Admits He "Lied" About "Rare" Partial-Birth Abortions
Partial-Truth Abortion Coverage
Ron Fitzsimmons, director of the National
Coalition of Abortion Pro- viders, reignited the abortion debate
February 26. He said he'd "lied through his teeth" when he insisted
partial-birth abortion was rare and used only on deformed fetuses. He
now admits up to 5,000 a year are done, many when baby and mother are
That night, NBC's Tom Brokaw still claimed: "What
anti-abortionists call partial-birth abortions -- that's a provocative
and mostly inaccurate statement." On CBS, Dan Rather noted the
"deceitful twist" and said that in politics, "truth can be the first
casualty." Rather should know.
Between November 1, 1995 through the end of 1996, the
networks ran 97 stories (22 full stories, 75 anchor briefs) on the
partial-birth debate, tracing it through Congress, Clinton's veto, and
Congress's failure to override. Almost one-third (28) contained
The deceit started the morning before the bill passed
the House. Matt Lauer said on the November 1, 1995 Today it would ban
one "rare abortion procedure." That night, Tom Brokaw claimed it would
make the "little-used late term procedure" a felony. Lauer claimed the
procedure was "rare" or "little-used" five times in thirteen stories
between November 1 and December 8, 1995.
On March 28, 1996 the day after House passage, CBS
This Morninganchor Troy Roberts stated "about 500" were done annually,
twice claiming it was "often chosen by mothers who discover serious
birth defects in the fetus."
On the September 26 CBS This Morning, Family Research
Council's Gary Bauer cited a Bergen Record report on how 1,500 such
abortions were performed annually in New Jersey alone, host Jane Robelot
retorted: "The statistics we hear from both sides of the issue is more
like 600 a year, nationwide. Where are your statistics coming from?"
Despite the New Jersey report, that night Dan Rather returned to calling
the procedure "rarely used."
Although the networks treated Fitzsimmons' admission
as a revelation, they had the abortion doctors' own words years earlier.
Dr. Martin Haskell told the American Medical News in 1993 that 80
percent of partial birth abortions he performed were "purely elective."
Only Ed Bradley (on the June 2, 1996 60 Minutes)
mentioned Haskell's comment, and only ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson (on the
September 19, 1996 World News Tonight) pointed out "no one knows how
many...are done each year...Nor does anyone know how many are done on
healthy fetuses versus those with severe birth defects." Otherwise
Rather and other network reporters spent 13 months dutifully endorsing
abortion advocates' claims.
But the following report by Lisa Myers went on to
describe one such procedure until the title "Partial Birth Abortion":
"The fetus is pulled partially out of the birth canal feet first, then
the skull is punctured and
the brain suctioned out."
The names of several media executives
were sprinkled among the 831 names made public of overnight White House
guests in Clinton's first term: CNN founder Ted Turner, CBS
Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, and Rick Kaplan, a long-time ABC
News executive recently in charge of specials in ABC's entertainment
division. New-ly ensconced ABC News President David Westin is bringing
Kaplan back to the news division.
Moonves maxed out to the Clinton-Gore
campaign, contrubuting $1,000. He pitched in another $5,000 to the
Democratic National Committee last year, Washington Post reporter Howard
Kurtz relayed February 27.
Kurtz noted that Kaplan was the Executive
Producer of World News Tonight when he "stayed at the White House with
his wife in the summer of 1993." So, is there anything wrong with
accepting an invitation from Clinton, whom Kaplan calls a longtime
"friend"? Not as long as you keep it secret, Kaplan suggested in the
March 3 Electronic Media: "It's nobody's business." Kurtz summarized
Kaplan's view: "Kaplan said his visit did not create an appearance
problem because it was never made public until now. He said his ties to
Clinton had no impact on his work." He assured Kurtz: "The idea that you
could suddenly decide to gild the lily or twist the news, it's a
Kaplan is more than just a one-night
guest. While Executive Producer of Prime Time Live in 1992 he provided
Clinton campaign strategy when the Gennifer Flowers story broke.
"Clinton called Kaplan for advice," Los Angeles Times reporter Tom
Rosenstiel recounted in his campaign book Strange Bedfellows. On the way
to the airport, Clinton made another call to Kaplan and the "night ended
for Kaplan at 4am, when Clinton called one last time." Two months later
as Clinton's campaign floundered in New York, aides suggested an
appearance on the Don Imus show. "The appearance was clinched," CNN
producer Matthew Saal recalled in the January 1993 Washington Monthly,
"when Rick Kaplan...called the radio show host to see if he could get
the pair together. The answer was yes."
