Dole Criticisms "Mean," "Harsh" and "Nasty"
Clinton's Character Off Limits
The networks spent early October on referee patrol for
Bill Clinton, ruling out of bounds anything critical or negative about
World News Tonight
anchor Forest Sawyer announced October 3: "Bob Dole decided to step onto
center stage with a harshly worded attack not only on the
administration's work in the Middle East, but its entire foreign
policy....The administration has so far answered softly." The "soft"
response? ABC didn't show it, but Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry
retorted that Dole advisers are "nattering naysayers of gloom."
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams that
night showed new ads from the Dole and Clinton campaigns: "We're going
to begin with the latest ad from the Dole campaign which takes the
campaign into a bit of nasty territory." Dole's ad simply showed clips
of Clinton talking about taxes to illustrate he's really a liberal.
Williams failed to tag the Clinton ad as "nasty," but it included this
negative attack line: "Dole and Gingrich tried to slash school anti-drug
programs. They'd take us back."
Bozo became the big news on October 8. A man in a
crowd yelled at Dole that he should "get Bozo out of the White House."
Dole shot back: "Bozo's on his way out." CNN's Bernard Shaw opened
Inside Politics: "Was he borrowing the words of an
over-enthusiastic supporter, or did Bob Dole lower the level of civility
a notch in his contest with Bill Clinton?"
On the next morning's Today, Katie Couric
asked NBC's Tim Russert: "As you've heard Tim it turned decidedly
nastier in the Dole camp yesterday. He was talking about a moral crisis.
He refused to answer a question if President Clinton was morally and
ethically capable of being President. You heard that Bozo exchange.
Effective strategy or is this going to come back to haunt him?"
Swift network condemnation followed Dole's October 14
decision to raise the ethics issue. On NBC Nightly News David
Bloom declared: "In his harshest, most personal attack yet on the
President, Bob Dole today charged that the Clinton Administration is
unethical, that Bill Clinton himself is slipping and sliding away from
questions about possible illegal campaign contributions."
The next day Dole again discussed what he termed
"public ethics," leading CBS reporter Phil Jones to worry that Dole
"runs the risk of looking desperate and mean-spirited."
Dole's speech prompted Matt Lauer to begin his
Today newscast on October 16, the morning of the second debate:
"Bob Dole is not waiting for that debate to attack Bill Clinton's
ethics. With more on a campaign that is now getting meaner, NBC's Kelly
O'Donnell is standing by live."
Clinton: Moral Leader
The chief White House speechwriter got his job because
candidate Bill Clinton so liked his reporting. In the September 23
Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell relayed why chief
speechwriter Donald Baer, who had been Assistant
Managing Editor of U.S. News, was tapped in 1994: "Clinton
liked the articles Baer contributed to U.S. News during the
1992 campaign" since "Baer wrote with extreme empathy about Clinton's
Caldwell quoted a journalistic colleague: "'Being of
the South and still being rooted there, yet being driven and ambitious
enough to prove oneself in the larger world -- the two of them have a
lot in common.' While Baer has always been a loyal Democrat, he's not
necessarily a liberal. Like Clinton, he has an idiosyncratic,
instinctive, generally progressive politics that winds up at
Beyond ideology maybe, but not beyond idolizing
Clinton. Caldwell learned: "This enthusiasm can appear like ideological
non-commitment or caginess. One New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner
last year described him as `bland beyond description, a fount of cliches.
`Clinton was the moral leader of the Universe,' and all that.'"
Up and Out at
James Fallows took the helm at U.S. News in
late September. The new Editor promoted one veteran of Democratic
politics while another decided to resign. Now in the number two slot as
Managing Editor: Harrison Rainie, an Assistant Managing
Editor since 1988 when he jumped from the office of New York Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan where he had spent most of 1987 as the
Deciding to depart: Kathryn Bushkin,
Director of Editorial Administration since 1984 when she put in a stint
as Press Secretary with Gary Hart's presidential effort. Bushkin has
joined a PR firm.
