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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday September 14, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 165) |

Russert Asked Hillary to Apologize; Hillary's Suspect Fundraising; Cheney Chastened on "Humorous" Murder Lyrics -- Extra Edition

1) A network reporter finally put Hillary Clinton on the spot. Moderating the NY Senate debate, NBC's Tim Russert asked if she regretted "misleading the American people?" and "Would you now apologize for branding people as part of a 'vast right-wing conspiracy'?"

2) FNC revealed the story the New York Times suppressed: "White House staffers have voiced concern that the First Lady has been offering large donors to her campaign...overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom and even Camp David."

3) ABC castigated Lynne Cheney for her concern about a rap lyrics glorifying rape and murder, suggesting they "were meant to be humorous." NBC ran a tough piece on Gore's hypocrisy: "He has a lot to answer for as the number two man in the administration that's had a cozy and profitable relationship with Hollywood."

4) ABC and CBS ran short items on a strange package received and rejected by a Gore operative. Dan Rather added his own odd twist.

5) Judge James Jackson's "stunningly sharp attack" on whom? Wen Ho Lee's release generated full stories on ABC, CBS and NBC, but each delivered slightly different descriptions of the judge's target.

6) NBC's Today actually treated as newsworthy the PR gimmick of two liberal Senators saying they will ask the FCC to investigate the "subliminal" rat ad. CBS's Bryant Gumbel wondered if Bush should "go back to hard-line Republican conservative themes."

Corrections: After spelling it correctly hundreds of times, I slipped up in the September 13 CyberAlert and misspelled the last name of ABC's political analyst. It's Stephanopoulos, not Stephanopolous. The September 12 CyberAlert quoted Al Gore as answering "Beetles" when asked by Oprah Winfrey to name his favorite music group. That should have read "Beatles." In the same issue, an item on Wen Ho Lee quoted NBC News reporter George Miller. His name is actually George Lewis.


Finally, over two-and-a-half years after she impugned her political opponents, a network television reporter put Hillary Clinton on the spot for her January 1998 "vast right-wing conspiracy" claim in which she falsely denied her husband ever lied to cover up sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

    Moderating the first Rick Lazio-Hillary Clinton debate on Wednesday night, NBC's Tim Russert raised the issue of "trust and character," played the infamous VRWC soundbite, demanded "Do you regret misleading the American people?" and requested: "Would you now apologize for branding people as part of a 'vast right-wing conspiracy'?" Of course, she declined and insisted: "I didn't mislead anyone."

    MSNBC played the 7pm ET debate from Buffalo on tape delay at 10pm ET Wednesday night. Two Buffalo-area reporters joined Russert in the questioning and from my cursory review the three seemed to do an even-handed job of pressing each candidate with the toughest arguments against them forwarded by their opponents' camps.

    A little more than 20 minutes into the debate, or as Dan Rather would dub it, a "joint appearance," Russert set up a segment: "To both the candidates, Mrs. Clinton first, the issue of trust and character has been raised repeatedly in this campaign. Mrs. Clinton, I want to start with you. In January of '98, you went on the Today show and talked about what had occurred at the White House. I want to play that for you and our viewers and our voters and give you a chance to respond."

    Viewers and audience members then saw excerpts from Today:
    Matt Lauer: "So these charges came as big a shock to you as anyone."
    Hillary Clinton: "And to my husband. I mean, you know, he woke me up Wednesday morning and said, 'You're not going to believe this.'"
    Lauer: "And so when people say there's a lot of smoke here, your message is, where there's smoke-"
    Clinton: "There isn't any fire."
    Lauer: "If an American President had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?"
    Clinton: "Well, they should certainly be concerned about it."
    Lauer: "Should they ask for his resignation?"
    Clinton: "Well, I think that if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true."

    Back to the debate, Russert lamented: "Regrettably, it was proven true. Do you regret misleading the American people? And secondly, in that same interview, you said that those who were criticizing the President were part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Amongst those eventually criticizing the President were Joe Lieberman. Would you now apologize for branding people as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy?"

