Linda
Douglass reported how U.S. Marshals snuck Elian to new location, "a
refurbished farm house on the Wye Plantation resort in Maryland, where the
late King Hussein of Jordan stayed during Middle East peace talks."
After a clip of Clinton urging the family be given
"space," Douglass asserted: "Though the family may be isolated,
they may not be alone. The State Department will issue visas for eight Cubans,
including four of Elian's classmates who may fly here to stay with them but
the Justice Department insists no Cuban government officials are staying at
Douglass showed a new photo,
of Elian with his father, half brother and his father's wife, which was
credited to "Jessica Campbell-Morrison," whom Douglass labeled a
visitor. The name sounds suspiciously like an offspring from Joan
The Miami relatives
"insist he cannot be happy and say they fear he is being manipulated by
Cuban psychiatrists," Douglass noted in reporting how the relatives have
gone to court to request an order to allow them to see Elian.
-- CBS Evening News. Anchor
John Roberts led by stressing: "To help Elian feel more comfortable, the
State Department promised today to allow some of his friends from Cuba to come
for a visit. Still not welcome though are the boy's Miami relatives."
Byron Pitts noted how the
relatives were again turned away from Andrews as Elian was on his way to Wye.
Picking up on the Capitol Hill meting, Pitts reported Trent Lott announced
hearings for next week as viewers heard Lott demand: "Why did you use
this amount of force at this particular time. Why did it have to be done that
Pitts relayed that
"Republican lawmakers, mostly, believe the Attorney General used
excessive force," but that "Democratic leaders say it's all
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd then got this lengthy
soundbite: "Yesterday five kids were shot in this city. One of them's
on life support right now. We can't get the juvenile justice bill on the
floor of the United States Senate and gun control. I think the American public
might like to see us spend a few weeks trying to pass some legislation."
Pitts found that while Reno
"did not change a single mind on Capitol Hill, she did receive applause
and an endorsement from her boss." After a clip of Clinton urging the
family be left alone, Pits concluded by noting how a cousin and a school
teacher will arrive Wednesday from Cuba.
Next, from Miami Jeffrey
Kofman looked at the Cuban-American "dead city" effort to shut down
Miami and found it a failure with life as usual outside of Little Havana. He
concluded: "The Elian saga showed that Cuban-Americans can no longer
count on support from Washington. The failure of this general strike shows
they can't even count on support from their neighbors."
-- NBC Nightly News. Andrea
Mitchell opened with the Miami relative rebuffed again as Elian traveled to
Wye. After the soundbite of Clinton urging the family be given space, Mitchell
announced: "To help reorient Elian, at his father's request playmates
will be coming from Cuba to visit, says the State Department."
Jamie Rubin, State Dept.: "This is four playmates of
Elian Gonzalez with one adult family member accompanying them for a brief
Mitchell: "The children are packing, will get to stay
for two weeks."
Ricardo Alarcon, Cuban National Assembly President:
"Classmates, playmates, teachers. We never ask for permission to send an
armored division to Washington."
Mitchell wrapped up by
noting how the relatives have asked a court to appoint a guardian for Elian
and that Clinton endorsed Reno's action.
Next, Lisa Myers played
soundbites of Senators Trent Lott and Connie Mack complaining about Reno's
decision as Lott set hearings for next week. Myers uniquely picked up on two
quotes: "And today Republicans gained two unlikely allies. The Vice
President says quote, [on screen with credit to NPR] 'I would have handled
it differently...I would try to bring the family together and, barring that,
to handle it in a family court.' And the liberal Harvard constitutional
scholar [over shot of a New York Times op-ed headlined "Justice Taken Too
Far"] charges that the raid was an illegal search."
Professor Laurence Tribe: "I think it was a direct
violation of the constitutional rights of the family whose home was invaded
and of the child who was forcibly taken."
Myers moved on to Clinton's lie: "Also upset,
Florida Democrat Bob Graham, who insists the President personally promised him
there would be no middle of the night raid."
