DNC Fundraising Documents, Illegal Taping of GOP
Nothing So Good as Nailing Newt
On December 26 the Democratic National Committee
released a big pile of embarrassing documents on their fund-raising
activities, but two networks ignored it. Weeks later, when Democrats
passed along a tape of a cellular phone call among top House
Republicans, the networks worried it would divert attention from Newt
The fundraising papers showed how foreign donors got
special access to the White House and the President. The New York
Times ran a big piece on the December 27 front page. The December 26
CBS Evening News led with the revelations and followed up with
another story the next night. But neither ABC's World News Tonight
nor the NBC Nightly News uttered a word either night.
ABC did run a story December 27 on Gingrich losing
support. John Cochran concluded: "Gingrich is fortunate that his
troubles have come over the holidays when most Americans aren't paying
much attention." But ABC wasn't paying attention to Clinton.
Examining the DNC papers in a front page USA Today
story on December 30, reporter Tom Squitieri relayed how the Democrats
planned to respond if questions arose about coordination of DNC, White
House and Clinton-Gore campaign fundraising: "Those caught in scandals
were advised `don't lie' in one DNC memo. Next they were to `announce an
internal investigation, independent investigation or white paper to
examine the matter' in order to buy time. Finally, they were to `impugn
the source,' the DNC advised." Network coverage of this cynical plan?
The January 10 New York Times ran a transcript
of a cellular phone conversation they got from a Democrat, later
identified as U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). But exploring this
unethical and illegal leak didn't excite reporters. Dan Rather stuck to
Gingrich that night, insisting that what was said on the tape "raises a
whole new ethics question about Speaker Gingrich."
He kept that spin Jan. 13: "Now there's an added
ethics allegation based on what Gingrich said, in what he thought was a
secret telephone call, which Democrats say is proof that Gingrich
violated a promise to the House ethics committee not to mount a
political damage control effort. But Republicans tried to shift the
focus today away from what Gingrich actually said."
The next night, CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews concluded
by noting how those who recorded the call "could be charged with a
crime. Congressman James McDermott, who leaked the tape, could be
charged with a crime and ironically, in the ways of Washington, mini-tapegate
has for five days sidetracked substantive ethics charges against the
Speaker of the House."
15 Years of Liberal Advocacy
After 15 years NBC's Today no longer provides a
platform for Bryant Gumbel to spout his liberalism and attack
conservatives. He retired from the show on January 3. USA Today
noted that "conservatives dislike Gumbel so much that he's a regular in
the Media Research Center's bi-weekly Notable Quotables."
Gumbel told the January 2 edition of the newspaper: "I
don't know if I have a liberal bent...But it is fair to say it's very
difficult for a black man in this country to be of a conservative bent.
That's a fair statement. It's very difficult to be an African-American
male, and have an African-American son who is going to be 18 years of
age, and hear things like cops want to crack down and send more to
prison, to hear calls for tougher statutes, less welfare, less programs
for the poor, and less things for people of color. If that says I'm not
conservative, so be it."
Yes it does. Take a look:
- July 17, 1989: "Largely as a result
of the policies and priorities of the Reagan administration, more
people are becoming poor and staying poor in this country than at any
time since World War II."
- January 31, 1990: "It is certain the
President won't mention the T word, and yet taxes are very much at the
heart of what all our potential solutions are. How long can both sides
pretend that a hike's not needed?"
- April 20, 1990: "The missteps, poor
efforts, and setbacks brought on by the Reagan years have made this a
more sober Earth Day. The task seems larger now."
- March 17, 1993, to a budget expert:
"It's early yet, but for at least trying to address the deficit in a
more serious fashion than anyone in 12 years, what kind of early marks
do you give Bill Clinton?"
- March 31, 1993: "In the greedy
excesses of the Reagan years, the mean income of the average physician
nearly doubled, from $88,000 to $170,000. Was that warranted?"
- May 10, 1994: "We've got an awful lot
to talk about this week, including the sexual harassment suit against
the President. Of course, in that one, it's a little tough to figure
out who's really being harassed."
