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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday May 26, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 92) |

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Vulgarities at Fundraiser; Making Fun of Elian Photo; Disinterested in Disbarment

1) Robin Williams laced his jokes, at the big Democratic bash featuring Bill Clinton and Al Gore, with vulgarities. But that didn't bother the Washington media even though it meant C-SPAN cablecast in prime time words the broadcast networks never allow.

2) Time magazine showed the photo of Elian wearing the outfit of the Pioneers, Cuba's communist youth group, but only to make fun of those upset by it, suggesting it's no worse than wearing a T-shirt advertising a U.S. TV show for kids.

3) The networks highlighted a disbarment action this week against Clinton, but this week's Media Reality Check reviewed coverage over the last two years: "Most Network Morning and Evening Shows Whistled Past Effort to Revoke Clinton's Law License."

4) Letterman's "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Disbarred in Arkansas."

    >>> Reminder: Chat this morning 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:
[Web update: See same link for full transcript of online chat session.]
    To read the Special Report, "Back to the 'Peaceable' Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian," go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/specialreports/news/sr20000523.html <<<


Actor/comedian Robin Williams delivered a vulgarity-laced comedy routine, praising Al Gore and making fun of George Bush, Wednesday night at the DNC's huge "Tribute to President Clinton," which was carried live by C-SPAN. [This item includes accurate quotations which feature vulgarities, including the F word. Skip down to item #2 if this will upset you.]

    But the news media yawned at the fact such vulgarity was uttered at an event raising money for one of the two major parties, featuring the President and Vice President, even though it also meant C-SPAN aired words no broadcast or non-premium cable network could in prime time, including "bullshit" and "fuck." That in itself, you'd think, would be noteworthy.

    Rush Limbaugh on Thursday devoted much of his radio show to the use of such language by a celebrity at a political event attended by the President, but none of Thursday's morning shows touched on the language. Thursday's Washington Post story by Dana Milbank, in the paper's "final edition," mentioned the routine by Williams, but reported nothing about its content. Recall that two years ago many reporters were indignant over crude sexual jokes told by Don Imus at a media dinner. (I'm traveling and so did not see Thursday's evening shows, but doubt they picked up on it.)

    Thanks to transcribing by MRC intern Michael Ferguson, here are some of the jokes with which Robin Williams entertained the audience of 15,000 at about 9:45pm ET, after Clinton and Gore had revved up the crowd. These quotes are provided to both demonstrate the language he used as well as to show the liberal political views espoused by a Hollywood celebrity who feels strongly enough about politics to fly across the country to participate.

    -- He opened his act: "You feel the power. You got it in your spirit now, yes you think you do now. Yes, you saw Bill open up a can of whoop-ass, you did. Yes sir, he did. People are yelling stuff. Bill, opened up a can of whoop-ass. You saw it right there, he was tighter than a hawk's ass in a power dive. Yes sir, and Al, sweet Jesus, Al, you were possessed. People, Lord, people throwing down their crutches going, 'I believe Al!' People walking forward going. 'Yow! Sweet power, sweet power.' So much for that charisma bullshit, huh?"

    -- On the NRA: "Recently you even had a shooting at the Washington Zoo. Even the bears are going, 'bullshit, man. I thought I was safe. God damn.'"

    -- A joke that could just as easily be applied to Gore: "We're here tonight because of the Shrub, you know who I'm talking about. George W. Bush, Jr. The W stands for 'where the Hell is it?' You know, you look at George W. and you realize some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some get it as a graduation gift. So sad. I just want to ask the Secret Service, is it true that his Secret Service code name is Gilligan?"

    -- More on Bush: "I don't want to see him in charge of the economy. Basically, it's like giving O.J. a Benihana. No. No, I'm afraid of the cuts, you know what I'm saying?"

    -- On Dan Quayle and conservatives: "I just want to tell Hillary, or the artist formerly known as the First Lady, I just want you to know Dan Quayle is running for the New York Senate. The problem is he moved to New Jersey. I don't know. He was hoping for the commuter vote...Every so often you look at those guys and go, 'Darwin was wrong.'"