Senator Bob Graham at press conference: "And I said,
'Mr. President could you commit that this administration would not take this
child at night' and he turned to Mr. Podesta and said 'we can do
Myers: "A White House spokesman says the President
made no such commitment and most Democrats say Reno's use of force was
Following a soundbite from Chris Dodd, Myers concluded:
"And Republican strategists are warning congressional leaders to tread
carefully. They say the country is in no mood for still another investigation
and that any attempt to reap partisan advantage could backfire."
To see Graham originally
make his charge about Clinton, go to the April 24 CyberAlert to watch a
RealPlayer clip of his appearance on Sunday's This Week on ABC:
In his April 25 New York
Times op-ed, the liberal hero Tribe argued:
....Although a federal court had ordered that
Elian not be removed from the country pending a determination of his asylum
petition, and although a court had ruled that the Immigration and
Naturalization Service could exercise custody and control of Elian for the
time being, no judge or neutral magistrate had issued the type of warrant or
other authority needed for the executive branch to break into the home to
seize the child.
The agency had no more right to do so than any
parent who has been awarded custody would have a right to break and enter for
such a purpose. Indeed, the I.N.S. had not even secured a judicial order, as
opposed to a judicially unreviewed administrative one, compelling the Miami
relatives to turn Elian over.
The Justice Department points out that the
agents who stormed the Miami home were armed not only with guns but with a
search warrant. But it was not a warrant to seize the child. Elian was not
lost, and it is a semantic sleight of hand to compare his forcible removal to
the seizure of evidence, which is what a search warrant is for....
New York Times "On the
Web" subscribers can read the whole piece at:
conservative-bashing liberal icon, Alan Dershowitz, made a similar point on
Monday's The Edge on FNC, MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey pointed out
to me. On the April 24 show he explained: "They should have gotten a
court order. They should have sought to hold the family in contempt. And if
the family refused to comply with the court order, then they could have issued
contempt citations and arrested the family. But I have a reason why they
didn't go for a court order. They didn't go for a court order because they
knew they couldn't get one."
probably all too accurately: "They acted lawlessly. They couldn't get one
because the 11th circuit had already turned down their request for a court
order, and the family would have argued that giving the child over to the
father, at this point, would moot the case in the 11th circuit because,
predictably, within a few days, Greg Craig will come out with a hand-scrawled
little note from Elian saying he now withdraws his application for
Bob Graham made his charge on ABC's This Week -- that Bill Clinton made a
commitment to not seize Elian at night -- the network has yet to mention it on
World News Tonight or Good Morning America. Not even his repeating it at a
press conference Tuesday motivated World News Tonight producers. Senator
Connie Mack raised the charge on Tuesday's The Early Show, but CBS's Jane
Clayson soon ended the interview. And the CBS Evening News has also not told
its viewers about Graham's recollection.
NBC's Today, however, did
press White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart about it Tuesday morning in
this April 25 exchange taken down by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:
Matt Lauer: "Let's be
honest here. That it's not only Republicans. There are Democrats who are
concerned as well. Bob Graham said that he was made a promise by President
Clinton. Let's play what he had to say."
Bob Graham on ABC's This Week: "The President of the
United States made that commitment to me that there would be no taking of this
child at night. I felt that my, the promise that had been made to me had been
abrogated. I don't know if the President knew that the decision was being made
by lower echelons within his administration. But it was a clear commitment
which was violated."
Lauer: "He says that commitment was made at a meeting
several weeks ago. What have you found out about that commitment?"
Joe Lockhart: "Well I've talked to the President about
this and it was very clear in that meeting that Senator Graham opposed any
removal of the boy and still does and I believe that, that's a principled
opinion that he has."
Lauer: "What about the President's promise?"
Lockhart: "The President said that we didn't want to
do this. That we didn't want to be forced to do this. But unfortunately we
were and he didn't make a commitment that we wouldn't go in and remove."
Lauer: "He didn't tell Senator Graham we will not take
this boy out of the house in the middle of the night?"
Lockhart: "He did not make a commitment."
Lauer: "Okay so we are not splitting hairs here about
middle of night or early predawn raid?"
