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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday May 25, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 91) |

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Tripp Trumped; Corroboration for Freeh Skipped; Erbe: Expect "Conservatives to Lie"

1) Case against Linda Tripp dropped by Maryland prosecutor, but neither ABC or CBS mentioned the development Wednesday night. CNN and NBC gave it a few seconds.

2) CBS's John Roberts labeled as "best intentions" the quest to eliminate soft money and on the United purchase of US Airways, ABC took a nice shot at United's bad service: "United currently ranks among the worst carriers in every category."

3) Pressure on Janet Reno to drop fundraising corroborated, but only FNC cared. Brit Hume: "What had been a top Justice Department official's word against that of a top FBI official became the top Justice man's word against that of two FBI men."

4) After asserting that older women don't need a gun because they won't be raped, a comment which led Linda Chavez to quit a PBS talk show, its host, Bonnie Erbe, wrote her: "I expect insecure people and especially conservatives to lie and play games." Just the latest example in Erbe's long history of conservative-bashing.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Ted Turner Pickup Lines."

    >>> Chat Friday with the MRC's Tim Graham about the MRC's Special Report on Elian coverage. Friday, May 26, at 10am EDT, the Washington Post will host the one-hour session. Here's the plug from the Post Web site:
    "Do you believe the press has been fair to all the parties involved in the Elian Gonzalez case? According to the conservative watchdog organization the Media Research Center, the answer to the above question is no. In a new study, the Center is accusing the national media of having undermined the Miami Gonzalez family specifically and the Cuban-American community in general, and of dismissing criticism of the raid that led to the removal of the child from his relatives' Little Havana home. What do YOU think? Join in the discussion with the Media Research Center's Director of Media Analysis, Tim Graham."
    To post questions in advance or to participate Friday, go to:
    To read the Special Report by Tim, "Back to the 'Peaceable' Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian," go to the page now updated with MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's statement as well as a couple of photos of the press briefing with Members of Congress, plus video clips of two of the most biased stories:
http://archive.mrc.org/specialreports/news/sr20000523.html <<<


Networks largely ignored decision to end pursuit of Linda Tripp. Wednesday night, CNN's The World Today and the NBC Nightly News ran brief items on the announcement from the Maryland prosecutor that the case is being dropped, but neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News touched it. MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams only mentioned it in the end of show run-down of "tomorrow's headlines." FNC's Fox Report did carry a full story by Rita Cosby.

    Tom Brokaw took 20 seconds to read this item on the May 24 NBC Nightly News: "The woman whose tape recording almost brought down the President will not face trial after all. The prosecutors in Maryland today dropped all criminal charges against Linda Tripp for illegally taping phone calls with Monica Lewinsky. They say they had no way to prove their case because the judge had severely limited Lewinsky's testimony."


CBS labeled as "best intentions" the quest to eliminate soft money and ABC took a nice shot at United Airlines for bad service which its merger with US Airways may only exacerbate.

    Wednesday night the networks reflected conflicting news judgments with four different choices of lead stories amongst six networks. ABC's World News Tonight led with the United buy-out of US Airways, the CBS Evening News and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams started with the audio tapes from the Alaska Air crash, CNN and NBC began with the China trade vote while FNC's Fox Report pushed Fox's tabloid side, going first with the Ramsey's taking a lie detector test.

    Both ABC and CBS ran pieces, pegged to the DNC's gala tribute to President Clinton set for Washington's MCI Center Wednesday night, on big money fundraising, what Dan Rather dubbed "mega-bucks political fundraisers."

    John Roberts handled the story for the CBS Evening News and after noting how the event will raise the very soft money Clinton had vowed to outlaw, he allowed Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger to criticize Clinton followed by a soundbite of Clinton blaming Republicans for blocking reform. Roberts then turned to the network source for wisdom on fundraising:
    "Senator John McCain, who ran for the White House on a platform to eliminate soft money, faults both parties."
    McCain: "It's a natural result of a system that's lurched out of control."
    Roberts then endorsed an expansion of regulation to restrict campaign spending, saying it reflects the "best intentions." Roberts concluded: "But for the sake of party loyalty John McCain is throwing his support behind Republicans who oppose campaign finance reform, including George W. Bush. In the race for the presidency, even the best intentions often take a back seat to the need for big money."

    Over on ABC, liberal Fred Wertheimer served as John Cochran's expert on fundraising. Later, the show ran a "Money Talks" piece on how, as Peter Jennings put it, "the broadcast industry has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo" because of all the money it makes off of campaign ads. John Martin explained how in the last 18 months the networks and the National Association of Broadcasters have devoted $7 million to lobbying.