- January 4, 1995, to Democratic Leader
Dick Gephardt: "You called Gingrich and his ilk, your words,
`trickle-down terrorists who base their agenda on division, exclusion,
and fear.' Do you think middle class Americans are in need of
protection from that group?"
- April 25, 1995, after the Oklahoma
City bombing: "Right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Bob
Grant, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan, and others take
to the air every day with basically the same format: detail a problem,
blame the government or a group, and invite invective from like-minded
people. Never do most of the radio hosts encourage outright violence,
but the extent to which their attitudes may embolden and encourage
some extremists has clearly become an issue."
- January 18, 1996, to Steve Forbes:
"Isn't this a souped-up version of the same kind of trickle-down
Reaganomics that we saw through already? Lower taxes were supposed to
spur growth. Instead we got record deficits."
- November 18, 1996, to Jimmy Carter:
"You write that you prayed more during your four years in office than
basically at any time in your life and yet I think it's fair to
say...you are consistently viewed as one of the more ineffective
Presidents of modern times....What do you think, if anything, that
says about the power of prayer?"
Taylor Story Finally Noticed
Paula Jones in Reverse
The media largely dismissed the credibility of Paula Jones when she
announced her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton in
1994. When Clinton's effort to delay the case went before the Supreme
Court January 13, however, some acknowledged their misjudgment.
"Yes, the case is being fomented by right-wing nuts, and yes, she is
not a very credible witness, and it's really not a law case at
all...some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer
parks...I think she's a dubious witness, I really do," proclaimed
Newsweek's Evan Thomas on Inside Washington in 1994. Almost
three years later he wrote "Americans who dismiss Paula Jones as a
tawdry sideshow may be in for a surprise."
Why the change? Reporters credited the work of Stuart Taylor who
reviewed the Jones complaint in the November American Lawyer. He
found the case valid and her evidence credible. But the same reporters,
including Thomas who wrote "Taylor's article was widely read in
newsrooms and editors' offices, including those at Newsweek," didn't
report on the article when first published in late October.
On the January 13 CBS Evening News reporter Rita Braver
explained that "It was the women's vote that clinched the presidency for
Bill Clinton...So the charges made by Paula Corbin Jones go straight to
the heart of who Bill Clinton is," before noting "but last fall, in a
groundbreaking article, respected law reporter Stuart Taylor tracked
down several new witnesses whose testimony persuaded him that Jones was
probably telling the truth." Still, CBS waited ten weeks to inform
viewers this proof existed.
NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported that Taylor, in a conclusion NBC
waited two and a half months to report, determined the Jones case is
"even stronger than Anita Hill's."
Newsweek's Thomas issued his mea culpa in the January 13
edition: "Arguably, the main reason more people don't take her story
seriously is that the mainstream media have been skillfully spun by the
White House and Clinton's lawyers. By playing on the class and partisan
prejudices of reporters, as well as their squeamishness and ambivalence
about printing stories about the sex lives of politicians, Clinton's
operatives have done a brilliant job of discrediting Paula Jones and her
Janet Cooke Award
Sunday Morning's Martha Teichner Loads Story
with Liberal Lobbyist Quotes and Statistics
Comparing Boston's Hunger to Rwanda?
The reality of poverty in America's inner cities never seems dramatic
enough for the network news. The networks have even attempted to suggest
poor children are suffering from clinical malnutrition -- the
disabling kind of hunger news watchers might associate with sub-Saharan
Africa. For filing another story on child hunger that relied on the
evidence and advocacy of liberal lobbyists and avoided conservative
experts, CBS Sunday Morning earned the Janet Cooke Award.
Charles Osgood introduced the December 8 story: "All
children experience growing pains at one time or another. They are a
natural accompaniment to natural physical and psychological growth and
they're mostly unavoidable simply a part of growing up. But there is
another sort of childhood pain that ought not to be a part of growing
up, that is very much avoidable if only we could choose to make it so."