    -- He did deliver one anti-Reno joke: "Thank you for letting me come here today and just do a few minutes. Initially I couldn't work it out in my schedule, but when Janet Reno showed up with those INS people, I worked it out. Damn, it's amazing what happens when they kick down your door and go, 'Move it!'"

    -- Yelling out at someone leaving the high-priced floor seats during his act: "Good night, sir. Thank you for coming. At $500,000 he's going, 'Fuck you, I'm out of here.' Good night, take care. Oh my God, I've pissed off Henry Kissinger."

    In the midst of all this, Williams spotted a kid in the audience, prompting him to joke about his language: "Hello. There's a child in the front row. We've learned some new words haven't we?"

    Viewers of Thursday's morning shows didn't get a hint about any coarse language, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson determined:

    -- ABC's Good Morning America, May 25. John Cochran reported at 8am: "To some people, the biggest fundraiser ever was impressive. To others it was obscene. Hecklers, who also had to pay to get in, taunted President Clinton, chanting, 'Stop the corruption now.'...The price of admission, which ranged from $50 to $500,000, also included some entertainment. Political humor from Robin Williams."
    Williams: "And the NRA is opening a wonderful café in, basically in downtown Manhattan -- what they've called an interactive firearm experience. For every place else in the country it's called drive-by."

    -- NBC's Today. During the 7am news update, Ann Curry relayed: "The never-ending race for campaign cash smashed all records last night. The Democrats and the Republicans held dueling fundraisers. They raised a combined $40 million, but it was the Democrats who broke the all-time record for fundraising in a single night. NBC's Bob Kur reports."
    Kur began: "Robin Williams supplied the laughs."
    Williams: "Thank you!...You know, you look at George W. and you realize some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some get it as a graduation gift."


This week's Time magazine ran a fairly small reprint of the photo of Elian in the uniform of the Pioneers, Cuba's communist youth group, but only to make fun of those upset by the sign that Elian's communist indoctrination is occurring on U.S. soil.

    As recounted in this week's MagazineWatch by Geoffrey Dickens and Tim Graham, in a box on page 24 the May 29 Time displayed the Pioneers photo (in which Elian is also holding two wooden sticks) next to a photo from April 20, before the raid, with Elian in oversized sunglasses, a Nickelodeon "Blue's Clues" T_shirt, and a scooter. Time snidely wondered: "Havana Ball. The Cuban_American community was (again) outraged last week, when a new photo of Elian was released. Was it the Pioneer scarf instead of the TV_show T_shirt, the lack of sunglasses or the switching of a $129 scooter for two wooden sticks?"

    To see the Pioneers photo as shown last week by Fox News Channel, go to the May 18 CyberAlert:

    (As reported in that and subsequent CyberAlerts, FNC and ABC's Good Morning America showed the photo and it popped up on the May 20 Capital Gang on CNN, but that was it for network TV coverage last week.)

    Other items in the May 23 MagazineWatch about the May 29 issues:
1. The news magazines probe Rudy Giuliani's replacement in the New York Senate race, Rep. Rick Lazio. Can he be demonized by Hillary and company as a harsh "Newtie"?
2. Time's Douglas Waller reported Sen. Jesse Helms "hasn't lost his hard edge, particularly when it comes to civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights." As for the rights of people trapped in communist regimes, "Clinton may want to build a foreign policy for the 21st century, but Helms is happy to remain its Tyrannosaurus rex."
3. Amy Dickinson in Time gave a favorable review to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's new book but Dr. Laura took it on the chin in the rest of the issue.

    To read these items, go to:


The May 25 Media Reality Check: "Disbarment? What Disbarment? Most Network Morning and Evening Shows Whistled Past Effort to Revoke Clinton's Law License." As noted in the May 23 CyberAlert, the night before NBC's Tom Brokaw told Bill Clinton in an interview that disbarment could be "a stain on your record well outside the political arena," but as the MRC's Tim Graham determined, TV news spent months ignoring the stain's development.