    Hillary Clinton still played the victim: "Well, you know, Tim, that was a very painful time for me, for my family and for our country. It is something that I regret deeply that anyone had to go through. And I wish that we all could look at it from the perspective of history, but we can't yet. We're going to have to wait until those books are written. But from my perspective, you know, I'm very hopeful that we can go forward in a united way. That certainly is what I've tried to do. And I've tried to be as forthcoming as I could, given the circumstances that I've faced. Obviously I didn't mislead anyone. I didn't know the truth. And there's a great deal of pain associated with that, and my husband has certainly acknowledged that and made it clear that he did mislead the country as well as his family.
    "But you mentioned trust. And, you know, I'm standing here running for the Senate. I didn't cast the votes that Newt Gingrich asked me to cast. I've been a steady, consistent voice on behalf of children and families and what I've worked for for 30 years. And I want to try to put that experience to work for the people of New York."

    Russert followed up: "In trying to unite people, however, is it appropriate to brand anyone who criticized the President as part of a 'vast right-wing conspiracy'?"

    Clinton re-wrote events: "Well, I certainly didn't mean to extend that to anyone who might criticize the President, especially after the truth came out. You know, I have the greatest respect for Senator Lieberman. I've known him for 30 years. He and I share a lot of the same concerns about media violence, for example..."

    +++ Watch the above exchange via RealPlayer. Late Thursday morning ET MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a video clip of it. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

    Russert's simple and obvious question stands out from the softball questions and general sucking up displayed by other network correspondents when Hillary has granted a rare TV interview. Recall her most prominent appearances over the last 16 months as detailed in past CyberAlerts:

    -- May 1999. Dan Rather slobbered all over Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes II, urging her to run for President and gushing: "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning." For many more quotes and a RealPlayer clip, go to:

    -- March 2000. "Unfortunately that was defeated," complained the co-host of a new ABC News-produced Lifetime show, about Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Other topics raised in the interview with her: Grocery shopping and what she'll do "to help women" get day care. Go to:

    -- May 2000. NBC's Today promised a diverse audience for Hillary's town meeting, but 61 percent of questioners were from New York City and 73 percent of the questions hit her from the left or very far left. Go to:

    -- June 2000. Bryant Gumbel hoped he and his fellow New Yorkers would get a two-for-one deal: Hillary, plus her husband's "expertise." An audience member placed Hillary and Lazio on the Survivor island. For more details about her Early Show welcome illustrated by a RealPlayer video clip, go to:


The New York Times won't tell you what it learned about Hillary improperly using overnight White House stays to fund her Senate campaign, but Fox News Channel broke the veil on what the paper has been suppressing.

    In picking up on information first reported Tuesday night by the Drudge Report (http://www.drudgereport.com), Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume opened with FNC's Hume uniquely letting viewers in on what D.C. insiders already know, noting that "political and media circles have been buzzing for several days with word the New York Times has a major story in the works."

    In a live report Rita Cosby filled in the details, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
    "There have been some congressional investigations into alleged campaign finance abuses that President Clinton may have offered big campaign contributors overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom. Well now White House sources are telling Fox News that there is concern in the White House that the First Lady is doing the same thing. White House sources tell Fox News that White House staffers have voiced concern that the First Lady has been offering large donors to her campaign, and to the Democratic Senatorial Committee, overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom and even Camp David, the presidential retreat.
    "White House sources tell Fox News that there have been at least 26 instances since the summer of 1999 in which people, mainly couples, have stayed overnight after promising to donate to the First Lady's campaign or having already done so in recent months. One example White House sources cite is that of New Yorkers Lisa and Richard Perry, who combined contributed directly to Mrs. Clinton's campaign four times in 1999 and donated thousands of dollars to the Democratic party. Both attended a state dinner at the White House this past June...And White House sources say that same night they spent the evening in the Lincoln bedroom after Mrs. Clinton called Lisa Perry directly saying, 'What can I do for you? Thank you for your campaign help.' Well White House spokesman Joe Lockhart was asked if there was any quid pro quo, and he said this today:"
    Joe Lockhart: "The President and the First Lady over the last seven and a half years have always welcomed their friends and supporters and, you know, political officials from around the country, prominent members of the arts community, to stay at the White House. Within that group, there certainly have been people who, as their friends, have supported them financially."
    Cosby: "And the First Lady's campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson also released a statement to Fox News saying quote, 'It would be natural for the President and for the First Lady to have friends and supporters to the White House.'
    "Now sources inside and outside the New York Times tell Fox News that the New York Times has been working on this story for weeks, that it planned to run with it last Sunday but decided to hold off till the end of the week. One source inside the New York Times tells Fox News that the New York Times did not want to influence the debate, which is going to take place this evening, but the New York Times says it would never hold off on a complete story."