ABC Morning, Clinton
The March 3 U.S. News & World Report
carried a story on Clinton's fundraising illustrated by a two-page photo
of Clinton addressing a February 18 Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee fundraiser in New York City. Attendees paid "either $10,000 in
direct contributions or $25,000 in soft money," The Washington
Timesreported. C-SPAN's Brian Lamb made an interesting discovery while
looking closely at the photo: the name tag of one man read "Arthur
Miller." He's Good Morning America's legal editor.
Late February stories on discontent among
Walt Disney Company stock holders revealed that a liberal Democratic
politician sits on the board of the company which owns ABC: former
Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. The February 24 Wall Street
Journal reported that "Disney paid Mr. Mitchell $50,000 for his
consulting on international business matters in fiscal 1996. His
Washington law firm was paid an additional $122,764." Mitchell, the only
member of the board with overt political links, must fit in well. Disney
shoveled $1,063,050 in soft money to Democrats in 1995-96, but just
$296,450 to Republicans according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
N.Y., L.A. Shootings: Tragedy
...Or Big Opportunity?
In the wake of the Empire State Building and Los
Angeles bank robbery shootings, some networks were quick to pull the
trigger of blame on weak gun control laws.
CBS aired a total of 10 stories on the Empire State
shooting, three of which offered pro-gun control solutions. On the
February 24 CBS Evening News Dan Rather focused more blame on Florida's
gun control policy than the killer. Rather announced: "He killed one
person and wounded six others before taking his own life, all with a
semi-automatic handgun that could not have been easier to buy. That, as
correspondent John Roberts reports tonight, is bringing new calls for
tougher handgun control laws."
Roberts reported how Ali Abu Kamal bought his weapon
at a Florida gun shop after using a hotel address and waiting three days
to pass a background check. Roberts noted: "Whether Kamal had intended
to shoot up the observation deck of the Empire State building, or just
take his own life, no one yet knows. But it has prompted angry calls for
a national handgun licensing system."
CBS went to Dennis Henigan of Handgun Control Inc. and
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for what were hardly "new" gun-control
quotes but offered no time to the gun-rights side. On the February 27
CBS This Morning, Mark McEwen interviewed brothers and friends of
wounded victim Matthew Gross and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), who
pushed stricter laws. Gun rights groups were left out.
NBC aired a total of 14 stories on the Empire State
shooting. Four times they aired a gun-control soundbite from Mayor
Giuliani, as well as one in-studio interview. Not once was Giuliani
balanced with an opposing guest or soundbite. On the March 2 Today,
co-host Jodi Applegate interviewed the Gross brothers who advocated gun
control. Once again the pro-gun rights side was ignored.
The LA firefight brought reruns. On the March 1 CBS
Evening NewsPaula Zahn introduced John Blackstone's story: "And in Los
Angeles today the sound of yesterday's gun fire has been replaced with
volleys of praise for the police and more calls for gun control."
Blackstone echoed Zahn: "From Los Angeles to Washington, the shootout
has raised new calls for a ban on assault weapons."
Janet Cooke Award
New York Times Magazine Focuses
on Quirks of "Clinton Crazies" Instead of Scandals
Who's Shooting the Messenger Now?
The White House insists: it doesn't matter
whether a story is true or false, only who's telling it. On January 6,
Wall Street Journal editorial writer Micah Morrison revealed the White
House counsel's office report "Communication Stream of Conspiracy
Commerce," a 331-page packet of photocopied articles and media
Prepared at taxpayer expense in 1995, White House aides constructed
an elaborate conspiracy theory of right-wing operatives landing
anti-Clinton stories in the mainstream press. Clinton aides hoped to
shame fellow liberals in the press, arguing that seeking to demystify
White House scandals is to serve as a tool of the "far right."
None of the White House reporters handed the packet in 1995 noted it
publicly. While the Washington Times and Washington Postfollowed up the
Journal with front-page articles, the networks ignored the packet story.
Perhaps since the packet was mostly reproductions of articles and
transcripts from sources like The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly,
and CBS's 60 Minutes, it seemed too close to home to be scandalous. The
February 23 New York Times Magazine echoed the White House approach in a
cover story entitled "Clinton Crazy." For focusing on the personal
quirks of anti-Clinton "crazies" and "fanatics" rather than
investigating the merits of any one allegation, the Times earned the
Janet Cooke Award.
