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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday September 15, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 167) |

Gore Fundraising Blackout; Hillary Sleepovers Avoided; Afraid of Hillary's Power; Gumbel's Memorial Anger; Extremist Gore Boast -- Extra Edition

1) A probe of Gore's involvement in fundraising tied to a veto action? Not a syllable about it Thursday morning or evening on ABC, CBS or NBC. CNN and FNC examined the charge. Instead, ABC's Peter Jennings fretted about "stressed out" bees in Macedonia.

2) ABC scrutinized Dick Cheney's campaigning abilities. He fired back: "What I find disappointing is the extent to which trivia becomes the focal point for what the press is doing."

3) FNC advanced the Hillary sleepover for dollars story, but all the other networks ignored it. Neither ABC or NBC uttered a word Thursday night about the Rick Lazio-Hillary Clinton debate. Dan Rather promulgated the liberal canard about how those opposed to Hillary just can't accept a woman in a leadership role.

4) Debate moderator Tim Russert's question to Hillary Clinton about her deceit during the Lewinsky scandal actually generated "sympathy" for her among viewers, insisted NBC's Pat Dawson, Geraldo Rivera and ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

5) Gail "Bush Has Dyslexia" Sheehy of Vanity Fair has donated to Hillary's Senate campaign, FNC's Brit Hume relayed.

6) The decision to not include a statue of Martin Luther King in his memorial on Washington's Mall enraged Bryant Gumbel who complained it has taken too long to establish the memorial and suggested the "climate" of Reagan's '80s set back the project.

7) MediaNomics: "Biased, Incomplete Network Coverage of Candidates' Drug Plans"; "TV's Skimpy Tax Cut News Shortchanges Voters" and "Kudos...to ABC's Bob Woodruff" for exploring the "radical" idea of privatizing air traffic control.

8) Three noteworthy events on Thursday's late night shows: Al Gore boasted of his extremist position in support of the Kyoto global warming treaty and he delivered the "Top Ten Gore-Lieberman Rejected Campaign Slogans." Joe Lieberman stood and sang "My Way."

Correction: The September 14 CyberAlert reported how "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 1988 'vast right-wing conspiracy' claim." Obviously, two-and-a-half-years ago was January 1998, not 1988.


Not all front page New York Times stories are considered equally newsworthy by the networks. Thursday morning and again Thursday night the broadcast networks refused to inform their viewers of an above-the-fold front page New York Times story which revealed a Justice Department probe of whether Al Gore made a quid-pro-quo fundraising call -- assuring a presidential veto of tort reform in exchange for a large donation.

    But just two days earlier, a below-the-fold front page story in the New York Times fueled a media frenzy which led the three morning shows and generated full stories that night on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows. That story, you may recall, relayed how an anti-Gore RNC ad displayed the letter sequence "RATS" for one-thirtieth of a second, a fact already reported more than two weeks earlier by the Fox News Channel. See the September 13 CyberAlert for details:

    MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams mentioned the new fundraising angle in a larger story Thursday night about the big Radio City Music Hall fundraiser for Gore-Lieberman, but the other two cable networks gave it higher priority. It earned a full story on CNN's Inside Politics and topped CNN's The World Today. The Gore development led FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, on which Jim Angle asserted "the ghosts of the 1996 campaign are once again haunting Al Gore." Actually, they can't haunt him too much if the major networks don't recognize the ghosts.

    None of the other networks picked up Thursday morning or night on the news FNC broke Wednesday night that Hillary Clinton used White House and Camp David overnights to raise money for her Senate campaign. Not even non-denials Thursday by White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and Hillary herself moved ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC or NBC from their slumber. (For more on this developing story, see item #3 below.)

    Instead of telling viewers about Gore's role in tying donations to presidential action or Hillary's abuse of presidential residences, ABC's World News Tonight led September 14 with over two minutes on a GAO report on the increase in advertising in schools, devoted 2:50 to discrimination against Aborigines in Australia, took over two minutes for a critical look at Dick Cheney's campaigning skills (see item #2 for details) and allocated 42 seconds to Peter Jennings reporting on how NATO bombing "stressed out" bees in Macedonia so they are producing less honey.