NBC's on the Mark
A professional flack for a liberal Senator is the
newest member of the on-air reporting team at the NBC News Washington
bureau. Alexandra Marks, Press Secretary to Senator
John Kerry (D-Mass.) from late 1993 to mid-1995, signed on in early
September. Before joining Kerry and again since 1995 Marks worked as a
Christian Science Monitor reporter. But she's not new to TV.
Prior to flacking for Kerry, Marks reported for the Monitor's
since-failed cable channel and for the 10 O'Clock News on WGBH-TV,
Boston's PBS station.
Among the on-air talent brought aboard MSNBC, the new
NBC News cable channel in partnership with Microsoft, were a Clinton
speechwriter and an aide in a Democratic presidential run. Political
correspondent Eric Liu composed speeches for Secretary
of State Warren Christopher in 1993 before becoming, at age 25, the
youngest speechwriter for President Clinton. The New York Times
reported that Liu moved to the White House speechwriting office in
November 1993 where he toiled until June 1994....
hired to cover the White House and Capitol Hill, was general counsel in
1987 for Democrat Joe Biden's unsuccessful run. For the previous four
years Reid had been chief investigator for the Senate Judiciary
Committee's Democratic Senators. After Biden, Reid accepted a producer
slot with ABC News and was a reporter for Washington, D.C.'s ABC
affiliate, WJLA, when tapped by MSNBC.
Media Scoff at Far Right...
But Buy Wacky Left
While the media are quick to dismiss crazy right-wing
conspiracy theories about black U.N. helicopters they granted credence
to the charge that the CIA introduced crack into black Los Angeles
neighborhoods as a way to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. The theory was
forwarded in an August San Jose Mercury News series by reporter
Gary Webb. The four major networks aired a total of 12 stories with CBS
laying claim to five. CNN ran three followed by ABC and NBC which aired
two stories each.
ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This
Morning brought on far- left U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters. She pushed
the charge as proof that outside forces created urban drug addicts.
CBS's Bill Whitaker accepted the charge and placed the
plight of crack babies at the feet of the CIA. His October 1 Evening
News piece opened with a shot of woman holding a crying baby: "The
decade and a half crack epidemic has exacted a ruinous toll. For ten
years Eloise Dangerfield has been rescuing the littlest victims, crack
babies, from the death grip in which the drug has ensnared much of South
Central Los Angeles....So when L.A.'s black citizens heard of the
San Jose Mercury News reports claiming CIA backed Contras opened
the first pipeline for Colombian cocaine to their communities their
first reaction: shock. Their second: anger."
Whitaker aired a soundbite from Webb's source, a drug
dealer, but offered this ambiguous defense of the CIA: "There is no
evidence directly linking the CIA to the drug sales and the CIA says its
own internal investigation has found no connection. Yet here at Ground
Zero of the crack explosion the story simply won't go away." He ended
with more emotion over reason: "Eloise Dangerfield says it is all too
horrible to contemplate. Knowing might ease the pain, she says, but it
won't end the suffering."
In the September 30 Weekly Standard Tucker
Carlson questioned Webb's reporting: "Webb came up with no evidence to
support his claim ....Instead of actual evidence, Webb relies on a
series of unrelated events to show a conspiracy was afoot." Carlson
noted that Sen. John Kerry's two year investigation failed to prove CIA
involvement. "Indeed ample evidence surfaced that CIA officials had
worked to remove drug traffickers from the Nicaraguan resistance."
PBS Special Argues Media Out of Touch, But Show
Proves PBS Out of Touch with Reality
Clinton Doesn't Get Enough Credit
Civility was not the rule at PBS when Frontline
asserted the Reagan administration had funneled drugs into American
cities to fund the Contras, that Reagan's CIA attempted to kill Contra
leader Eden Pastora, or that the 1980 Reagan campaign conspired to delay
the release of the Iranian hostages. Congressional investigations later
unraveled these conspiracy theories with no apologies from PBS.