The cover announced "The Clinton Haters," with the subhead: "No
President has been put at the center of more conspiracy theories, nor
been the object of more virulent accusations. What is it about Bill
Clinton -- and the nation he leads?" Philip Weiss, a self-described
"liberal Democrat" novelist who freelances for the Times, made no
attempt to prove that thesis, in the face of charges that Lyndon Johnson
ordered the death of John Kennedy, or that Ronald Reagan postponed the
return of the Iranian hostages, or sat by as his CIA sold crack to
California school children.
The article began by asserting: "They accuse him of drug smuggling,
covering up the murders of some and ordering the murders of others. They
build Web sites, peddle videos, blanket talk radio. They may have
something to say -- but it's more about America than about its
President." Weiss focused on the scandal promoters instead of the
scandals, stitching a patchwork of character studies, an answer to the
question "what makes the crazies tick?"
Weiss touched on many different scandal stories from Arkansas,
including the deaths of Vincent Foster, former Clinton bodyguard Gary
Parks, the wife of state trooper Danny Ferguson, and teenager Kevin
Ives. In some instances, Weiss appeared sympathetic, as in the Ives
case: "Here one can glimpse how a legitimate question gets spun into a
conspiracy." But none of these stories merited more than a few
paragraphs, giving the reader no grasp of why these stories are worth
Was this objective? Weiss told MediaWatch: "No, it's highly
narrative, it has a very subjective component. I'm a very subjective
writer." He added: "The Times was far less interested in these stories
than in the personalities...they were not interested in the substantive
issues." Weiss declared victory just getting the stories mentioned: "The
Times is a very conservative institution. Whatever its ideological
bearings, its sensibility makes it very reluctant to publish sexual
allegations against Clinton. Here were a set of stories that had never
gotten in the Times, and I felt a sense of achievement in getting these
stories in there, without discrediting them."
But Weiss blurred together serious, truthful journalism and
unsubtantiated accusations into one indistinguishable mass of "crazy"
activity. Larry Nichols, a disgruntled former Arkansas state official,
and Pat Matrisciana, producer of unreliable videos like The Clinton
Chronicles, were lumped in with investigative reporter Chris Ruddy and
the Wall Street Journal editorial page:
"The number of influential Clinton crazies is probably no more than a
hundred, but their audience is in the tens of millions. The percolation
of questions about the Foster case from Web sites to newsletters to talk
radio to newspapers like The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal
motivated the White House counsel's office to draft its report on
conspiracies just before the Senate Whitewater hearings in the summer of
Weiss continued: "On a central point the Clinton administration and
the Clinton haters are in perfect agreement: because of new forms of
communication -- talk radio, newsletters, the Internet, mail-order
videos -- a significant portion of the population has developed an
understanding of Bill Clinton as a debased, even criminal politician."
Later in his piece, Weiss added: "I wasn't faring all that better with
other Clinton crazies. The Wall Street Journal attacked me twice on its
editorial page as a White House dupe." When asked about calling the
Journal editorial page "crazies," Weiss replied: "I think they're
assholes, and they're paranoid."
How did Weiss expect his article, laced with words like "crazies,"
"fanatics," and "haters," to create sympathy for the subjects? Weiss
protested to MediaWatch: "I was very careful to use the word haters, but
when someone compares Clinton to Hitler, that level of virulence seems
to justify it." But Foster buff Hugh Sprunt, who Weiss found "very
compelling," appeared on the cover over the words "The Clinton Haters."
Weiss replied: "I didn't write the headlines." As for the 11 uses of
"crazies," Weiss said: "I really wanted to convey these stories in what
I felt was a sympathetic light. At the same time, I would feel the need,
like the Timesfelt, to distance myself from these people. So I chose
Friends argued that it served to discredit every one of these
The New York Times has reserved its classifications of emotional
instability for figures on the right. A Nexis search finds no use in the
last 20 years for the terms "Reagan haters," "Reagan crazies,"
"left-wing attack machine," or "October Surprise fanatics." But it was
the Times who had former Carter official Gary Sick jump-start the
October Surprise conspiracy on its op-ed page in 1991; and used its
front page to publicize Kitty Kelley's book Nancy Reagan, printing wild
rumors about the First Lady's sex life; and publicized the lawsuit by
convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin claiming he was mistreated by prison
officials because he (falsely) told reporters he sold drugs to Dan
Quayle. They were deemed important sources with important stories to
tell, not tragic symptoms of a sick America.