    The FAA's 737 rudder re-design order led the CBS Evening News which dedicated 2:45 to the ads in schools and 2:20 to arguments over the identity of the "Boston Strangler." NBC Nightly News began with a full story on the presidential debate deal before spending three minutes on Venezuela's efforts to prove Firestone's liability and six minutes previewing the Olympics.

    But back again to ABC's priorities. Peter Jennings passed along this hot development:
    "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, has received an unusual bill from the Macedonia Nectar Association. The Macedonians say that during last year's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia all those NATO jets shrieking overhead traumatized their honeybees. They say that the bees [video of bees] -- these are actually American bees, we couldn't find pictures of their Macedonian cousins -- have been stressed out ever since. This is a serious business for beekeepers. The bees are biting everything in sight and in the last year, much more importantly, have produced 70 percent less honey. Macedonia's honey producers want more than $200,000 for their troubles and beekeepers will agree."

    New York Times reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Richard Oppel Jr. penned the piece in question titled, "Memo Linking Political Donation and Veto Spurs Federal Inquiry." Here's an excerpt of the September 14 front page story the broadcast networks didn't find newsworthy:

Vice President Al Gore attended a Houston dinner in November 1995 to promote a budding relationship between the Democratic Party and a handful of powerful Texas trial lawyers. The relationship blossomed, producing $4 million in donations from the lawyers' firms since 1996. But it also produced some heavy-handed fund- raising that has recently drawn the scrutiny of federal campaign finance investigators.

At the time of the dinner, the lawyers were deeply troubled by a bill passed by the Republican-led Congress that would have drastically overhauled the nation's litigation system by restricting the amount of money that people injured by faulty products could win in lawsuits. Two days after the dinner, Democratic officials asked Mr. Gore to call several lawyers who attended the dinner to ask each to give $100,000 to the party.

Mr. Gore was asked to call Walter Umphrey, a prominent plaintiff's lawyer in Beaumont, Tex., but his aides say he did not make the call. Two weeks later, Donald L. Fowler, then Democratic national chairman, was asked to call Mr. Umphrey to press him for a $100,000 check. On a briefing memorandum for the Fowler call, a Democratic Party aide, wrote these words for Mr. Fowler to tell Mr. Umphrey as the reason for the phone call, "Sorry you missed the vice president," and then, "I know" you "will give $100K when the President vetoes tort reform, but we really need it now. Please send ASAP if possible."

Almost always, the memorandums, known as call sheets, were careful to avoid any mention of executive branch actions or donors' legislative wishes. Soliciting contributions and explicitly linking campaign donations to official actions is improper and, in some cases, illegal....

The call sheet's unusual mention of a veto as part of a solicitation of a $100,000 donation has attracted the attention of Robert J. Conrad Jr., the head of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, who has opened a preliminary investigation into the matter, several law enforcement officials said....

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire story, go to:


ABC had no interest in telling viewers about the latest hook for a probe of Al Gore's fundraising techniques, but the network made time Thursday night to scrutinize Dick Cheney's performance.

    On World News Tonight, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Linda Douglass reviewed reviews of Cheney's campaigning skills: "Dick Cheney's move from the boardroom to the campaign trail has not been an easy one. Kissing babies is not his style. When he accuses Al Gore of lying about Bush's prescription drug plan, there is not much passion....Loyal Republicans say they like Cheney's style. They insist they don't want someone who gets too worked up."

    Nonetheless, Douglass relayed, "the Bush campaign is scrambling to retool Cheney's image after weeks of press reports describing his style as leaden. For the first time, there are made for TV backdrops and staged photo-ops. He is trying gesture and come out from behind the podium. Cheney insists he just needs a little practice."
    After a soundbite from Cheney, Douglass acknowledged: "Cheney did not accept the premise that he got off to a rocky start with a spate of negative news stories about his multi-million dollar stock options and his failure to vote in local elections in Texas."

    She asked him: "Do you think the overall press coverage has been a little unfair?"
    Cheney: "There have been some stories that I thought were unfair. I guess what I find disappointing is the extent to which trivia becomes the focal point for what the press is doing on a particular day."
    Douglass showed him up: "Cheney said yesterday that reporters would rather cover trivia than issues, but the former Defense Secretary is still working to master some of those issues himself. After touting Bush's proposal to let seniors choose their own health plans, he was asked, 'What about those who don't feel competent to choose?'"
    At the event Cheney admitted the campaign hadn't gotten to that detail.