Murder and rape, such a humorous topic. The Senate hearing, chaired by John McCain, on the FTC report on how the entertainment industry targets kids for its adult-rated products, generated full stories Wednesday night on ABC, CBS and NBC.

    ABC's John Martin ignored how the very media moguls now being criticized by Gore-Lieberman are among their biggest funders and instead castigated Lynne Cheney for her critique of a rap song: "Cheney misunderstood the lyrics" as the murder and rape theme which upset her "were meant to be humorous." CBS's Bob Schieffer asserted that in noting how one mogul has organized a big Democratic fundraiser, Cheney had "stuck in a partisan knife."

    Only NBC made up for its cheap shot reporting the night before, on the phoney concerns about the letters "R-A-T-S," by delivering some balance through a tough piece on Gore's hypocrisy. Claire Shipman constructed the conflict: "By night, raising big bucks from Hollywood elite. By day, applauding the FTC report that criticizes the entertainment industry."

    -- ABC's World News Tonight led September 13 with Wen Ho Lee but soon got to the hearing. John Martin described the complaint and industry reaction before getting to the presidential politics. Martin noted that Joe Lieberman "said the Columbine high school shootings were a warning."
    Lieberman: "It was a warning that the culture of carnage surrounding our children may have gone too far."

    Martin did not question Lieberman's comment but he did challenge Lynne Cheney whom, he relayed, had "blasted award winning rap singer Emenem for singing about killing."
    Cheney: "He is a violent misogynist, he advocates raping and murdering his mother in one of his songs."
    Martin countered: "But one executive claimed Cheney misunderstood the lyrics, suggesting that murder and rape in this case were meant to be humorous."
    Danny Goldberg, CEO of Artemis Records, maintained: "Most young people I know feel that's a humorous record, not a violent record."

    Maybe that's the problem -- youth who find humor in rape and murder.

    -- CBS Evening News. The show led with electricity shortages in California. On the hearings front, Bob Schieffer also played Lieberman and Lynne Cheney soundbites. Lieberman insisted: "Vice President Gore and I have demanded an immediate cease-fire in the marketing of adult-rated products to children."
    Schieffer picked up: "Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney's wife said the company heads should be shamed into taking personal responsibility for their products and, noting the head of one the biggest companies, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, was holding a fundraiser for Democrats, stuck in a partisan knife."
    Lynne Cheney: "I notice that two people of stature -- Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman -- are attending a fundraising extravaganza that Mr. Weinstein is holding on Thursday. And I would ask them please to deliver this message."

    -- NBC Nighty News. Lisa Myers related how Joe Lieberman decried the "culture of carnage" and how Lynne Cheney targeted Emenem, in her testimony, for lyrics which "are both vulgar and violent." To illustrate, Myers played an audio clip with the words on-screen for the rap-challenged: "Touch this chainsaw, left his brains all dangling from his neck while his head barely hangs on. Blood, guts, guns, cuts."

    Now that's a laugh riot.

    Cheney contended the lyrics "could not be more despicable." Myers added that "in a shot at her husband's opponent, she notes that studio chief Harvey Weinstein, who's been criticized for excessively violent films, is actually helping the Democrats."