Weiss recommended a look at his March 17 article in The New York
Observer newspaper. He had a very different take, laying out the
forensic mysteries of the Foster death, and praising Ruddy's and
Sprunt's spadework. He decried the lack of Foster coverage, saying "No
one in the media can think for himself or herself." Apparently, Weiss
only fails to think for himself on the Clinton scandals when the Times
is paying the bill.
All of Weiss's proclaimed sympathy with his subjects, the Times
failed to provide the public with a useful investigation. But it did
provide a welcome addition to the White House spin controllers' packet
of Xeroxed hit pieces.
Biased Bias Poll
A March 2 Parade magazine cover story
reported that 52 percent of the public "think the news is too biased."
In which direction? Paradedidn't say in its summary of the Roper Center
survey conducted in conjunction with the Freedom Forum's opening of its
"Newseum," a museum of media history.
But buried in the full survey results on
the Newseum web site was a sentence on how "majorities also say they
have at least some concern" for three deficiencies. The third: "That
journalists favor the liberal point of view (53%)." Why the Freedom
Forum and Parade didn't highlight this last finding becomes clear once
you look at the five options from which those polled could select when
asked "How much of the time is news reporting improperly influenced
by..." The choices: "Media desire to make profits," "Interests of
corporate media owners," "Advertisers," "Big business," and "Elected
Walter Cronkite signed a direct-mail
fundraising letter for The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), a group
established in 1984 to counter "religious political extremists."
Associated Press reporter Kevin Galvin explained that in the letter sent
in late February, Cronkite "singled out the Christian Coalition's Pat
Robertson and Ralph Reed for `wrapping their harsh right wing views in
the banner of religious faith.'"
Cronkite told Galvin by telephone: "My
principal thrust here is to try to help establish that they do not speak
for what I believe is the majority of Christians in the country." Galvin
reported that in the letter Cronkite praised TIA for being "as diverse
as America" and "standing up to the Christian Coalition." The letter
urged recipients to give $50 to $500 and asked: "Will you take a stand?
Will you help TIA in saying `No' to religion as a political cover? `No'
to Pat Robertson, `No' to Ralph Reed, `No' to Jerry Falwell?"
Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz
began a March 7 story: "Walter Cronkite is coming out of the ideological
closet." Actually, it's not the first time he's lent his name to liberal
fundraisers. In 1988, for instance, he addressed a People for the
American Way banquet. As quoted in the December 5, 1988
Newsweek,Cronkite thundered: "I know liberalism isn't dead in the
country. It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice...We know
that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty.
We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted
child...God Almighty, we've got to shout these truths in which we
believe from the housetops."
Billy Dale was fired from the White House
travel office in 1993 amidst embezzlement charges to make room for
Clinton's Arkansas cronies. When a jury acquitted him on November 16,
1995, demonstrating the Clintons had accused him unjustly, the networks
ignored it. When he then sought repayment for his nearly half a million
dollars in legal bills, the President promised to sign the bill. On May
2, 1996, The Washington Times reported Senate Democrats moved in secret
to block legislation reimbursing Dale. The networks ignored that,too. So
it was no surprise that when Bill Clinton signed a bill authorizing
repayment and the government finally wired Dale's attorneys some
$410,000 for his legal fees on February 13, the networks again pretended
the story did not exist.
On February 15, an Arkansas newspaper
splashed a story across its front page that the Whitewater investigation
was in trouble. The story spread quickly. That night, anchor Paula Zahn
relayed the article's allegations to viewers of the CBS Evening News:
"Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr has reportedly hit a snag in his
Whitewater investigation. According to a report in the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette, Starr has conducted four mock trials. In each the jury
acquitted both President and Mrs. Clinton. Word is Starr will now rework
his probe into the Clintons' real estate dealings." All the networks
except ABC broadcast the story -- a total of six more times over the
next few days. Six days later, the Democrat-Gazette printed a front-page
correction headlined "Starr Staged No Mock Trial, Source Concedes." CBS
and NBC didn't tell viewers. Only CNN bothered to correct the story.
When new rules went into effect limiting
to three months in three years the time able-bodied people without
children can receive food stamps, CBS warned of impending disaster. On
the February 22 CBS Evening News Sharyl Attkisson intoned: "People who
help those on welfare see trouble ahead." Attkisson aired the fears of
Chapman Todd at the Washington D.C. Central Kitchen: "You see a lot of
people who fit that category but really have no marketable skills."