Reporter Martha Teichner began her sermon with a
literate flourish: "Just before Thanksgiving, winter announced its
arrival in the city of Boston with an insult, with a cold wet kiss of
betrayal for the children of the city's poor. With winter's onset each
year comes a phenomenon Dr. Deborah Frank has come to call `heat or
eat.' A phenomenon that can actually be measured on the bodies of the
patients she sees at her clinic for underweight children." She asked:
"You literally either pay for the heat or pay for the food?" Frank
replied: "Right, because food is the only discretionary income they've
got. I mean they've got to pay rent or they'll be homeless and that's
catastrophic. And they've got to pay utilities or they freeze. And so
Teichner explained Frank's work: "By the time children
are referred to the Grow Clinic at the Boston Medical Center, by their
doctors or by a hospital emergency room, stretching has taken its
toll...They are diagnosed with a condition called `failure to thrive,'
in the vocabulary of social service-speak. When the same condition is
referred to in Third World countries, it's called malnutrition. Yes,
malnutrition not only exists but is a significant and growing problem in
the United States, in spite of this country's wealth and abundance. Now
before any of the changes in the welfare laws kick in, four million,
that is one out of five, poor children under 12 goes hungry according to
research accepted by the U.S. government. These are the kids most likely
to end up at the Grow Clinic."
Are "failure to thrive" and malnutrition synonyms? Dr.
Ruth Kava, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and
Health, told MediaWatch: "`Failure to thrive' is a phrase
used when you're not really sure what's going on, but children aren't
growing as well as you might expect. The child could be marginally
malnourished, or suffering from an imbalance of nutrients. But it's not
overt, severe malnutrition...not the stark, horrible things you see in
the Third World."
And what "research accepted by the U.S. government"
was CBS citing? Teichner did not return repeated MediaWatch
phone calls, but these figures suggest a hunger "study" performed in
Boston by Tufts University's Center on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition
Policy in June 1993 which claimed its analysis was "based on Census
Bureau data for 1991." But Tufts analyst John Cook conceded to
MediaWatch at that time: "There is no Census hunger data." The
Tufts team extrapolated supposed hunger from Census Bureau poverty
statistics. So how can Teichner use this unnamed study to claim
malnutrition is a "significant and growing problem" in present-day
America when it has no hunger data and its poverty data is five years
Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector told
MediaWatch CBS is refuted by spending data: "Last year, the
governments of the United States spent $205 billion assisting poor
children. If you divide that by the number of children under 150 percent
of the poverty line, around $23,000 for a family of four, you're talking
about spending $9,000 a year per child. And these kids are still going
hungry?" Rector's studies of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics
on food consumption of children have shown poor children get the same
levels of nutrition as wealthier children, and that the real health
problem for poor children is obesity.
Teichner was more interested in Third World hyperbole:
"But the way the world responds to this kind of emergency, in say,
Rwanda and how Americans react to it at home, enrages Dr. Frank." Frank
claimed: "If there was a virus, there would be a public outcry and a
major social push to save our children. But when the problem is hunger
people get very moralistic. They don't deserve it, their parents don't
know how to feed them right. The problem is lack of political will and
in fact, more than that, active disowning of public responsibility
towards all American children."
The story moved on to a private fundraiser for the
Grow Clinic at a fashionable Boston restaurant, which Teichner
discounted: "No way, though, that donors' deep pockets can offset social
services cuts beginning to take effect."
Teichner explained: "Welfare reform has turned Dr.
Frank into an evangelist who doesn't mind courting controversy." Frank
declared: "It is so unbelievably, not just cruel but stupid to put the
burden of our society's economic problems on our youngest children." CBS
did not explain the depths of that evangelism, that Dr. Frank is
repetitively featured in Boston newspaper stories furiously lobbying
against welfare reforms. Frank told Boston Globe columnist Alan
Lupo on September 11, 1994: "We've got privileged white men running for
office to see who's tougher on women and babies. We don't lack the
resources to do what we have to do. We lack the political will. We need
taxes to do this, and we need to tell people that this is a worthwhile
use of taxes."