But now that Bill Clinton is President, PBS has funded
-- without any rebuttal -- Hedrick Smith's four-hour documentary on how
Washington works, The People and the Power Game. For devoting
his first hour on September 3 to his claim that Bill Clinton has been
abused by an uncivil news media, Smith earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Smith began: "By focusing on scandal and conflict over
substance, and by our increasingly negative tone, the media has
distorted the nation's agenda and lost touch with the public we claim to
But Smith made only two brief asides about coverage of
conservatives: how reporters drilled Steve Forbes with personal or
tactical questions on Meet the Press, while average people
asked questions of substance; and Newt Gingrich complaining about the
"childhood games" reporters played at his press conferences. Smith
introduced Gingrich: "A politician on the make knows that the sure way
to command press attention is with sensationalism and extremist
polemics. Newt Gingrich, as a junior Congressman, built his power on
The rest of the hour brought example after example of
scandalous Clinton coverage, from the supposed $200 haircut with
Cristophe on Air Force One, to New York Times reporter Maureen
Dowd: "President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the
university where he didn't inhale, didn't get drafted, and didn't get a
Smith decried the networks "going with a questionable
story that almost felled a future President." Smith never investigated
the substance of the Flowers story, choosing instead to force anchors to
defend themselves for even touching it. But Smith's version was at
variance with the actual record.
He reported ABC's Jim Wooten asked Clinton about the
Star's Flowers story on Thursday, January 23, but decided not
to air a story. ABC's local affiliates did -- as did Nightline,
which booked three guests decrying the story as tabloid trash. Smith
claimed: "By the next day, ABC's World News Tonight, lagging
behind its own affiliates, decided to broadcast the story." Smith asked
Peter Jennings: "In this instance, you tried it [to check the story out]
on the first day, and on the basis of that standard, you didn't run
it...With not much different facts the second day, you did run it."
Replied Jennings: "Yeah. I think that's a fair and slightly painful
characterization for me. But the truth of the matter is that by the
second day, we were pretty much swept along by events."
Smith then interviewed Dan Rather: "I said `Gosh, I
don't have the stomach for doing that. And the first day, even the
second day, we said `Nah, not for me.' I mean, frankly, I don't care,
and I don't think most viewers care. And then somebody came in and said
`Look at this. Last night, one of our major competitors, they went with
it, they went with it strong,' and that bridges over from the sleazy
press into the mainstream."
But any look at the tapes of ABC's World News
Tonight demon-strates that they aired no story on January 24, the
day after Nightline, but waited until the 27th -- after the
Clintons had appeared in an exclusive post-Super Bowl interview on
60 Minutes. And for Rather's version of events -- that a competitor
"went with it strong" -- seems strange since he waited until 60
Minutes did the story. Only NBC's Lisa Myers made passing reference
to the Flowers story before that.
Smith claimed: "The once-cozy relationship between the President and the
White House press corps has dissolved into permanent
combat...Increasingly, critics argue, the balance is out of whack, and
the traditional skepticism of the White House press corps has slid into
cynicism, where a President's thoughtful deliberation is seen as
indecision and compromise as backsliding."
What kind of cynical question did Smith have in mind?
When Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court after
long considering Stephen Breyer, ABC's Brit Hume asked Clinton: "We may
have created an impression, perhaps unfair, of a certain zig-zag in the
decision making process here. I wonder if you could walk us through it
and perhaps disabuse of any notions we might have along these lines.
The CBS reporter may have been criticized by colleague Bernard Goldberg
for attacking Steve Forbes' flat tax, but Smith was only concerned about
Clinton: "Critics contend that Engberg's Reality Checks have gone beyond
investigative journalism and become saturated with opinion, almost
always negative...Just seven days after Clinton's inauguration, for
example, Engberg was on the air with a Reality Check declaring the
infant administration a failure."
But Engberg's actual report never came close to
"declaring the infant administration a failure." Engberg noted Clinton
had not followed through on promises to have plans on the economy and
energy available "on the first day" of his presidency. Engberg also
brought up news reports that the White House was considering a gas tax,
recalling Clinton ruled out raising taxes on the middle class in 1992.