    Douglass concluded: "Bush chose Cheney for his ability to govern, but to govern he must campaign first. He has already learned one important lesson, that it is hard to make campaigning look easy."


Neither ABC or NBC uttered a word Thursday night about the Wednesday night Rick Lazio-Hillary Clinton debate and though CBS's Dan Rather reviewed the proceeding, like ABC, CNN, MSNBC and NBC, he ignored the developing story about how Hillary used presidential residences to reward and encourage donors to her Senate campaign.

    Rather offered a liberal take on what he labeled a "joint appearance, promulgating the usual liberal canard about how those opposed to Hillary just can't accept a woman in a leadership role: "Strong feelings surrounding her run for office in some ways reflect the very different opinions people have about women's changing role in society."

    Fox News Channel advanced the sleepover story the network broke on Wednesday night after the Drudge Report revealed the New York Times was suppressing its story on the matter. Thursday night on Special Report with Brit Hume, reporter Brian Wilson showed how key figures reacted to the charge with non-denials, thus giving a news hook every other network skipped. Specifically, not a word Thursday morning on CBS and nothing in the evening or morning on ABC and NBC and while CNN and MSNBC reviewed the debate Thursday night, neither touched on the sleepover disclosure.

    Wilson updated viewers: "Fox News has learned some in the White House have raised concerns about 26 instances since the summer of 1996 [meant 1999] where couples spent the night at the White House or the presidential retreat at Camp David after contributing or promising to contribute money to the First Lady's Senate campaign. Campaigning in Buffalo, Hillary Clinton did not deny the report but dismissed it as a non-story."
    Hillary Clinton: "We have friends and supporters come and spend time with us, and spend the night with us. We enjoy having people that we know and are getting to know and whom we like spending to with us. So you know I really don't see what's news about that."

    Parse that statement. Notice how "friends" are defined as people she is "getting to know." In normal parlance that means "strangers."

    Wilson added that White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart promised a list of guest names by next week.

    Dan Rather didn't bother with any of this emerging story on the September 14 CBS Evening News as he instead delivered a liberal interpretation of the debate, I mean "joint appearance."

    Rather referred to "their mean and expensive race for a New York Senate race" and claimed the debate, oops, "joint appearance," displayed "vintage New York politics -- part street fight and part theater."

    Rather elaborated: "Columbia University professor and veteran New York political observer Esther Fuchs says Hillary Clinton's candidacy has taken us into unchartered waters."
    Fuchs: "This is a moment in American history that is clearly a turning point. There's no question that we're dealing with something new here which is, you know, a First Lady with her own career that relates to the public policy arena."
    Rather: "The mix of the personal and the political was brought into startling clarity last night when the First Lady was asked to explain past statements about her husband's affair."
    Clip of Matt Lauer on Today in 1998: "Should the American people ask for his resignation?"
    Hillary on Today: "Well they should certainly be concerned about it."
    Back to Hillary during the joint appearance: "That was a very, a very painful time for me and for my family."

    Rather proclaimed: "Mrs. Clinton's candidacy has polarized not only New Yorkers, but observers in the rest of the country as well. The strong feelings surrounding her run for office in some ways reflect the very different opinions people have about women's changing role in society."
    Fuchs confirmed Rather's thesis: "The American people have not yet figured out what to do with this, we're all in a learning process right now. And Hillary Clinton was the first and it's always hard to be the guinea pig in that process."

    Of course if women in powerful, leadership political roles scare people then how did two states elect women to fill both their Senate seats? Dan Rather just can't accept that the problem is Hillary's viewpoints and qualifications, not her gender.

    It's Rather who seems afraid, afraid of being critical of Saint Hillary. For proof, check out his glowing profile of her on 60 Minutes II last year in which he proclaimed: "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning." Go to:


Debate moderator Tim Russert's question to Hillary Clinton about her deceit during the Lewinsky scandal actually generated "sympathy" for her among viewers, insisted NBC's Pat Dawson, with whom Geraldo Rivera agreed, and ABC's George Stephanopoulos. Carl Bernstein was most impressed with Hillary: "I thought Hillary Clinton tonight looked like a thoughtful grown-up and Rick Lazio looked, to me, like a high schooler."