    Here's the text of the latest Media Reality Check fax report:

All of the Big Three networks led Monday night with the formal recommendation that President Clinton be disbarred for lying under oath in the Paula Jones case. But how well had TV news covered the story before that? Most network morning and evening shows hadn't. For example:

-- September 15, 1998: The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct regarding Clinton's "willful professional misconduct by lying under oath in a court of law." Coverage? None.

-- April 12, 1999: Judge Susan Webber Wright issued her contempt of court citation against Clinton for lying under oath. Coverage? ABC and NBC gave the news barely a minute that night, less time than they gave to a man rescued by helicopter from a crane above an Atlanta fire. CBS aired a full story and mentioned the possibility of disbarment, as did CNN and FNC. The next morning, NBC's Tim Russert called it a "big deal," but Today gave the decision four minutes, compared to 13.5 for the Atlanta fire.

-- December 13, 1999: The SLF filed a request for the Arkansas Supreme Court to order a disbarment review. Coverage? Brit Hume asked reporter Wendell Goler one question on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume.

-- January 27, 2000: The Arkansas Supreme Court granted the SLF request, ordering the Committee on Professional Conduct to proceed with the SLF complaint. Coverage? Brit Hume read an anchor brief on FNC's Special Report.

-- February 10, 2000: The Committee serves President Clinton with a formal ethics complaint, giving the President 30 days to respond. Coverage? FNC's Rita Cosby filed a full story for Special Report.

-- February 16, 2000: CBS reporters John Roberts and Mark Knoller both asked Clinton at a White House press conference about whether he would surrender his law license or fight the proceeding. Coverage: Despite quoting from the press conference, ABC, NBC, and even CBS failed to report on the disbarment exchanges. CNN's Inside Politics and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume did note them. Knoller did show a snippet three days later on Saturday morning's The Early Show.

-- March 16, 2000: Clinton lawyer David Kendall asked for "an application for an extension of time for the president to respond, until 30 days after he leaves office." Coverage? A question to Rita Cosby on Special Report, a 50-word anchor brief on CNN's Inside Politics, and a 59-word brief from NBC's Tom Brokaw.

-- April 21, 2000: Kendall filed a formal response. SLF President Matthew Glavin called it "pathetic" but did not release specifics in order to comply with court rules. Coverage? Zero.

-- April 28, 2000: SLF reported that Clinton's response admitted misleading statements in the Jones case. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declared: "We have no intention of putting the President's response on the public record." Coverage? A Brit Hume question to Wendell Goler on FNC's Special Report.

-- May 5, 2000: SLF filed a formal rebuttal. Coverage? FNC's David Shuster reported a full story on the progress to date for FNC's Special Report.

PBS's NewsHour was the most apathetic, filing only a 59-word brief on disbarment so far this week.

    END Reprint


From CBS's Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten" list intended to be shown on the May 23 show: The "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Disbarred in Arkansas." Though this list was bumped from the show, it did appear on the Late Show Web page, thus enabling you to be entertained by a list viewers never got to see or hear. Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants Inc.,

10. Citing the wrong episode of "Matlock" as legal precedent
9. Neglecting to remove hay from mouth before addressing judge
8. Lying under oath without crossing your fingers
7. Filing motion for "yee" without motion for an accompanying "haw"
6. Getting involved in crooked land deal, not letting your friends join in
5. Taking too long with closing statement, forgetting courthouse turns into pool hall at 5
4. Placing 3 X's on jug of moonshine when it's only strong enough for 2
3. Letting possum out of your briefcase while court's in session
2. Forgetting to tip the state trooper who brings you a hooker
1. Too much fancy book_learnin'

    Two options for my last "zinger" line:
    If #2 were accurate, Bill Clinton would have been disbarred years ago.
    If #2 is accurate, Bill Clinton must be a good and consistent tipper. -- Brent Baker, from the CyberAlert satellite center in New Hampshire


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