    Switching to the airline merger plan, in her lead story ABC's Betsy Stark took this probably all too accurate shot at United Airlines: "Fares are already an average 23 percent higher at airports dominated by one airline than they are at airports with more competition, according to a recent study. The other issue for generally disgruntled airline passengers is what impact a merger would have on service. United currently ranks among the worst carriers in every category, from on time arrivals to baggage handling, and some see little reason to expect improvement."


At a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday a top Justice Department official corroborated FBI Director Louis Freeh's recollection that a top Justice Department official had said in 1996 that the White House had made it clear that Attorney General Janet Reno's job was on the line if she pursued Democratic campaign fundraising by naming an independent counsel. But only the Fox News Channel noticed, running a piece on Special Report with Brit Hume.

    Not a word about the development aired on any of the three broadcast network evening shows for May 24 nor on CNN's The World Today or Inside Politics. MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams skipped it but devoted a lengthy segment to the role of comedy shows in the campaign followed by an interview with Jay Leno. In a synergy of news judgments, both ABC's World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News ended with pieces on the movement to get pets to be treated by the law as more than mere property. Both featured soundbites from the same "animal rights" attorney, Robert Newman, and his client, a woman in a custody fight with her ex-boyfriend over a dog. FNC's own general interest news show, the 7pm ET Fox Report, also ignored the hearing.

    When this allegation first broke late last week, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today each gave it 20 seconds while all the broadcast network evening shows as well as CNN's Inside Politics and The World Today skipped it. MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams picked up on it and FNC ran a full story.

    FNC's Brit Hume set up the May 24 story on his 6pm ET/9pm PT program:
    "On Capitol Hill this day, what had been a top Justice Department official's word against that of a top FBI official became the top Justice man's word against that of two FBI men. The underlying issue is whether the Justice Department went soft in its investigation of alleged Clinton fundraising abuses because it was under White House pressure to do so, with the Attorney General under particular pressure."

    As transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, David Shuster reported: "Lee Radek, the prosecutor in charge of the Justice Department probe into the campaign fundraising scandal, denied that he ever said he was under pressure to protect Janet Reno's job."
    Lee Radek at a Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing: "I am certain, although I have no recollection that I never said that 'there was a lot of pressure on me and the public integrity section regarding this case because the attorney general's job might hang in the balance,' or words to that effect."
    Shuster: "That denial would have made it one top official's word against another except for one thing, there were two FBI officials present during the conversation in question, and the second one came forward this day under oath to back up the first. The second official, Neal Gallagher, said that indeed Radek had said there was pressure on Justice to avoid naming an independent counsel in the case."
    Neil Gallagher, FBI Assistant Director for National Security: "And this was attributed to the fact that the Attorney General's job may hang in the balance."
    Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter: "Are you sure of that?"
    Gallagher: "I'm positive. And at the same time, there may have been some general discussion as to the fact that the Attorney General had not yet been selected by the President to continue in his Cabinet."
    Shuster: "Despite Gallagher's testimony, Radek maintained the FBI account of his conversation is still wrong. As proof he pointed to recent comments by Janet Reno. She acknowledged meeting with the FBI Director four years ago but can't remember him expressing specific concerns. Republicans found the testimony unbelievable."
    Specter: "What Director Freeh says he told the Attorney General, he didn't really do, right?"
    Radek: "If he had, I'm sure she would have talked to me about it, and she didn't."
    Shuster concluded: "One Republican responded angrily that this dispute is yet another reason why there should have been an independent counsel. Democrats maintain that the evidence wasn't there for one. But in any case, the argument over alleged pressure is not going away. The committee plans to call for testimony from the Attorney General."

    +++ See what the infamous Lee Radek looks like and hear from Neil Gallagher. Late Thursday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of Shuster's story. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


Bonnie Erbe, host of PBS's To the Contrary, has only disdain for conservatives. In a recent e-mail message to Linda Chavez she castigated her: "I know and accept your insecurities. And I expect insecure people and especially conservatives to lie and play games." In another message she dismissed National Review: "Nobody reads that magazine anyway."

    The missives, reported May 23 by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, came after Chavez quit Erbe's show to protest Erbe's less than sensitive suggestion that older woman should not have any fear of being raped and thus have no need to own a gun for protection. On the show which aired the weekend of May 12-14, Chavez explained how she owns a gun for protection because she live in a rural area where it would take 30 minutes for a police response. Erbe, a former reporter for Mutual Broadcasting and NBC Radio (not affiliated with GE's NBC, but owned by Westwood One until absorbed by CBS) shot back, shall we say: "And if you look at the statistics, I would bet that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, Linda, than living where you live, and at your age, being raped. Sorry."