Teichner concluded: "She considers her 12-year track
record at the Grow Clinic her license to speak out. But her program can
help, at most, 200 kids a year. Its successes are small, measured a
pound at a time against the enormous weight of a problem that is
growing." She gave Dr. Frank the story's last word: "The safety net is
shredding more and more, and more and more small bodies are falling
through it. And the shredding isn't over."
CBS never specified where these "shreddings" were
taking place in government programs. Rector told MediaWatch
that total welfare spending has mushroomed from $183 billion when Ronald
Reagan left office to $411 billion this fiscal year. "Spending has more
than doubled. It's out of control, and yet the story never changes. It's
like a mimeograph from eight years ago. This is truly the most absurd
and ridiculous propaganda exercise of the 20th century." Teichner's
story packs a propagandistic punch, but it lacked a balance of opinions,
any definitive factual evidence for its grand assertions. Call it
Not Inn the News
Appearing on CNN's Larry King Weekend on
January 4, NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell suggested one Clinton
scandal resonated with the public, but she never told them about it.
The Washington Post
reported in its Sunday editions on December 15 that the Democrats
rewarded large donors with an overnight White House stay. When it came
up on CNN, Mitchell explained: "I've been working on that story and I
kind of think that even though Republicans in the past have had their
big contributors and have abused the soft money contributions, the money
that doesn't have to be accounted for, people understand the selling of
the Lincoln Bedroom. You know, when the Lincoln Bedroom becomes the
Motel 6, that resonates with the American people."
But NBC's Today didn't mention it the morning
of the Post story or even the next day. Football bumped Sunday's NBC
Nightly News, but nothing appeared the next night. In the three
weeks from the Post story's publication through her CNN appearance,
Nightly News carried three Clinton scandal pieces, all from
Mitchell. None of the stories contained a word about this payback policy
she claimed to be "working on."
A Plane Outrage
While the Motel 6 story went untold, NBC did have time
to report the "scandal" of outgoing Rep. Bob Dornan's recent ride in a
Marine fighter plane. On the December 10 Nightly News, Tom Brokaw
announced: "Say you're a long-standing member of Congress whose support
for defense programs is so legendary your colleagues nickname you B-1
Bob, for the bomber. And say your constituents just voted you out of
office. What are you going to do? Well if you're Bob Dornan, the
Republican firebrand from Orange County, California, you take one last
spin in a Marine Corps F/A-18 fighter jet like this one...How much did
this final ride cost taxpayers? Somewhere between two and four thousand
Earlier in the day on Inside Politics, CNN's
Bernard Shaw also took up the story: "Republican Bob Dornan may have
lost his congressional seat but he can still wrangle a perky elite seat
from the U.S. military. Dornan has taken one last fast fling before his
congressional privileges dry up...The public interest group, the Center
for Defense Information, says that one hour flight cost about $4,000."
While CNN promoted the liberal CDI's press release without explaining
their politics, Shaw at least sought the whole story, adding: "A Marine
spokesman says the flight didn't set taxpayers back. They say it
would've taken place with or without the Congressman from California."
Pumping Up Poverty
If poverty doesn't appear widespread enough to justify
more federal spending, just change the definition of the problem. A
liberal group did and ABC fell for it. On the December 11 World News
Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings announced: "There is a study today by
a private research group called the National Center for Children in
Poverty which believes that the government's official poverty level is
too low." Reporter Rebecca Chase began: "During the last 15 years this
study found the number of children under the age of six living in
poverty grew from 3.5 million to 6.1 million. That's one in every four
children. And when families living on the edge of poverty are included,
using a cutoff of $28,000 a year for a family of four, nearly half of
all young children are living in or near poverty. This means the United
States has the highest child poverty rate among industrialized nations."