Attkisson added: "29 states and the District of Columbia have applied
for special waivers to delay this first step in welfare reform. New York
is among them, even though its Republican Governor strongly supports the
need for drastic change." Attkisson aired a soundbite from Gov. George
Pataki but then led into a soundbite from liberal Congressman Charles
Rangel. Attkisson foreshadowed: "Critics warn this is just a small
preview of the tremendous headaches ahead as broader welfare reforms
Two weeks later on the March 9 Evening
News, Zahn wondered if Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer's supposedly
successful downtown revitalization would be affected by welfare reform.
"Given the fact that cities and states are going to have to absorb more
of the welfare burden, could that potentially derail some of the
progress you have made in downtown Detroit?" Zahn's been in a panic
since Clinton agreed to welfare reform. Last August 1 she ominoulsly
intoned: "There is already is a great deal of fear and anxiety all over
the country over the impact it will have."
In the March Reason, science writer
Michael Fumento lambasted the media's shoddy Gulf War Syndrome coverage.
Several studies, such as an October 1996 Institute of Medicine report,
found there was "no available evidence in human or animal studies to
date that exposure to nerve agents at low levels...results in any
chronic or long-term adverse health effects." The networks didn't cover
it, but Fumento found that "incredible accounts of such symptoms as
skin-blistering semen and glowing vomit are taken as gospel."
Fumento explained the grab-bag nature of
"Gulf War Syndrome," a laundry list of self-diagnosed symptoms including
"hair loss, graying hair, weight gain, weight loss." The wackiest
symptoms came from Private Brian Martin, who told a congressional panel
that he vomited "[glow-in-the-dark] Chemlite-looking fluids every time I
ran." But such statements didn't hurt his credibility with Ed Bradley,
who used him as a main source for his August 25 60 Minutes story on
possible troop exposure to nerve gas at Khamisiyah, Iraq. The glowing
vomit was left out.
Martin told Bradley that when the bunker
at Khamisiyah exploded and chemical alarms went off, the soldiers not
only didn't put on their protective gear, they didn't even have access
to them. Bradley said Sgt. Dan Topalski "put his suit on right away.
Others did not. He is the only man in the group who is not sick." But
Fumento talked to the five other vets who appeared in the 60 Minutes
segment, and they said every soldier at Khamisiyah was fully suited, and
one vet told Fumento that he made that clear to Bradley. Recently on the
February 20 CBS Evening News, reporter David Martin repeated the error:
"The troops did not bother to put on their chemical protection gear."
Welcome to the
Bitter Cold. Heat waves. Torrential rain.
Dusty drought. Melting ice caps. These disparate conditions mean one
thing to reporters: global warming. Whenever the weather's quirky, the
media drag out global warming scare stories. On February 6, Dan Rather
introduced a CBS Evening News piece on biting winter weather in the
Great Plains: "In tonight's Eye on America, a hard news report about the
wild weather including dangerous and in some cases deadly climate
extremes and changing patterns...This video, fresh from Antarctica,
shows deep cracks in the ice shelf. You can see how deep and how big at
ground level. You can also see the melting that some environmentalists
say is a danger sign of global warming."
On the February 26 Dateline NBC, prompted
by Midwest flooding, science reporter Robert Bazell warned: "What's
happening to the weather? Is something going wrong with the weather? Are
we changing the weather? The problem, and most of the world's experts
now agree there is a problem, is simply this: we burn things....We are
in fact a civilization built on burning. As those gases build up in our
skies, they begin to trap and hold in more of the Sun's heat, the way a
greenhouse does. The result, say most scientists, a gradual warming of
the planet." Competitive Enterprise Institute President Fred Smith, in
the CEI Update, disgreed that warming is occurring and refuted the dire
prognosis if it were: "The balance of evidence suggests that a warmer
world will be a cloudier world, with most of the warming occurring at
night, moderating nighttime lows. Also, the increased cloudiness will be
greatest in the summer, least in the winter, further reducing
temperature variations across the seasons. In effect, the most likely
impact of warming -- should it occur -- would be a more benign climate,
not a more hostile one."
The BBA Blame Game
In the 104th Congress, the balanced
budget amendment failed by one vote. When Republicans added two seats to
their Senate majority in 1996, it would seem that the amendment would
have no trouble passing, especially since four freshmen Democrats
supported the amendment during the campaign. When Senators Tim Johnson
and Robert Torricelli announced their opposition to the amendment, ABC
didn't find a story of dishonest Democrats or misled voters, but a story
of ineffective Republicans.