    Chavez argued to Kurtz that "if a conservative said something very politically incorrect," such as how "women of a certain age are not going to be raped because they're beyond their sexual years, that would be considered beyond the pale."

    The exchange was first reported by National Review's e-mailed Washington Bulletin, which asked Erbe about her comment. Erbe, who is also a Scripps-Howard columnist, stood by it, adding: "Women buying guns for their self protection have gone completely bonkers."

    To read a transcript of the full exchange, as well as to watch it via RealPlayer, go to the May 17 CyberAlert:

    In the May 23 Washington Post Howard Kurtz picked up on the ongoing off-air battle between Chavez and Erbe. In a story titled "'Contrary'-ness Strikes PBS Talk Show," Kurtz revealed (all ellipses after start of first graph as they appeared in the Post story):

....After the May 13 show, Chavez, 52, who lives in Loudoun County [Virginia], sent the program's producer statistics that said she indeed has a far better chance of being raped than felled by lightning. When National Review's Web site ran a piece on the flap -- co-authored by a man who once worked for Chavez at the nonprofit Center for Equal Opportunity -- Erbe responded with a series of e-mails to Chavez.

"I think your reaction (especially looking up the stats on lightning strikes) goes beyond histrionic," Erbe wrote. Calling Chavez an "overgrown Catholic school girl" who "planted" the National Review story, Erbe said: "If you think you zinged us, think again. We don't care. Nobody reads that magazine anyway.... I must say I'm shocked at your reaction. I thought you were a much bigger, more mature person than you're showing yourself to be."

In another missive, Erbe wrote: "I know and accept your insecurities. And I expect insecure people and especially conservatives to lie and play games....I suggest you get into therapy, otherwise you're going to continue to be miserable and in denial the rest of your life."

Erbe now says that "I did offer Linda an on-air apology if I hurt her feelings. She has yet to take me up on that. Other than that, I find the whole situation very amusing and think Linda is going off the deep end....The door is open for her to come back to the show." She says Chavez has quit the program before "in a snit."

Chavez, a former GOP Senate candidate in Maryland, says she left the show for a couple of years in the mid-'90s both for scheduling reasons and because another panelist kept calling her a liar. She says that people in her office undoubtedly notified National Review about Erbe's on-air comments, but that she declined to comment for the piece.

Erbe says the story must have been orchestrated by Chavez's friend Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review -- and an original "To the Contrary" panelist who also quit the show years ago. But O'Beirne says she had "absolutely nothing to do with it."

"I never had a cross word with Bonnie," O'Beirne says. "I hate to disappoint her, but there's no cabal."

Chavez, a prominent conservative, says she is "offended by a kind of double standard in journalism: If a conservative said something very politically incorrect, that women of a certain age are not going to be raped because they're beyond their sexual years, that would be considered beyond the pale....It struck me as meow! What a catty thing to say."

Although she once wrote a syndicated point-counterpoint column with Erbe and has been on the all-female show for most of its eight-year run, Chavez says she's had it with the program.

In a final e-mail last week, Erbe said an apology would be a "no-brainer" if Chavez would "extend me the courtesy of a phone call." As for Chavez's insistence that she had nothing to do with the National Review item, Erbe wrote: "I was born at night but not last nite....This is getting sillier and sillier. This will be my last communication with you. Please let it be your last to me."

    END Excerpt

    If only it could be Erbe's last insult of conservatives, a pattern for which she has a long record. The MRC does not regularly watch her weekend PBS talk show since it rarely features active reporters, but over the last few years we've caught a few of her most egregious attacks on conservative thinking from when she was still an active radio reporter in the 1995-97 range:

    -- From the November 20, 1995 Notable Quotables, a quote headlined "Abortion: Just as Bad as Eating Meat." Erbe on partial- birth abortion, November 3 To the Contrary:
    "But aren't most medical procedures, when you describe them in detail, pretty disgusting? Isn't, for example, the production of veal, when you describe it in detail, and how people eat meat, when they crunch down on the flesh of living beings, formerly living beings with their teeth. Isn't that pretty gruesome, too?"

    -- From the September 23, 1996 Notable Quotables, Erbe on the August 16 To the Contrary, commenting on the Republican convention:
    "TV viewers saw a well-orchestrated image of a moderated Republican Party, portraying itself as pro-woman, pro-minorities, and pro-tolerance. This is in sharp contrast to the delegates on the floor, sixty percent of whom self-identified as conservative Christians."