Engberg concluded: "Overall, the first week showed the President willing
to jump into controversies that can slice away some of his early
support. The promise to focus on the economy like a laser seemed to come
unstuck in the Washington centrifuge."
CBS's State of the Union.
Smith declared: "CBS and others in the Washington media were criticized
for relying on inside-the- Beltway punditry in their coverage of
Clinton's State of the Union address." The program quoted Joe Klein
saying: "It was a very, very long speech. This guy loves to give long
speeches." He left out Klein's next sentence: "But it was also a very
Smith rebutted Klein: "But polls showed the public
loved it." Where would Smith have learned that polls showed the public
loved it? CBS aired its instant poll results showing that 85 percent
"approve of the President's proposals," that 74 percent "now have a
clear idea what President Clinton stands for" and 56 percent said
Clinton "better understands the major problems facing the country today"
than the GOP. Rather signed off by repeating all the pro-Clinton poll
Taxpayers fund public broadcasting to be offered an
alternative to the commercial networks. Smith's program shows taxpayers
aren't getting an alternative, but are paying for PBS to scold the media
on how they're not liberal enough.
Tagging Republican House freshmen as extremists is Democratic mantra.
And, it's an assessment endorsed by CBS News. On the October 10
Evening News, Bob Schieffer examined the Ohio re-match between GOP
rookie Frank Cremeans and the man he beat in 1994, Democrat Ted
Schieffer found a GOP official who thought Newt
Gingrich had gone "too far" and asked him a question that incorporated
the Democratic spin on last year's budget showdown: "Where did he make
his mistake? In shutting down the government?"
Strickland insisted that "people want moderation and
when extremes are presented, whether they be from the left or the right,
I think people have a tendency to turn away from that." Schieffer then
concluded by endorsing the "extreme" assessment: "Obvious perhaps, but
as Fall comes to the heartland and the election draws near, dozens of
Republican freshmen are running scared, wondering if it's a lesson they
learned in time."
For the media, bad news is usually good news. Right? Well, not when the
good news helps Bill Clinton. On June 30, The New York Times
reported that "the share of national income earned by the top five
percent of households grew at a faster rate than during the eight years
of the Reagan administration, which was often characterized as favoring
the rich." ABC's World News Tonight ran no story. But on
September 26, when the Census Bureau reported that median income had
risen as poverty fell, who got the credit? Bill Clinton.
Reporter Barry Serafin reported that median income
grew 2.7 percent, but remained lower than 1989. Serafin started his
story: "The number of Americans living in poverty fell. There were 36.4
million people below the poverty level, 1.6 million fewer than the year
before. The poverty rate for African-Americans dropped to its lowest
level since 1959, 29.3 percent. What does it add up to?"
Following a soundbite from Clinton, Serafin continued:
"Citing the income gains, the President declared that the country is on
the right track. He heralded progress on narrowing the gap between the
richest and poorest Americans." Serafin used a single expert source for
his story, a professor from MIT. Whom did the professor credit? Clinton
and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Serafin closed the story: "All in all the new numbers
added to a very good day for Bill Clinton." Thanks to ABC.
Gore: Too Important to Criticize.
If you are powerful enough to get between a microphone and Clinton then
you're personal hypocrisy doesn't matter. At least that's what a CBS
During the Democratic convention in Chicago Vice
President Al Gore was widely praised by reporters for his emotional
attack of tobacco by highlighting his sister's death from lung cancer in
1984. On CBS Bob Schieffer called it "a barnburner." However, reporters
failed to recognize that in 1988, four years after his sister died, Gore
made an enthusiastic appeal to voters in tobacco states by stressing his
own efforts in growing tobacco.