$28,000? According to the Department of Commerce, in
1995 the poverty level for a family of four was $15,569, barely half the
figure used in the study. Obviously, the higher you make the poverty
level, the more children you can claim live in poverty. Using a 15-year
study period also obscures positive trends: for example, the Census
Bureau's measure of child poverty declined in the Reagan years, from13.9
million in 1983 to 12.6 million in 1989.
Jack E. White Noise
Maybe the reason why there is so much liberalism in
the media is because it is so often rewarded. In the December 23 Time,
President Bruce Hallett boasted: "Last month the New York Association of
Black Journalists honored us with four awards....Jack E. White for the
second consecutive year received two prizes: one for `overall excellence
in writing and reporting,' the other for his column, Dividing Line."
White described his philosophy: "The goal in my column
and in other stories is to examine and expose some of the nonsense that
Americans continue to believe about race. Generally, whites tend to
downplay the extent of their racism -- and blacks tend to overplay it.
We could use a lot more openness and honesty." But White has regularly
overplayed it. On March 18 he blamed black church burnings on
conservatives. White brought his "honesty" to the issue by blaming "all
the conservative Republicans, from Newt Gingrich to Pete Wilson, who
have sought political advantage by exploiting white resentment...Over
the past 18 months, while Republicans fulminated about welfare and
affirmative action, more than 20 churches in Alabama and six other
Southern and Border states have been torched...There is already enough
evidence to indict the cynical conservatives who build their political
careers, George Wallace-style, on a foundation of race-baiting. They may
not start fires, but they fan the flames."
In the September 30 Time, White refused to
downplay speculation the CIA had introduced crack to the inner city:
"Black Americans have been the targets of so much hostility that many of
them would not put it past their own government to finance the war
against communism by addicting thousands of people."
When the National Association of Scholars (NAS)
commissioned a poll of full-time college professors by the Roper Center
for Public Opinion Research in October to assess professors' attitudes
on quotas, the results were surprising. Sixty percent opposed race or
sex-based preferences in faculty hiring practices and 56 percent were
against preferences for admissions. The poll contradicted the images of
college protests against California anti-affirmative action Proposition
Bradford Wilson and Peter Warren of the NAS brought
this discrepancy to light in a January 2 column in The Washington
Times, noting that "the NAS thought these findings noteworthy enough
to warrant the attention of the Associated Press." But, AP polling
editor Howard Goldberg said that "since NAS is on the record as being
skeptical of preferences, `We would have to put in the story that the
survey was funded by an organization that opposed affirmative action.'"
So, no AP story.
Yet Linda Seebach, editorial editor of the San
Ramon Valley Times, opined in her New York Times News Service
column, "What stories does the AP consider worth doing? We published one
just last week, about graduate students and faculty in the English
department at Berkeley who signed a public letter condemning Proposition
209 as an abuse of civil rights discourse."
There is an epidemic at NBC Nightly News. The
main symptom is use of the word "epidemic" in the most bizarre of
contexts. Over the past two years the program has used it 32 times,
describing everything from AIDS, to asthma, to -- job anxiety? The year
1996 brought 15 "epidemics." Of those references, only three fit the
traditional definition of an epidemic as a swiftly-spreading, contagious
disease (those three concerned the spread of AIDS). Breast cancer and
skin cancer were also labeled epidemics on March 26 and May 2,
respectively, although neither one is a contagious disease. On October
29 health correspondent Robert Bazell said of obesity, "As an epidemic,
it's no joke. Obesity is after smoking the second leading cause of
preventable illness and death in the United States."
Some references were bizarre: On January 4, anchor Tom
Brokaw claimed that job anxiety was an "epidemic sweeping the country."
In the summer NBC found an epidemic of black church burnings. On June 10
Pete Williams warned that the "epidemic spread to Texas." Bob Dotson
contracted the virus June 13, reporting of the burnings: "This epidemic
is worse than a conspiracy." Pete Williams caught the bug again December
3 while covering the constitutionality of the Brady Bill: "But
nationwide, many sheriffs and police chiefs willingly do the background
checks believing the law helps reduce an epidemic of handgun violence."