Lockhart: "No we're not splitting hairs but I'll tell
you there is a difference between Senator Graham and some of the Republican
leaders that have come out. I have no doubt that he firmly opposes this as the
senator from Florida he has every right to do that."
What might have raised even
Lauer's suspicion about the definition of "night"? Well, darkness
at 4:45am which he called 5am isn't night to Deputy Attorney General Eric
Holder. On Sunday's Meet the Press Tim Russert played a clip of an exchange
with Holder from a two weeks earlier:
Russert, April 9: "You wouldn't send a SWAT team in
the dark of night to kidnap the child, in effect?"
Holder: "No, we don't expect anything like that to
happen. We will do what is necessary to reunite father and son, however."
Back on the April 23 show,
Russert asked: "Why such a dramatic change in position?
Holder replied: "I'm not sure I'd call it a
dramatic change. We waited till five in the morning, just before dawn..."
Oral sex isn't sex and now
nighttime darkness before dawn isn't night.
Tuesday morning CBS's Jane
Clayson also interviewed Lockhart but failed to bring up Graham in the Early
Show interview. Next up, she quizzed Graham's Florida Senate colleague
Connie Mack. After asking if he will still push for hearings given how the
public opposes them, she contended: "Some people accuse you, Senator, of
using Elian as a political pawn. Wouldn't you lose political support,
especially in Florida, if you held any other position in this case?"
Mack answered, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Well Jane, look, I'm not running
for re-election. I mean, if that were my motive then why would I be doing
it?....I think that in a sense it is the reaction of this Administration,
whenever you disagree with them on policy to charge you with politics. I would
ask them to ask this question: Do they believe that Senator Bob Graham, a
Democrat from Florida who said that the President broke his promise to him
about the use of force, is Aaron Podhurst the attorney in Miami playing
politics? Is the President of the University of Miami playing politics when
they said it was this government that was not negotiating in good faith. I
think when you've got those kinds of questions then I think we should
seriously pursue questions about why force was."
But CBS ran out of time to
pursue the Graham charge, as Clayson wrapped up: "Alright, Senator Connie
Mack of Florida. Senator, thank you."
for President," proclaimed the headline over an April 25 New York Times
column by former reporter Thomas Friedman, a frequent analyst on PBS's
Washington Week in Review. He boasted about how the photo of the INS agent
with his gun aimed at Elian and the fisherman "warmed my heart"
because it showcased "the rule of law." In the piece to which the
MRC's Tim Graham alerted me, Friedman found the photos of Elian and his
father to be genuine but the video made by the relatives to be something
"you can fake."
Here's an excerpt of his
April 25 column:
Frankly, I liked both pictures.
Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture
of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato
Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over
Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart. They should put that picture up in every visa
line in every U.S. consulate around the world, with a caption that reads:
"America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture
illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our
government and people will go to preserve it. Come all ye who understand
And I was also warmed by the picture of Elian
back in his father's arms. Some things you can fake -- like a 6-year-old
wagging his finger on a homemade video and telling his father to go back to
Cuba without him -- and some things you can't fake. That picture of Elian and
his father illustrated the very parent-child bond that our law was written to
Hats off to Janet Reno for understanding that
the Elian Gonzalez case was about both of these pictures: the well-being of a
child and the well-being of our Constitution, on which all good things in our
society rest. But hats off twice to Ms. Reno for understanding that these two
noble virtues are not equal. The fear of causing some trauma to Elian by
rescuing him could never outweigh the need to uphold the rule of law.
One only hopes that this affair will remind the
extremists among the Miami Cubans that they are not living in their own
private country, that they cannot do whatever they please and that they may
hate Fidel Castro more than they love the U.S. Constitution -- but that
doesn't apply to the rest of us....
New York Times "On the
Web" subscribers can read all of it at:
Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren denigrated the Miami Gonzalez's
as a "crazy family," Newsweek's Miami reporter Joe Contreras
blamed the raid on "the intransigence of the Miami relatives," and
Larry King went too far for even Tipper Gore when he maintained it would be
"hard to argue with" Juan Miguel Gonzalez's claim that "his
boy's safer in a school in Havana than in a school in Miami."
Three noteworthy quotes from
last week and earlier this week:
-- The Washington Post's
Howard Kurtz concluded an April 24 story by quoting Chicago Tribune Washington
Bureau Chief James Warren, a familiar reporter to McLaughlin Group watchers,
relaying his assessment of the news value of the relatives in DC on Sunday:
"'I'm not going to pitch [for Page 1] the crazy
family running around here all day and bitching on television, but it's going
to be all over CNN and MSNBC and Fox,' Warren says. 'The soap opera will
continue. It's good and cheap television.'"
-- Watching Saturday
night's special edition of MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, MRC
analyst Paul Smith caught this exchange between the anchor of the same name
and Newsweek Miami reporter Joe Contreras.
Brian Williams: "As you look back on this day, if
context is possible, at this hour, after all of these events, what emerges as
the headline to you?"
Joe Contreras: "To me ultimately the context is the
intransigence of the Miami relatives and their refusal to comply with the
valid federal government order brought all this about. If they had been
willing to hand the boy over voluntarily and deliver him to a Miami area
general aviation airport all of this would not have to come to pass..."
Williams: "So to those who say that there is a story
here in the uh, lets say in the way the feds went about it, the expression
heavy-handedness has been used today. Do you dispute that?"
Contreras: "I am not a law enforcement professional
but my sense is that if they had not gone in with an overwhelming display of
force, the entire operation would have become very complicated and let us
remember that they had given the Miami relatives nine full days to comply with
a federal immigration order that had been issued on or about April 13. So
heavy-handed it may so seem, no one was hurt. A few doors may have been busted
but I think they had little choice in the matter."
As for who was violating the
law, Contreras should consult Laurence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz. See their
analysis as cited at the end of item #1 above.
-- The MRC's Rich Noyes
alerted me to this insightful question from Larry King which MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth tracked down. It's from CNN's Larry King Live on April 20 with Al
and Tipper Gore as King's guests:
Larry King: "Tipper,
one of the things that Elian Gonzalez's father said that I guess would be hard
to argue with, that his boy's safer in a school in Havana than in a school in
Miami. He would not be shot in a school in Havana. Good point?"
Tipper Gore: "Well, I think that's a, that's a bit of
a harsh point, particularly right now when our country is still dealing with
the effects of school violence. I think that it's important that we all
recognize that schools are actually safer than they were...."
didn't want to use the term "partial-birth abortion," but Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia did employ it, prompting ABC reporter Jackie Judd
to call it "a term created by abortion opponents and not used by
doctors." She spent her entire story, on the Supreme Court hearing
arguments about a Nebraska law banning the procedure of whatever name,
referring without caveat to "abortion rights advocates." CBS's Jim
Stewart offered a graphic description of the procedure and highlighted the
cause of a woman who "became an abortion rights activist in 1997 after
undergoing the procedure when she discovered her fetus had no brain," but
offered no equal time for a woman on the other side.
In his daily e-mail message
on Tuesday plugging World News Tonight, forwarded to me by the MRC's Rich
Noyes, Peter Jennings assuringly noted: "We try very hard to avoid the
politically loaded terminology sometimes adopted by opposing sides in various
debates." He then previewed the show: "Today is a good example of a
newsroom debate about language. The subject under discussion in the Supreme
Court was what phrase should be used: 'partial birth' abortion, 'second
trimester' abortion, 'late term' abortion or simply 'dilation and
extraction'? In the past, we have settled for'later term' abortion,
while pointing out that critics of the procedure use 'partial birth'
Jennings, however, adopted
the language of the other side: "There were few indications today that
any of the justices had shifted their positions on the abortion question --
the court remains narrowly in favor of abortion rights."
Now to ABC's actual April
25 World News Tonight story. Jennings opened the show:
"Good evening. For the first time in eight years
there's been a full scale debate at the Supreme Court about abortion. It's
a case which began in Nebraska when the state made illegal a specific kind of
abortion often used late in a woman's pregnancy, but abortion rights
advocates joined by the Clinton administration, argue that the law is
unconstitutional and that Nebraska's elected officials are really trying to
undermine the court's landmark decision which entitles a woman to have an
abortion if she chooses."
Jackie Judd began by showing
protesters from both sides, including those for "abortion rights,"
before she reported how the law forbids "'partially delivering...a
living unborn child before killing the unborn child.'" After a
soundbite from Dave Maurstad, Lt. Governor of Nebraska, Judd related:
"In the courtroom today passions ran high. Justice
Antonin Scalia described the 'horror of a live human creature outside the
womb dismembered.' He challenged the lawyer opposing the law to admit this
was a 'partial-birth abortion,' a term created by abortion opponents and
not used by doctors."
Judd noted how some justices
were concerned about a lack of an exception for the mother's health or how
the language was too vague and could prevent all abortions after the third
month. Judd elaborated: "Abortion rights advocates believe that is
exactly the point of the Nebraska law, to slowly eliminate abortion as a
On the CBS Evening News Jim
Stewart noted there are 1.4 million abortions a year with 130,000 coming late
in pregnancy: "Opponents call them partial-birth abortions. A surgical
procedure in which a doctor withdraws the feet and lower body of the fetus
before puncturing the skull, allowing the rest of the fetus to be pulled
Stewart continued: "Justice Antonin Scalia referred to
the 'horror' of the procedure while Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wondered
is 'there no exception for the health of the woman?' Maureen Britell had
the same question. She became an abortion rights activist in 1997 after
undergoing the procedure when she discovered her fetus had no brain."
Maureen Britell, National Abortion Federation: "I
think that women throughout their pregnancy and throughout their lives, their
medical decisions should be made with their physicians, not their
Instead of finding a woman horrified at the procedure,
Stewart decided her point is backed by those on the right to life side: "Britell
and others fear that if the procedure is overturned it will chip away at a
woman's overall right to an abortion first granted by the Supreme Court 27
years ago and opponents don't argue."
James Bopp, National Right to Life Committee: "It
would correctly draw into question, not only their previous holdings, but the
whole abortion jurisprudence."
amazing event Tuesday morning: E-mail scandal addressed by ABC's Good
Morning America. Back on March 24 when Betty Lambuth appeared before the House
Government Reform Committee, NBC's Today and CBS's The Early Show ignored
the hearing as did ABC's GMA which gave 17 seconds to the Justice Department
launching a probe.
But four-and-a-half weeks
later GMA became the first morning show to tell her story, MRC analyst Jessica
Anderson observed. Jack Ford introduced his April 25 segment with her and
Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman:
"This morning a key witness is coming forward in the
White House e-mail matter. The Justice Department has launched a criminal
investigation into whether the White House illegally withheld e-mail messages
from previous investigators, including Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Specifically, the question is whether the White House intentionally failed to
fix a computer glitch that prevented e-mail from being saved as required by
law. Now Betty Lambuth, who used to help run and maintain the White House
computer system, says that she was threatened with arrest by administration
officials unless she kept quiet about that computer problem. I spoke with her
and her lawyer just a few moments ago."
Amongst his questions:
-- "Ms. Lambuth, tell us if you would, in simple
layperson's terms, what exactly was the problem with the computer system and
how did it interfere with the ability to retrieve these e-mails that were
-- "Now you claim that when you brought it to the
attention of administration officials, that you were threatened by them. Who
threatened you and what did they say?"
-- "Now the White House response has been that no one
ever threatened you, but the White House was concerned about the information
not getting out to the public, that there were problems with the computer
system. Is it possible that this might be one of those situations where you
and Mr. Lindsay are remembering the same conversation, but in different
-- "But there was no doubt in your mind, as you walked
out of that meeting with Mr. Lindsay, that you had just been threatened? That
if you disclosed the problem with the computers, that you would be fired, and
also subjected, possibly, to jail time?"
Once again, no room for
Leonardo and Bill. Will try again to get that into the next CyberAlert. --
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