    Tom Brokaw picked up on that theme in introducing the next story: "For Vice President Al Gore, this is a tricky and important issue as he targets those crucial undecided voters, but as Republicans are quick to point out, he has a lot to answer for as the number two man in the administration that's had a cozy and profitable relationship with Hollywood."

    Claire Shipman, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, began: "It's a delicate dance for Al Gore. By night, raising big bucks from Hollywood elite. By day, applauding the FTC report that criticizes the entertainment industry."
    Al Gore earlier this week: "Stop targeting advertising for adult material to young children when you say it's inappropriate for young children."
    Shipman continued: "Why is he taking on Hollywood so publicly? One reason, Gore advisors know it's an important issue to undecided voters, especially women. But it's a performance that has Republicans steamed. They say Gore is hypocritically seizing a hot political issue in an election year."
    William Bennett charged: "It's the taking of two contradictory positions at the same time, which is so craven and so cynical that anybody, any fair-minded person, Republican or Democrat, ought to see just how gross this is."
    Shipman exposed some Gore deviousness: "Indeed, Hollywood sources tell NBC News that Gore had led insiders to believe he was not going to trumpet this report, and they say some in the industry were disturbed by his quote, 'finger wagging tone,' this week when he threatened legislation. But even critics of Gore's threats say it won't cost him Hollywood support."
    Joe Eszterhas, screenwriter: "If this weren't coming from Al Gore and from Joe Lieberman, I think that there would be protesters on Rodeo Drive, but because it is coming from a liberal Democrat, we're looking the other way."

    Shipman explained the differing standard: "That may also be because Gore has spent a long time courting Hollywood, a skill he learned the hard way. When his wife Tipper crusaded against rock music lyrics in the 1980s, she created a firestorm. And in 1987 when Gore was running for President he was forced to mend fences, reportedly holding a closed door meeting with Hollywood bigwigs to clear the air. So when Gore more recently championed the V chip used to give parents more control over what their kids watch, he did it with the help of insiders. Why all the special treatment? Money. In this election cycle the Democrats have raised more than seven and a half million dollars so far from Hollywood compared to just over five for Republicans. And Gore's recent attacks haven't hurt the cash flow. He'll raise about eight million dollars this week at three star studded fundraisers, including one at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow. Monday night he heads to Los Angeles for what his aides hope will be a three million dollar bash, and that would beat even Bill Clinton's record Hollywood take."

    As for that Radio City Music Hall event, Wednesday's Entertainment Tonight reported that Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Michael Douglas will serve as celebrity emcees.


ABC and CBS ran short, somewhat confusing, items Wednesday night about a strange campaign event and Dan Rather added his own odd twist.

    About 20 minutes into the September 13 World News Tonight, ABC's Peter Jennings intoned: "A former Congressman who was helping Al Gore prepare for the debates got a package in the mail, documents and a video tape allegedly describing George Bush's debate preparations. The question is how was the material obtained. The Gore campaign says the package was unsolicited, when they saw it they called the FBI. The Bush campaign is eager to find out more."

    CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather relayed the same basic facts before going off on his own wacky tangent: "A strategist helping Al Gore prepare for possible face-to-face television meetings with George Bush reports he received a package, a package containing papers and a videotape of Bush preparing for these face-offs. The package came from someone named Amy who promised more to come. The material was turned over to the FBI. The FBI is investigating.
    "An editor's note: Some call these face-offs quote, 'debates.' Strictly speaking they are not that."

    Strictly speaking, Dan Rather is not a stable individual.


Judge James Jackson's "stunningly sharp attack" on whom? Wen Ho Lee's release from jail generated full stories Wednesday night on ABC, CBS and NBC and all relayed the judge's sharp rebuke, but of whom or what entity exactly? Each delivered slightly different descriptions which altered the perception of whether he was specifically criticizing Clinton appointees.

    Only ABC noted he was a Reagan appointee and was talking about "top decision-makers" inside two executive branch departments. CBS's Jim Stewart also named the Justice and Energy departments, but NBC's George Lewis referred only to "the government's handling of the case" by "the executive branch."