    -- CNBC's Rivera Live, September 13. As transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Rivera wondered: "How do you think Tim Russert's question about the Lewinsky incident played? Did it, did it cut against the First Lady or do you think maybe it generated a bit of sympathy for her?"
    NBC News reporter Pat Dawson, live from Buffalo, ruminated: "I was thinking exactly that as I watched her answer. It certainly was the one thing that seemed to be a complete surprise in the room. I think it was a surprise certainly for the First Lady. She seemed genuinely uncomfortable for a solid minute answering that question. Understandably so I think most people would think."
    Rivera: "I agree with you."
    Dawson: "And I think that it, that it's interesting in this sense. Normally when you see a candidate stumbling over an answer, obviously uncomfortable, perhaps a little embarrassed for that long on television it's a bad moment. I'm not sure this was a bad moment for the First Lady. Because I think to many people that might have, her discomfort might well have created some sympathy for her, as you said. It might well have made her appear a sympathetic character. After all in the end she didn't do the cheating in that relationship, she wasn't the one who was found out to have been lying."

    No, she did lie.

    For details about Russert's question and Hillary's answer, and to watch a RealPlayer clip of the exchange from the debate, go to:

    Veteran reporter Carl Bernstein later piped in: "I was struck by the fact that I thought Hillary Clinton tonight looked like a thoughtful grown-up and Rick Lazio looked, to me, like a high schooler/college debater. And I think what she really needed to do was to look like a Senator. And I think she went a long way toward doing that, that tonight."

    -- ABC's Good Morning America, September 14. Diane Sawyer, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, asked George Stephanopoulos: "What about the moment of reviving the interview about the whole Monica Lewinsky affair. How will she feel about this morning about that?"
    Stephanopoulos asserted: "Better this morning than she felt when it was happening last night because obviously it was painful to see it, but I think her awkward halting answers probably helped gain her a little bit of sympathy. I think he missed a bet there, Lazio missed a bet. When it came back to him, had he simply said 'Listen, none of us want to go through those old days again,' I think he would have scored a lot of points with a lot of independent voters who don't want to talk about this anymore."


Gail "Bush Has Dyslexia" Sheehy has made donations to Hillary's campaign, FNC's Brit Hume relayed in picking up on a Web site's report.

    In his Thursday "Political Grapevine" segment on Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume relayed:
    "Gail Sheehy, the writer who is in the news because of her conclusion that George W. Bush suffers from dyslexia, and was on TV analyzing the Clinton-Lazio debate, has given thousands of dollars to Democratic causes in the past year, including to Mrs. Clinton's campaign. FEC filings, first unearthed by Newsmax.com, show Sheehy gave $300 to Mrs. Clinton's campaign, another $500 to the State Democratic Committee, as well as $750 to Emily's list, the left-leaning women's PAC, and another $1,000 to Bill Bradley's campaign. She, by the way, called the Lazio-Clinton debate a draw."

    For the story Hume cited, go to:


The decision to not include a statue of Martin Luther King in his memorial on Washington's Mall enraged Bryant Gumbel, who expressed his disappointment Thursday morning. MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed how Gumbel asserted that only the African-American King's memorial on the Mall would lack a statue, complained it has taken too long to establish the memorial and suggested the "climate" of Reagan's '80s set back the project.

    The September 14 Washington Post described the winning design selected by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation: "The crescent-shaped memorial will have a hard-surface interior softened by cherry trees on the basin rim and a thick planting of tall, leafy trees along the other border. In the center will be a simple shaft of stone."

    On the September 14 The Early Show on CBS Gumbel asked co-designer Boris Dramov: "I'm not an art critic either, or an architectural critic, or a landscape critic, I'm just a critic. Why no statue to Dr. King as part of the memorial?"

    Gumbel pursued the issue, demanding of MLK Jr. National Memorial Foundation's Adrian Wallace: "Since Dr. King would be the only African-American represented or memorialized on the National Mall, you don't think it at all bothersome that of all of the people memorialized on the Mall he alone would be diminished in stature? That doesn't bother anybody here?"

    Houston to Gumbel: The Washington Monument has no statue of George Washington.

    Gumbel whined: "Why only now, what is it 20, 32 years after his death are we finally getting around to putting this up?"

    Houston to Gumbel: That's a lot sooner than memorials for Lincoln or FDR were built after their deaths.