The October 3 CBS Evening News included a
profile of Gore by Rita Braver. For the first time, CBS viewers heard
about Gore's hypocrisy, but Braver excused him."He's in on every key
White House meeting and decision. Just last month in his role as
environmental guru, Gore convinced the President to create a
controversial national monument in Utah. Of late, Republicans have
attacked him for making a convention speech about his sister's death
from lung cancer caused by smoking...While for several years after her
death he let tobacco be grown on land he owned." But instead of seeing
this as a character flaw, Braver relayed Gore's spin about how he
"dismisses that attack as politics, an attempt to sully a man so close
to the President he feels free to interrupt him." Viewers then saw video
of Gore stepping in front of Clinton at a microphone.
Media to Dole: Just Stay Home.
Is it wrong for a presidential candidate to
address an ideological political organization? Only if it's a
When Bob Dole spoke September 14 to the Christian
Coalition, on the NBC Nightly News David Bloom was concerned:
"Dole decided only this morning to speak to the Christian Coalition
despite worries inside his campaign that a bow to the religious right
might send the wrong message to moderate, swing voters... Clinton's
campaign spokesman said in a statement: 'Watching Bob Dole arm in arm
with Pat Robertson speaks volumes to the extreme agenda being pursued by
the Dole-Kemp-Gingrich team.' A top Clinton campaign official was all
smiles, saying, 'if you see Dole, tell him thanks for me.'"
But although Clinton was not criticized for refusing
to speak at the same Coalition meeting, NBC cast in racial terms Dole's
July 10 decision to decline the NAACP's speaking invitation. Back then
reporter Jim Miklaszewski claimed the group considered it "an insult to
African-American voters...By not showing up here, Bob Dole may reinforce
those racial divides along party lines and fuel the anxiety among some
Republicans that in this presidential campaign, Bob Dole may not be up
to the challenge."
Following David Bloom's piece chastising Dole's Christian Coalition
speech, Brian Williams claimed the Coalition was "no longer the lone
voice for conservative Christians." What new group of conservative
Christians had NBC discovered?
Bob Abernethy described a group "uncomfortable" with
the Coalition's "partisanship and with what seems to many critics its
divisiveness and its neglect of the poor." Abernethy described the new
group's agenda as a "new kind of political action that defends the poor
and brings people together." But at their convention, they "heard from
children right's advocate Marian Wright Edelman," and Christian Marxist
The group, Call To Renewal, hardly fits Williams'
"conservative" label. Yet Abernethy didn't apply a single liberal label,
even though "children's advocate" Edelman's speech garnered applause for
this line: "Let's guarantee a job. Let's guarantee health care and
children care. Let's turn this welfare repeal into real welfare reform."
Abernethy simply described Wallis as "Reverend," but
in the past Wallis has voiced hope that "more Christians will view the
world through Marxist eyes." By failing to disclose Call To Renewal's
ideological agenda, Abernethy committed sin by omission.
Media Flew the Koop.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop endorsed the
Clinton health care scheme early on, making him a ubiquitous presence on
the networks. Koop made news again when he criticized Bob Dole for
suggesting nicotine is not addictive. He appeared on Good Morning
America and was featured in stories on other networks castigating
Dole. In the infamous July interview in which Dole and Katie Couric
sparred over liberal bias, Couric cited Koop: "C. Everett Koop is pretty
nonpartisan wouldn't you say? He criticized you quite severely for your
comments. You're saying the liberal media had a problem but even Dr.
Koop had a problem."
But when Koop criticized President Clinton for vetoing
in April the partial-birth abortion ban passed by Congress, he fell into
TV's memory hole. The former Surgeon General did not appear on any
network to talk about his condemnation of the President. The lesson?
When a nationally known figure announces he is for a liberal proposal,
he is much in demand by the media. When the same figure comes out in
support of a conservative cause, the media silence is overwhelming.
Dole Behind: Blame Conservatives.
Conservatives argue that Bob Dole's lack of identity with issues that
excite conservatives explained why he failed to early on secure his
Republican base. But more than a month before the election, ABC's Dean
Reynolds instead assigned Dole's low standing in the polls to his being
"too conservative." For the September 23 World News Tonight
Reynolds traveled to Lansing, Michigan where he found that "many of the
voters we spoke with blame Gingrich for last year's government shutdown,
for a mean-spirited attitude generally, and for attempts to trim
Medicare specifically." Then while interviewing a "lifelong Republican"
Reynolds asked, "Your party, did it move too far to the right?"