In 1995 the show warned of an "epidemic" 17 times,
covering such diseases as overmedication, asthma, the fear of urban
violence, alcoholism among the elderly, domestic violence, and two
references to a child abuse epidemic. Only 6 of those 17 "epidemics"
referred to actual contagious diseases.
It's impossible to over-estimate the lengths the
networks will go to find victims of welfare reform. On the December 1
Good Morning America, ABC's Kevin Newman reported on the plight of
Laotian Hmong refugees on welfare. Newman opened his piece: "This
morning's Cover Story is a Thanksgiving tale of sorts. It's about
charity and of people who performed a valuable wartime service for
America." Newman profiled a community of Hmong living in Minneapolis
"buried now in the parkas and fur hats of a Minnesota winter, with a
story as bitter as the air."
After talking to a group of Hmong at a community
center about promises the U.S. government made to them after the Vietnam
War, Newman retorted: "Written proof of those promises is hard to find
They were first moved to camps in Northern Thailand and eventually
granted refugee status in America. That made them eligible for benefits
which have helped many Hmong build new lives in cities like Minneapolis
and Fresno, California. But now many of those benefits are being reduced
or eliminated under the new welfare and immigration laws."
After stating that the Hmong could avoid the cuts by
becoming U.S. citizens, which means having a basic competence in
English, Newman again made their case: "For most refugees that's a
simple test, but not for the Hmong But the language barrier is only the
first that seems impossible to overcome. It's even harder to explain the
concept of America's government. Or hardest perhaps to explain how that
government which once counted on them now expects them to make it on
David Watkins' place in the Clinton inner circle was
verified in 1994 when The Washington Post discovered the Clinton
campaign paid off (partially with federal funds) a sexual-harassment
claim against him. The networks ignored that story. The spiking
continued when the January American Spectator published Watkins'
recollections, in preparation for a book deal that fell apart, about the
Clinton White House. Rebecca Borders told readers that Watkins related
personal conversations his wife Ileene had with Vince Foster intimates
indicating Hillary Clinton was having an affair with Foster and that
Mrs. Clinton was shunned by the Foster family at the funeral.
Watkins also told Borders that presidential aide
Marsha Scott told Mrs. Watkins she was having an affair with the
President in the White House. The Spectator supported this
allegation with White House logs that showed Scott entered the White
House residence at 12:50 a.m. with other aides on the night of Foster's
death, but did not leave with them around 1:30a.m. When asked when she
went home that night, Scott told congressional investigators: "It's a
blur." Would the press use this story as a lead to reinvestigate the
context of Foster's depression and death, or see if the Clintons broke
their promise of faithfulness expressed in their 60 Minutes
interview? Answer: No.
A Look at the Election Year's Most
Underinvestigated Clinton Scandals
TV's Top Ten Undercovered
As Bill Clinton's first term ends and the campaign
becomes raw material for historians, how did the media cover Clinton
scandals before Election Day? To find out, MediaWatch
analysts reviewed evening news programs on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC, as
well as the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning shows to determine the top ten
undercovered scandals, in date order:
- Paula Jones. The
Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against the President received only
eight full evening stories and three stories on the morning shows in
all of 1996. Three of the evening stories and two morning stories
focused on the RNC ad ridiculing Clinton legal claims that he could
not be sued since he's on active military duty as commander-in-chief.
The other five merely relayed court actions without elaborating on the
- The Iran-Bosnia Scandal.
In an echo of the Iran-Contra affair, the Los Angeles Times
uncovered on April 5 that the Clinton administration conducted a
secret foreign policy encouraging the Iranian government to arm the
Bosnian muslims at the same time the administration publicly supported
the U.N. arms embargo of Bosnia. Despite the deception of Congress and
the American people, and seven front page stories in the Los
Angeles Times,ABC and CNN each aired only one anchor brief on the
evening news, and CBS and NBC never mentioned the story before the
election. The morning shows aired only four anchor briefs the day the
first Times scoop broke.