On the February 26 World News Tonight,
ABC's John Cochran began: "Republicans knew from the start they needed
the votes of at least three of the four freshmen Democrats who during
the election campaign said they supported a constitutional amendment to
outlaw budget deficits." Cochran ended the piece: "Torricelli's decision
leaves Republicans still unable to produce on two of the big promises of
their Contract with America. Two weeks ago the House rejected term
limits, and now the balanced budget amendment seems doomed." Cochran
failed to mention that both Senators had voted for a similar amendment
when they were in the House.
People might not expect the death of a
communist dictator to bring tributes. But on the February 19 Nightline,
Ted Koppel lauded Deng Xiaoping as the Great Normalizer following Mao's
murderous reign: "Tens of million of Chinese lives were ruined by that.
Deng Xiaoping's legacy by contrast is stability. Yes, he ordered the
army to crush the student movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and yes,
dissidents have been ruthlessly repressed throughout China. But the
Chinese people have endured so much worse over the past 40 years that
Deng is likely to go down in history as the great normalizer, which may
prove to be of more lasting value to the most populous country in the
world than all the rest of it."
In the March 3 Time, Senior Editor Howard
Chua-Eoan and Senior Writer James Walsh were juggling the "greatness" of
the two mass murderers: "And finally, there was the most troublesome
shadow of all, Mao Zedong, Deng's friend and foe, his rival for the soul
of a country so ancient it has had a the misfortune both to forget its
history many times over and over and to repeat it again and again. Only
history will decide who was the greater."
To Newsweek's Bill Powell, the killings
in Tiananmen Square weren't the negative for the people of China,
capitalism was: "For all of China's economic success, much of the vast
country is still either desperately poor or suffering from the excesses
of runaway capitalism or both."
McNamara didn't try to disprove Rather's
contention that global warming is behind the harsh weather in the Great
Plains. Back on the August 1 Evening News anchor Paula Zahn had
ominously intoned: "The new, landmark welfare overhaul President Clinton
promised to sign won't be law for a while yet, but They got two, but
Johnson of South Dakota decided to vote against it, citing concerns
about the threat to Social Security trust fund. That left Torricelli.
And to keep him from joining the Republicans, President Clinton promised
last night to establish a special commission to study his budget
It was the same story in the print media.
USA Today "Politics" columnist Walter Shapiro painted Torricelli and
Johnson as heroes. Shapiro wrote that Torricelli has been portrayed as a
"poll-directed, publicity-driven modern politician," but "Here was
Torricelli defying such facile media labels with an unpopular vote
against a gaudily wrapped package of constitutional mischief." He
concluded: "Two freshmen Senators, so different in style and
temperament, deserve plaudits for sticking their necks out to block a
constitutional calamity. Despite my cynical doubts, sometimes the system
works."During the Whitewater hearings in the summer of 1995, Schieffer
remarked on CBS Sunday Morning that for his fourteen thousandth vote,
Senator Robert Byrd "made a little speech and he said, you know the one
thing that I regret about Washington these days is how mean-spirited and
partisan it has become. This has always been a very partisan place, but
I must say, I agree with Senator Byrd. I think somehow there's a new
mean-spiritedness in our politics and I think Washington was a lot
better place when people were a little more amicable in how they
conducted their business."Guilty verdicts in the trials of Jim and Susan
McDougal, former business partners of President Clinton, and Arkansas
governor, Jim Guy Tucker A federal judge in Little Rock threw out
Starr's indictment of Arkansas' Democratic governor, Jim Guy Tucker, on
fraud charges.This is the age of negative advertising, this is a time
when members of Congress really don't even like each other very much
TV Fundraising Coverage in February Skips Major
Developments that Might Not "Resonate"
Loving the Lincoln Bedroom Angle
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward broke the story
March 2 of "solicitor-in-chief" Al Gore dialing for dollars in the White
House. It drew major coverage -- but not from all. That evening's ABC
World News Sunday, as well as the next morning's Today show on NBC,
completely ignored Woodward. This illustrates the pattern of reporting
on the DNC fundraising scandal. Newspaper scoops emerge nearly every
day, but many were overlooked by one network, or all of them. Anyone
watching only one network missed key parts of the emerging story.
MediaWatch analysts reviewed all February fundraising
scandal stories on the evening shows of ABC, CBS, CNN (The World Today),
and NBC, as well as the morning shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC. The February
25 discovery of Bill Clinton ordering the invitation of major donors to
stay in the Lincoln Bedroom caused a major increase in intensity: the
networks aired as many stories in the last four days of February as they
had in the first 24. The gritty complexities of election law were, for
the networks, much less attractive than a sexy angle expected to
"resonate" with viewers.