Reynolds next talked with Republican women in a
restaurant who opposed Dole on abortion. Of the eight talking heads
aired from Lansing, seven were anti-Dole and only one offered "lukewarm"
support for Dole.
When the Republican Congress obliterated the 55 mph national speed limit
last year reporters warned of the coming carnage on the nation's
highways. "As Congress moves toward allowing states to raise the limit,"
CBS' Bob Orr sounded the alarm in a June 20, 1995 piece, "safety
regulators warn highway fatalities will climbDoctors say if only
lawmakers could see what goes on each day in trauma rooms, they would
keep the lid on speed." On November 28, 1995, the day President Clinton
signed the bill to raise the speed limit, Bob McNamara intoned on the
CBS Evening News: "Raising the speed limit may be popular with
the public, but there could be a deadly downsideSoon, politicians here
may find out that sometimes giving the public what it wants could be a
Now the statistics are in: Many states have actually
seen their traffic fatalities decline. In the August 26 USA Today,
Carol J. Castaneda reported that newspaper's review of states that
increased their speed: "Three states reported decreases ranging from 4
percent to 28 percent within a five- to eight-month period after limits
were raised. Fatalities remained relatively the same in four states."
Six states saw increases, but in "California and several other states
[that saw increases], it was unclear whether fatalities occurred on
highways where the speed limit was raised."
Grand Canyon Gap.
On September 18, 1991, when President Bush visited the Grand Canyon, ABC
and NBC used it as an opportunity to review his record on the
environment. On World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings
announced that Bush "promised that he would be the environmental
President and today he went to the Grand Canyon. It was a trip critics
charged was nothing more than grand standing." Reporter Ann Compton
opened her story: "This morning there was only a slight haze drifting
through the Grand Canyon, so the South Rim was a picture perfect spot
for President Bush to claim an environmental victory, but on many days
smog from a nearby power plant makes it impossible to see across to the
Canyon walls just two miles away." Who did Compton use for a soundbite?
Then Senator Al Gore.
What a difference a President makes. When President
Clinton and Vice President Gore visited the Grand Canyon exactly five
years later to designate 1.7 million acres in Southern Utah as a
national monument, no network used this photo op as a chance to tear
apart Clinton's environmental record, quite the contrary. On the CBS
Evening News, reporter Rita Braver started her story: "With Al
`Earthman' Gore by his side, the President signed a bill designating 1.7
million acres of land 70 miles away in Utah as the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument." ABC's Sam Donaldson was no
different: "Dressed in appropriate western attire, boots and blue
blazers, the top guns of the Democratic team came to the South Rim of
the Grand Canyon to make points as conservationists."
Revelation After Revelation Reported by
Newspapers, But Never Make TV News
Networks Blackout Clinton's Bad News
On September 26, the House ethics committee announced
it would expand an investigation of Speaker Newt Gingrich's college
course "Renewing American Civilization." ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC reported
the story, ultimately adding up to eleven broadcast network morning and
evening segments in five days.
The next morning, NBC's Today led off with an
interview with NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, who proclaimed:
"It's awful, it's serious, it's potentially devastating." On October 8,
Today's Matt Lauer asked Gingrich six questions about ethics,
including two about whether Gingrich would resign. But a
MediaWatch review of recent scoops on the Clinton
administration's character shows a much different approach to stories
which could damage Democrats.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's inspector general concluded
that Hillary Clinton had drafted a real estate document with the intent
to "deceive" federal regulators. That real estate transaction, a sham
deal selling a property named Castle Grande to a straw buyer, later cost
taxpayers $4 million in the bailout of Madison Guaranty Savings and
The Washington Post put
the news on its September 24 front page. Network coverage? Nothing --
until October 4, when NBC's Jim Miklaszewski mentioned it in a
Nightly News story on a speech by independent counsel Ken Starr:
"Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr was invited to appear by outspoken
Clinton critic Pat Robertson and the audience was very conservative. The
White House claims that's proof Starr is out to get Clinton for
political reasons, but Starr says he'll stay the course."