- Mike Espy. Independent
Counsel Donald Smaltz's investigation surrounding illegal gifts to
former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy received no network attention
in 1996. Among the developments the networks ignored were the June
indictment and September conviction of the large California fruit and
nut company Sun Diamond Growers for influence peddling; the July bank
fraud indictment of Espy's brother Henry; and the indictment of
lobbyist Richard Douglas, a college roommate of Espy's, which also
alleged that Espy lied to FBI agents about tickets he got from Quaker
- The FBI Files. Filegate
received 64 full stories on the evening news shows and 52 full
stories/interview segments on the morning shows. But the networks were
slow to pick up the story. On June 7, the White House admitted
collecting FBI files on 338 files on past GOP appointees. Only NBC
mentioned it in a brief item. ABC, CBS and CNN failed to mention it
that night, and all the morning shows passed the next morning.
They were also quick to drop it. Since June 30, the
networks aired only six evening news stories and seven morning
reports. On July 25, Rep. William Clinger claimed the notes of an FBI
agent who interviewed then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum in
1993 suggested Hillary Clinton was instrumental in bringing FBI file
keeper Craig Livingstone into the White House, directly contradicting
the First Lady's denials.
Only ABC's Jackie Judd reported the story,
concluding on World News Tonight: "The controversy over the FBI
files, to the frustration of Republicans, has stalled out. They
believe with this new piece of information, it may be revived." The
other networks ignored the story.
On September 25, Sen. Orrin Hatch revealed a
six-month gap in the log which listed who at the White House was
accessing FBI files on Republicans. On October 4, Hatch released the
deposition of White House aide Mari Anderson, who verified that pages
of the log were missing. Anderson also said Craig Livingstone and
others knew they were procuring the FBI files of Republicans, refuting
the White House line of an innocent "bureaucratic snafu." The only
coverage was a CNN anchor brief on both days, and a single Good
Morning America brief.
- White House Drug Use. On
July 17, Secret Service agents told the House Government Oversight
Committee that the White House instituted a drug testing policy for 21
employees who had not received security clearances because of past
drug use. NBC and CBS reported it; ABC and CNN did not. On October 4,
Dennis Sculimbrene, the senior FBI agent assigned to the White House
from 1986 to April 1996, told The Wall Street Journal that
around June 1993 he estimated "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, which to me indicated lack of good judgment and a disregard for
the law." No coverage.
- The FDIC Report. On
September 23, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's inspector
general concluded Hillary Clinton had drafted a real estate document
with the intent to "deceive" federal regulators. That transaction
later cost taxpayers $4 million in the bailout of Madison Savings and
Loan. Only CNN's Bob Franken devoted half a story to the report (a day
later), followed by an NBC mention 11 days after that.
- DNC Donorgate. The
Wall Street Journal broke the story of John
Huang on October 8, but the networks took six days to begin reporting.
From October 14 to November 5, the networks aired 26 investigative
evening news stories, plus 30 stories reporting charges from the
campaign trail. Individual stories were still lost. The Buddhist
temple fundraiser attended by Vice President Gore never drew a full
story before the election, just a few passing mentions. Only ABC
reported that Yogesh Gandhi gave $325,000 to the DNC but claimed
pauper status in a divorce filing.
- Jorge Cabrera. On October
19, the Democrats returned a $20,000 contribution from convicted Miami
cocaine smuggler Jorge Cabrera. None of the networks reported the
story that night. ABC's Brian Ross did a full report on October 22.
CNN and NBC followed on the 24th. CBS did not. Two Today anchor
briefs were the only morning show mentions of Cabrera.
- Nussbaum and Starr. On
October 25, a panel of judges asked independent counsel Kenneth Starr
to investigate if former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum lied
about Hillary Clinton's role in the hiring of Craig Livingstone. Three
days later, NBC's Tim Russert insisted on Today: "I don't know
how we can dismiss it nine days before an election." But ABC and NBC
only had anchor briefs. CBS aired nothing. Only CNN's Bob Franken
filed a full report. Other than one Bob Kur anchor brief on Today,
the morning shows aired nothing.