    Gumbel next took a shot at the Reagan years: "Fair to say the climate of the '80s set you back a little bit?"
    Wallace agreed "times change," to which Gumbel laughed.


The latest edition of MediaNomics, which relays "what the media are telling Americans about free enterprise," is now online from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP). To view the September 12 edition, go to:

    The individual articles researched and written by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

    -- Biased, Incomplete Network Coverage of Candidates' Drug Plans
    Is there a "crisis" over high prescription drug costs, and would the benefits of a new government program be worth the expense to taxpayers? Those were two questions that weren't asked last week when the three broadcast networks compared the two presidential candidates' plans to spend billions on a new entitlement program for America's senior citizens. Instead, the correspondents presented anecdotes that seemed designed to fuel the notion that yet another big government program is absolutely indispensable.

    To read the rest of the article, go to:

    -- TV's Skimpy Tax Cut News Shortchanges Voters
    During the primary season, a Free Market Project study found the three networks gave viewers superficial and biased coverage of the tax cut issue. An analysis of news from the last seven weeks shows things haven't improved. Reporters continued to tag Bush's proposed cut as "huge" or "massive," quoted no economic or tax experts, and denigrated tax cuts as failing to "catch fire" with voters. But an important poll shows most voters still don't know that Bush has proposed a major tax cut.

    To read the rest of the study, go to:

    -- Kudos...to ABC's Bob Woodruff
    There seem to have been an unusual number of delayed or cancelled flights this summer, and that's got the TV networks (among others) looking around for solutions. Mostly, that means asking why federal bureaucrats haven't cracked down harder on the airlines, but one reporter -- ABC's Bob Woodruff -- actually told his viewers about a "radical" market-based solution.

    For the rest of the story, go to:


Democratic ticket night on the late night comedy/talk shows brought three noteworthy events on Thursday: Asked by David Letterman to identify his proudest moments that filled him "with great joy" during his vice presidency, Al Gore boasted of an extremist position, listing his signing of the Kyoto global warming treaty. Gore also delivered the "Top Ten Rejected Gore-Lieberman Campaign Slogans." And on O'Brien, Joe Lieberman stood and sang "My Way."

    -- On the Late Show, David Letterman asked Gore: "From the first inauguration to this moment just give me one or two things that really, when they happened you went home and you said to yourself I'm so proud and happy to be doing what I'm doing. There must have been moments that filled you with great joy."
    Gore replied: "When I was able to cast the tie-breaking vote to put in place a brand new economic plan in the first year that turned, that helped to turn the biggest deficits into the biggest surpluses, create 22 million new jobs, create the strongest economy in history...."

    The second of two events he recounted: "When I was able to go over to the international negotiation on global warming and helped to get a treaty -- called the Kyoto Treaty -- it sounds a little arcane but actually it's a very serious environmental problem that we have to take the leading role in addressing."

    So much for Al Gore the moderate/centrist. The Kyoto Protocols are so extreme the Senate has yet to take up the treaty because Democratic Senators don't want to go on the record with their vote on it. Will any reporters pick up on this boast about such an outside the mainstream position?

    -- From the September 14 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Rejected Gore-Lieberman Campaign Slogans," as read by Al Gore:

10. "Vote For Me Or I'll Come To Your Home And Explain My 191-Page Economic Plan To You In Excruciating Detail"
9. "Remember, America: I Gave You The Internet, And I Can Take It Away. Think About It"
8. "Your Vote Automatically Enters You In Drawing For The 123 Billion-Dollar Budget Surplus"
7. "With Lieberman On The Ticket, You Get All Kinds Of Fun New Days Off"
6. "We Know When The Microphone Is On"
5. "Vote For Me, And I Will Take Whatever Steps Necessary To Outlaw The Term, 'Whazzzup!'"
4. "Gore/Lieberman -- You Don't Have To Worry About Pork Barrel Politics"
3. "You'll Thank Us In Four Years When The Escalator To The Moon Is Finished"
2. "If I Can Handle Letterman, I Can Handle Saddam Hussein"
1. "I'll Be Twice As Cool As That President Guy On 'The West Wing'"

    -- Appearing on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Joe Lieberman sang a slightly customized version of "My Way." It may not reflect media bias, but this is the event I bet the most people would be interested in seeing and hearing. So, late Friday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of Lieberman belting out his tune. Go to: http://www.mrc.org -- Brent Baker


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