(ABC and CNN did report the story last February 29,
when the FDIC released a more favorable assessment, recommending the
FDIC not seek legal recourse against Mrs. Clinton or the Rose Law Firm.)
September 24: A
House committee held hearings on charges that the administration has let
criminals become citizens. The Washington Times story the next
day began: "Immigration workers yesterday told a House Government Reform
and Oversight subcommittee of rampant abuses in the Citizenship USA
program that apparently let thousands of immigrants with criminal
records become citizens." The networks? Zilch until the October 18
CBS Evening News.
Also on September 24, a federal jury convicted Sun
Diamond Growers, one of the nation's largest producers of fruits and
nuts, of illegally showering former Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike
Espy with nearly $6,000 in gifts, a conviction for Independent Counsel
Donald Smaltz. The story made The Washington Post
front page the next day. Network coverage? Nothing, but The NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer on PBS did a brief anchor-read item.
Sen. Orrin Hatch revealed a six-month gap in the log which listed who at
the White House was accessing FBI background files on Republican White
House employees. The Washington Times bannered the news across
page one the next day. Coverage? A CNN World Today story and a
mention on ABC's Good Morning America.
Also on the 25th, the Times reported that
Rep. John Mica (R.-Fla.) sent a letter to Clinton's "drug czar"
demanding release of a four-month-old Institute for Defense Analysis
report that concluded Bush's interdiction policy was far more effective
than Clinton's emphasis on drug treatment. Network coverage? Nothing
until a story by David Martin on the October 15 CBS Evening News.
Three days after President Clinton refused to rule out pardons for
Whitewater figures on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 170 members
of Congress, including three Democrats, sent a letter to the White House
demanding Clinton promise not to pardon anyone. The September 29
Washington Times reported that House Democrats were prepared to
shut down the government if Republicans demanded a vote on a resolution
calling for President Clinton to renounce pardons. Network coverage?
With the exception of one general question on the 29th about pardons
from CBS Evening News Sunday anchor John Roberts to commentator
Laura Ingraham, absolutely nothing until Dole raised the subject later.
October 1: The
White House claimed executive privilege to withhold from House
investigators a memo to President Clinton from FBI Director Louis Freeh
said to be highly critical of federal drug policy. Network response?
October 4: Sen.
Orrin Hatch released the deposition of White House aide Mari Anderson
before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Anderson verified that pages of
the log used to record the taking of FBI files were missing. Anderson
also asserted, in contra- diction to White House aide Craig
Livingstone's assurances, that he knew they were procuring the FBI files
of Republicans. Even The Washington Post put this story on its
front page the next day. Network coverage? Only CNN, in two Linden Soles
anchor-briefs on The World Today, mentioned the news. (ABC's
World News Tonight didn't report it, but the revelations were
raised in an interview on the October 6 This Week.)
Also on October 4, former FBI Special Agent Dennis
Sculimbrene, who was the senior agent assigned to the White House from
1986 to April 1996, told The Wall Street Journal: "There were
senior people as well, senior aides and advisers to the President who
used drugs recently -- people in policy positions, or say, the director
of an office...Some senior people even said they had used drugs as
recently as the Inaugural." Sculimbrene estimated that "about 25 percent
of the incoming administration, about one out of four cases, had a
problem with illegal drugs. Not just casual experimentation, but a
pattern of usage." Network coverage? Zero.
October 10: A
House panel investigating the Clinton administration's secret foreign
policy initiative to encourage the Iranian government to arm the Bosnian
Muslims asked the Justice Department to probe administration officials
for possible criminal charges for false statements. Since the
Iran-Bosnia secret foreign policy emerged in the Los Angeles Times
April 5, CBS and NBC have aired absolutely nothing on the evening news
about the story. CNN and ABC aired only anchor briefs, only in the first
days of the story. Network coverage for the latest development? Zero.