- Grigori Loutchansky. On
November 3, the Associated Press reported Republicans and former
Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey criticized Democrats for
inviting foreign businessman Grigori Loutchansky to a 1994 DNC dinner,
where he was photographed with the President. Clinton's own CIA
Director, John Deutch, had testified that Loutchansky's company,
Nordex, is "associated with Russian criminal activity." The networks
the Bright Side
Taxes for Teamsters
During the 1996 campaign, the GOP complained that
unions spent membership dues supporting Democrats though many members
vote Republican. On the December 23 World News Tonight, ABC's
John Martin discovered a way that organized labor gets taxpayers to foot
the bill for their activities.
Martin's Your Money segment began: "They were all
Teamsters Presidents: Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa and Roy Williams. And they
all went to jail for turning the union into a source of money for the
mob. This year, Ron Carey claimed victory as President, after a Teamster
election run behind-the-scenes by the Justice Department and paid for
with tax dollars. In 1989, the government won the right, in court, to
take control of the ballot process, to rid the union of mob influence.
The union paid for the 1991 election, but for this year's vote, the
government agreed to pay, requiring taxpayers to furnish $21 million
over three years."
After soundbites from both sides, Martin noted why the
union got its way: "For a time, Congress refused to appropriate any more
money. But the Clinton Administration insisted the government had a
Focus on Welfare Fathers
NBC's Len Cannon cut through liberal rationalizations
for welfare by depicting one obvious root cause of the plight of single
mothers: absent fathers. In the December 27 Dateline Cannon followed
four young fathers for a year after their kids were born.
Cannon grilled a father who'd been in and out of jail:
"The last time we saw you, you said, `When I get out of here I have a
choice to make. It's either the streets or my child.' And you seemed
pretty convincing that you were going to try and do the right
thing....It sounds like you got a million and one excuses for not being
there." Cannon stuck to tough questions: "She gets child care and
Medicaid because of taxes that I pay. I pay taxes because I'm being
responsible. Should I provide for you through my taxes when you're not
Charles Dixon, a counselor that runs a support group
for young fathers, said welfare can leave men unneeded by mothers.
Cannon asked: "So if you get pregnant and you're unemployed and you're
undereducated, `I know that the government is going to help me,' and
that you think helps perpetuate this behavior?" Dixon agreed.
News Consumers Turn to the Internet
An End Run Around Bias
Post-election polls determined that most Americans
realize the media favor liberal candidates and policies, leading many to
turn to the Internet to get political news.
In a Washington Post poll taken immediately
after the November election, 62 percent of Dole voters considered
coverage of their candidate to be "too negative." But just 21 percent of
Clinton voters felt the media were too negative on him while 71 percent
said reporting on Clinton was "about right."
Just 33 percent believe the media "deal fairly with
all sides" in social and political reporting found a November Louis
Harris and Associates poll commissioned by the Center for Media and
Public Affairs. Nearly three of four (74 percent) of the 3,000 people
surveyed observe a "fair amount" or a "great deal" of political bias in
the news. Asked to describe the media's political perspective, 43
percent called it liberal, 19 percent as conservative and 33 percent as
middle of the road. Harris found that 58 percent believe the press
exerts "too much influence."
As news consumers grow disturbed by the media's
liberal tilt they are logging on. About 12 percent of Americans "go
online to get information on current events, public issues and
politics," found a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
survey released in December. These are the most politically savvy
Americans. While 59 percent of the public overall "watched television
news yesterday," 72 of regular online news consumers had seen TV news
and wanted more.
Asked why they get election news online, 53 percent
explained they "don't get all the information they want from traditional
news sources," 45 percent said it's more convenient and 26 percent
replied that online services provide "information not available
elsewhere." But "the most popular destinations" for those dissatisfied
with the media "remained the Web sites of traditional news
Not surprisingly, "Republicans and independents who
lean Republican were more likely to cite the limitations of traditional
news sources than Democrats and Democratic leaners (57 vs. 49 percent)."
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