On the evening shows, the networks aired 50 full
reports and 13 anchor briefs, but 25 of the reports and three of the
briefs came in the last four days. The eight network shows that led with
the fundraising story were all in the last four days. For a majority of
days in February, ABC (16 days), CBS (18 days), and NBC (19 days) aired
no story on the fundraising beat. Even CNN had 12 days with no
The morning shows did less: 18 full reports, 11
interview segments, and 19 anchor briefs. Again, almost half of the
coverage -- eight full reports, five interviews, and 11 anchor briefs --
came after the Lincoln Bedroom story broke. Six morning shows led with
the Lincoln Bedroom story, but only two shows led off with the
fundraising story in the previous 25 days. Not counting the absence of
Saturday morning shows on ABC and CBS, ABC (on 15 days), CBS (16 days)
and NBC (19 days) aired nothing new on the fundraising story. A look at
daily scoops shows spotty network interest:
- February 6:
The Boston Globe reported "President Clinton renewed
controversial aid flights to Cuba last October on the same day a
campaign donor pressed President Clinton to resume the flights and
offered to arrange a $5 million contribution to the President's
campaign." ABC's World News Tonight noted top aide Harold Ickes' memo
to the donor, but only CBS aired the Cuba angle.
- February 7: The Globe
reported Arnold Hiatt, the DNC's largest individual donor, gave
$500,000 to Democratic Party after discussing suggestions with Ickes
about how to donate the money. The Los Angeles Times reported that of
the four Asian businessmen Clinton dined with at a July 30 meeting
which eventually raised $500,000, two could not legally donate to U.S.
campaigns. A front-page USA Today story reported internal White House
documents showed the White House Office Data Base was used for
political purposes from its inception in 1994. The Wall Street Journal
recounted the payoff for two Boston businessmen who attended a White
House coffee, getting an exclusive energy efficiency loan program from
the Department of Housing and Urban Development. None got any
- February 12:
Contradicting Clinton's claims about coffees, spokesman Mike McCurry
said: "I think the President would have wondered why he was doing all
those coffees if he hadn't had some follow-up." Only CNN's Wolf
Blitzer noted the contradiction.
- February 16: The
Washington Post reported that following a Hillary Clinton visit to
Guam in September 1996, island residents raised $900,000 for the
Democrats and in December, a Clinton official circulated a report
backing a bill allowing Guam to control its immigration and labor
laws. On Meet the Press, Rep. Dan Burton announced 20 additional
subpoenas on Chinese interest in the U.S. elections. Liberal New York
Post columnist Jack Newfield quoted a Clinton adviser claiming
Clinton's "incredibly intense" demands for fundraising "caused people
to start cutting corners." The Guam story was mentioned only on ABC's
World News Sunday and NBC's Today. Burton's subpoenas only aired on
CNN, CBSThis Morning and Today. Newfield's article came up on NBC's
Meet the Press and ABC's This Week, but it made no other TV show.
- February 19: In a
front-page story, USA Today's Tom Squiteri wrote: "Top finance
officials in the Democratic Party quietly decided last July to limit
John Huang's fundraising and to end appearances by President Clinton
at Asian-American events organized by Huang." Squiteri noted this
didn't match statements last fall that officials had no idea of
Huang's improprieties. Network coverage? Zero.
- February 20: The
Washington Post reported that Asian-American business association
chief Rawlein Soberano was asked by Huang to funnel more than $250,000
through his group for a kickback of $45,000. Inside, Bob Woodward
reported a twice-convicted felon who met with Clinton at a 1995 White
House coffee attended four subsequent DNC fundraisers with Clinton.
The Wall Street Journalshowed how a Miami businessman met twice with
the National Security Council's Latin America specialist to urge
Clinton to back Paraguay's President in a coup attempt. "The day the
unsuccessful coup attempt began," the DNC "received $100,000 from Mr.
Jimenez." Only ABC's morning and evening shows mentioned Soberano.
(NBC got around to it March 3.) The other two stories: skipped by all.
- February 22: The New
York Times reported "The Manhattan District Attorney said yesterday he
had given federal prosecutors evidence that a Venezuelan banking
family might have illegally funneled campaign contributions to the
Democratic Party during the 1992 elections." Network coverage? Zero.