On CNN's Crossfire Sept. 20, Chicago
Tribune reporter Ellen Warren declared: "Reporters want nothing
more, this year and four years ago, to have a horse race. That's what
we're in love with, is the fight, the close call....So it's in our
interest to make it look close, to make Bob Dole look good."
The omissions documented here suggest otherwise.
the Bright Side
Impartial on Partial-Birth
Cutting through the rhetoric forwarded by both sides
of the partial-birth abortion debate, in The Washington Post's
September 17 Health section reporter David Brown found wanting some
media- held assumptions about the issue.
Brown exposed inaccuracies in many abortion
supporters' arguments. At the veto ceremony of the partial-birth
abortion bill, Clinton said, these women "`represent a small, but
extremely vulnerable group They all desperately wanted their children.
They didn't want abortion. They made agonizing decisions only when it
became clear that their babies would not survive, their own lives, their
health, and in some cases their capacity to have children in the future
were in danger.'" But Brown uncovered that "Doctors say that while a
significant number of their patients have late abortions for medical
reasons, many others perhaps the majority y do not."
Brown also examined the procedure from a perspective
not usually focused on by the media: the baby's point of view. Since the
partial-birth procedure is usually done in the second and third
trimesters of gestation, is it possible the last minutes of the child's
life are spent in excruciating pain? Brown determined the answer is not
fully known: "Scientists must deduce pain's presence (or absence) by
looking for the psychological signs of the sensation. Those include
hormones and other biochemicals that appear in the bloodstream when pain
is produced, as well as more subjective signs, such as facial grimaces
or the movement of limbs. Nobody can say, for certain, however, whether
these things denote pain in a developing human being."
Wall of Denial Breaks Down
Media Actually Admit Bias
Sam Donaldson, USA Today's Richard Benedetto
and the Chairman of CBS all agree: the media are biased.
With Brit Hume out ill for a few days, Donaldson
returned to the campaign trail for the first time since Reagan's years.
And he found things have changed, USA Today's Peter Johnson
reported September 23: "Have the boys on the bus lost the fire in their
bellies, the one that fueled their cries of `Mr. President! Mr.
President!' during President Reagan's years in office? ABC's Sam
Donaldson isn't saying, exactly, but suspects something's going on.
Except for CBS' Rita Braver, `I have heard no reporter trying to ask the
President any question,' Donaldson said....
"What's this, Sam? Reporters going easy on Clinton?
`You're not going to get me in a fight with these guys. They're my
friends,' said Donaldson, who covered the White House from 1977 to 1989.
`But there seems to a change in attitude or a different attitude toward
covering the President.'"
A USA Today reporter concurs. In his
"Politics" column the same day, Richard Benedetto wrote: "As President
Clinton's re-election campaign rolled through six states in four days
last week, it did so virtually unimpeded by a White House press corps
known for setting up roadblocks now and then....He was left free to make
a string of feel-good speeches that won great play in the media and gave
the desired impression that the Clinton campaign is on a roll....
"In 1992, a tough White House press corps rightly kept
President Bush's feet to the fire on domestic issues he would rather
have downplayed. But the 1996 crew appears less aggressive with
The realization of media bias extends to the top of
CBS. Michael Jordan, the Chairman of Westinghouse, parent of CBS,
revealed in a magazine profile that he agrees with CBS reporter Bernard
Goldberg's charge that network reporting tilts left.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed back in
February Goldberg cited a specific CBS story to support his contention
that "the old argument that the networks and other 'media elites' have a
liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing
anymore." CBS reaction at the time: "It's such a wacky charge,"
commented a baffled Bob Schieffer. CBS News President Andrew Heyward
called the charge "absurd," took Goldberg off the air for two months and
then canceled his bylined CBS Evening News feature, "Bernard
In the Summer Forbes MediaCritic, Terry
Eastland found that in a May USAir Magazine profile, Jordan
sided with Goldberg: "I think his criticism is fair. I think all the
networks can do a better job at providing a more objective and balanced
perspective." Now, if only Jordan would put his concerns into action.
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