    -- From the October 7, 1996 Notable Quotables, Erbe responding to conservative criticism on Westwood One's Jim Bohannon Show on August 30:
    "I think, generally speaking, most people would agree that the partisan, that the smear tactics -- I mean, the going after the family, and since when has President Clinton said anything about Elizabeth Dole? It hasn't happened, and yet you see the Republicans attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton, who I agree has made mistakes, but they [Republicans] have no boundaries, and I think that yes, both parties are guilty of using smear tactics -- it goes back to as I said the origin of American politics -- but I think the Republicans are quite frankly, better at it than the Democrats, and I think most people see that and believe that.... Why don't you recognize some of the hypocrisy on the part of the Republicans?...Well, for starters, a rape victim up on the podium in San Diego when the Republicans oppose abortion."

    -- From the April 7, 1997 Notable Quotables, a quote headlined, "If We Kill Them Before They're Born, Then Conservatives Can't Hurt Them." The quote came from a column, which appeared in the March 29 Washington Times, on claims of how pro-choicers lie about partial-birth abortion:
    "The right wing has lied repeatedly in an effort to move public opinion on this issue....Lie No. 1: Conservatives care about life. The renowned quipmeister, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, once said, 'Conservatives' interest in life begins at conception and ends at birth.' Truer words were never spoken. If they did care about taking care of babies and protecting the helpless, they would not be so driven to cut government programs that help the poor, nor so concerned about paying a few dollars less of their own money in taxes."

    -- From the June 30, 1997 Notable Quotables, a quote from a June 7 column:
   "What liberals can't understand is why can't Republicans be honest about their discomfort with the advancement of women and minorities...The ideological pulse of the party, the Conservative Action Team, is backing its own candidate for the Republican Conference's vice chair. And nary a woman was ever in the running. The message from the crowd is clear: only anti-abortion, right-wing males need apply."

    -- From the March 9, 1998 Notable Quotables, a bizarre assessment of the 1980s in her column run in the February 28 Washington Times:
    "If there is any President who does not deserve credit for our current economic prosperity it is Ronald Reagan. The latter part of the 1980s will go down as one of the most poorly-managed, economically reckless fiscal periods in American history."

    -- And finally, just for fun, from the September 6, 1999 Notable Quotables, Erbe, in the wake of drug allegations against George W. Bush, boasting of her history as a heroin user. This quote taken from her Scripps-Howard column as it appeared in the August 24 Denver Rocky Mountain News:
    "I have a confession to make: More than 25 years ago (actually, about 30 years ago) I used an illegal narcotic. I'm not running for President, nor any political office for that matter. And the statute of limitations has surely run out on my transgression. So it's safe to come clean. I won't make you guess about which drug it was. It was heroin. And here come the gory details. I snorted it -- no, I didn't inject it. I was caught up in the drug culture of the late '60s and early '70s, which I state as a reason, not an excuse. And, oh yes, prior to trying heroin I smoked a lot of different types of marijuana and hashish (yes, inhaling all the time) and took a wide variety of hallucinogens: mescaline, LSD, you name it. Well, I not only survived that stupor, I excelled at high school studies and extracurricular activities during it."

    Apparently a drug-filled brain isn't conducive to appreciating conservative ideology.


From the May 24 Late Show with David Letterman -- prompted by a New York Daily News story that the 61-year-old media mogul is dating Karen Rosenfeld, a 28-year-old Marymount Manhattan College English instructor -- the "Top Ten Ted Turner Pickup Lines." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "One more drink and I'll be ready for a merger."
9. "Wanna go back to my place and make some 'Turner Classic Movies' of our own?"
8. "You'll soon grow to love me as much as I do."
7. "How tall am I? I'm 5'9"; 6'7" when I stand on my wallet."
6. "I'm going to assign Bernard Shaw to do a story on how great your ass is."
5. "Baby, I wouldn't get tired of you for at least a year."
4. "Just think, marry me and you'll have the same name as dozens of lousy cable stations."
3. "I'm a captain of industry by day, and Captain Makeout by night."
2. "How'd you like to go to third base on Turner Field?"
1. "Who wants to be a billionaire?"

    And, from the Late Show Web page, some of the "also-rans" as Late Show writers "keep producing more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."

-- "You know, Jane Fonda couldn't handle my workout."
-- "I'm the guy who makes sure television sets all over the world get wrestling every night."
-- "Have sex with me or I'll colorize 'Casablanca'."
-- "I'm not 'Fonda' Jane anymore, but I am 'Fonda' you -- get it?"
-- "How'd you like to try on Jane's old Barbarella outfit?"

    I wonder, was Jane Fonda too liberal for Ted Turner or was he too liberal for her? -- Brent Baker


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