    Peter Jennings opened World News Tonight by highlighting how "the judge says government has embarrassed the nation." Barry Serafin quoted U.S. District Judge James Parker: "I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner in which you were held in custody." Serafin added: "The judge, a Reagan appointee, pointed to those he called 'top decision-makers' in the departments of Justice and Energy, declaring 'they have embarrassed our entire nation and each one of us who is a citizen of it.'"

    On the September 13 CBS Evening News, Jim Stewart proclaimed: "The judge who freed him issued a stunningly sharp attack on the government for the way the case was handled. 'I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner in which you were held.' The departments of Justice and Energy 'have embarrassed our entire nation' said Judge James Parker."

    George Lewis on the NBC Nightly News announced only: "Federal Judge James Parker stunned the entire courtroom by blasting the government's handling of the case, calling it an 'embarrassment to the entire nation,' adding quote: 'I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner in which you were held in custody by the executive branch.'"


Rats removed. Wednesday morning the "rats" ad story only animated NBC's Today for a second day as the show actually treated as newsworthy the PR gimmick by two liberal Senators who promised they will request that the FCC investigate the "subliminal" ad. The show also brought Newsweek's Howard Fineman aboard to point out how the media-generated controversy is blocking Bush from getting his message out.

    ABC's Good Morning America only aired a few anchor-read briefs on the rats ad while CBS's The Early Show moved on to new poll numbers and Bush's troubles in general. Gumbel trumpeted:
    "There's good news for Al Gore this morning. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 40 percent of the voters surveyed now believe that Gore will win the election compared to 38 percent for George W. Bush. That's a dramatic switch from August when a similar poll showed that 47 percent thought Bush would win the White House compared to just 33 percent for Gore. As for whom Americans say they would vote for if the election were held today, Gore received 42 percent to Bush's 39. That's his biggest lead in this poll to date."

    Discussing the campaign with Mario Cuomo and Jack Kemp, Gumbel actually posed a question which picked up on conservative concerns, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed. Gumbel added his own edge in asking Kemp: "Some Republicans are now saying that Bush should get out and go back to hard-line Republican conservative themes. Is that an admission that their make-nice convention was misguided?"

    Kemp argued that's not the way to go.

    On Today, Ann Curry ominously warned: "There is more fallout this morning from the so-called 'rats' ad from the Republican National Committee. The ad is no longer running but two members of Congress now want the FCC to investigate."

    David Gregory promoted the gambit, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "Democratic senators Ron Wyden and John Breaux in this letter obtained by NBC News request a Federal Communications Commission investigation. Writing the Republican ad contains quote, 'subliminal messages in violation of the public interest.' Nonsense claimed Governor Bush in Florida, Tuesday."

    Gregory relayed the Bush team defense of the ad before concluding: "The timing of this latest flap couldn't be worse for the Texas Governor. He spent most of last week fending off distractions like his use of an expletive to describe a reporter and Republican criticism of his campaign. And now two days before the start of the Olympics when advisors expect the public's attention to turn away from politics, aides fear Bush is losing the opportunity to turn things around. Today Bush talks about the environment. Aides promising a new policy initiative with the hope that talking about issues again, instead of politics can help the Governor get back on stride."

    Wednesday night broadcast network coverage of Bush's environmental policy speech: Zilch.

    Newsweek's Howard Fineman piled on, never considering the media's role in creating the distraction: He told news reader Ann Curry: "Well it's damaging Ann in that he can't get his message out. He wanted to talk about prescription drugs. He wanted to say his plan was better. Instead all of the attention and focus was on the ad. And this all too typical of the way the Bush campaign has been. Are they for ads or not? Are they turning nasty or not? Do they hate The New York Times or not? It's just another distraction from a campaign that very much needs to focus on big ideas and a big message if it's gonna have a chance to win."
    Curry: "Well what does Bush have to do to refocus his campaign? And do you think he can?"
    Fineman: "Well ironically Ann what he needs most right now are debates...."

    Like the media would then actually focus on policy issues? -- Brent Baker


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