- February 23: The
Washington Post reported DNC Chairman Don Fowler tried to routinely
put large donors in touch with the White House or cabinet officials to
have their needs met. Network coverage? Zero.
- February 25: . The Los
Angeles Times reported that while the Clintons kept a public distance
from former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, "a trusted
White House aide" Marsha Scott has acted as a "confidential
go-between," raising the question of White House attempts to keep
Hubbell from testifying fully. Network coverage? Nothing.
- February 28: The Wall
Street Journal reported Clinton made angry calls at 1 a.m. to
Democratic leaders urging them to fight the naming of an independent
counsel. CBS and NBC evening shows mentioned it in passing. ABC and
CNN did not.
the Bright Side
Focusing on Freeloaders
Is everyone trying to get something for nothing? In a
February 24 ABC News special Freeloaders: The People Who Want and Get
Something for Nothing, reporter John Stossel put people to the test.
Stossel showed how panhandlers who say they'll work
for food really won't. But he also highlighted those at the top of
society. He opened a segment on taxpayer-paid stadiums: "Wouldn't you
like to have your very own stadium without having to pay the $150
million or so that it costs? Well, sorry, you're probably not rich
enough to get a gift like that. It's reserved for the multimillionaires
who own athletic teams. You poorer people, however, you do get the right
to pay for it." Stossel confronted Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago
Bulls and White Sox:
"You're a freeloader. You're taking money from poor
taxpayers to make you, a rich guy, richer."
He then examined corporate freeloaders: "But America's
biggest freeloaders aren't street people or poor people who collect
welfare. No, the big freeloaders are rich people -- people well
connected enough to use the power of government to freeload." Stossel
profiled the biggest of them all, Dwayne Andreas, chairman of Archer
Daniels Midland. Stossel looked at special deals that benefit ADM --
sugar price fixing and the ethanol tax break. "What does sugar cost?
Today's Wall Street Journal says the world price is about 11 cents per
pound. But American producers are not permitted to pay the world price.
Here, if say, Coke or Pepsi want to buy sugar for their soda they have
to pay 22 cents a pound. That's the government-required price. It's kept
artificially high to protect sugar growers. As a result, these
companies...pay 18 cents a pound to use corn sweetener instead, and ADM
makes corn sweetener. As long as sugar stays expensive, ADM makes a
killing....This also means that American consumers pay billions more to
buy things that have sugar in them."
Schieffer & Rather Relay Rhetorical Ruts
Repetitive Stress on CBS
If you think you hear the same phrases over and over
again on CBS you aren't imagining it. Two trends:
First, since the GOP took control of Congress, Bob Schieffer has been
shocked at the political divisions on Capitol Hill. Again and again he
termed it the worst ever.
Before a congressional vote on Medicare reform,
Schieffer complained on the October 18, 1995 CBS Evening News: "After
months of some of the bitterest partisan fighting that anybody can
remember around here, the House is set to vote tomorrow on the
Republican plan to overhaul Medicare." During the coverage leading up to
President Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address, Schieffer insisted
that "this is the most divided Congress that we've had in many years
around here...It's the most partisan session of Congress we've seen in a
Expounding on the investigations surrounding
Whitewater on the June 18, 1996 Evening News, Schieffer suggested that
"this probe was something of a milestone: the first major congressional
investigation, in recent memory, where Republicans and Democrats could
agree on nothing, a sign of how partisan the whole thing has become."
This year, Schieffer commented on the January 12
Sunday Morningabout the battle over the Newt Gingrich ethics flap: "I
have never seen the partisanship running as high as it was. We've had
just a complete meltdown in the House."
Second, Schieffer may be stuck on divisiveness, but
Dan Rather has a fetish about identifying Ken Starr as a "Republican."
He has applied the term to the Whitewater Independent Counsel 27 times
in the past two and a half years. It started right after Starr was
named: "There is growing controversy tonight about whether the newly
named Independent Counsel in the Whitewater case is independent or a
Republican partisan allied with a get-Clinton movement," Rather asserted
on August 9, 1994. He chimed in again on September 5, 1995: "A legal
setback late today for Kenneth Starr, the Republican independent counsel
in the Whitewater case." When Starr gained convictions on May 28, 1996,
Rather didn't let up: "The Republican Whitewater special prosecutor,
Kenneth Starr, won a big one today. "
On February 21, Rather once again applied his favorite
label: "The Republican special prosecutor in the Whitewater case
announced a sudden change in plans this afternoon. Kenneth Starr
reversed orbit. He cancelled plans to quit and take another job in
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe