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From the April 6, 1998 MediaWatch

Jonesboro Ambush: Who’s To Blame?

Page One

Media blame Southern Gun Culture, Push for Gun Control

Two children aged 11 and 13 gunned down their classmates and a teacher in a tragic shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas on March 24. The media’s reaction? Disparage the residents of the town by insulting their Southern heritage and trampling on their right to bear arms.

ABC’s Rebecca Chase linked Jonesboro with other school shootings on the March 25 World News Tonight: "Jonesboro, Arkansas. West Paducah, Kentucky. Pearl, Mississippi. All cases of kids killing kids with guns, all in the South, all in states with fewer gun control laws. In Arkansas, a child of any age can have a rifle or shotgun. While easy accessibility is a nationwide problem, in the South there are simply more guns available." Though the story matched the liberal agenda to enact gun control laws, Chase did give time to the other side, delivering their arguments on the benefits of children learning to use a rifle safely.

Most network coverage went straight for the jugular of Southern culture. On the March 25 Today, Katie Couric asked Ronald Stephens of the National School Boards Safety Center: "I read you something before this interview about experts saying that Southern culture may be a factor because these incidents that have been so high profile have happened in southern rural towns because they say there is more access to guns. It’s a climate of people feeling strong about the right to bear arms. They are introduced to guns early on. Do you think there is any, any credibility in that assessment?"

Couric continued the next day, badgering Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: "This is a third deadly shooting to take place in the South in the last five months, and some criminal experts have ventured a guess that southern society, which has a more permissive attitude towards guns and hunting, and perhaps in some circles even glamorizes those things that might have been a factor in some, this recent spate of shootings. What’s your view of that?" Huckabee replied: "Colin Ferguson got on a train in Long Island, shot 39 people. That wasn’t Long Island, Arkansas."

On CNN’s Inside Politics on March 25, anchor Bernard Shaw pushed anti-gun Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.): "Should there be a federal law that convicts adults whose guns fall into the hands of the children you’re referring to?"

Shaw later pleaded with CNN analyst William Schneider "In our country, if the majority rules, why is it so hard to get gun laws passed?...So how do you get gun control laws passed, given what you’ve just said?"




Belated Flowers. Gennifer Flowers, the long-forgotten lover of Bill Clinton, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America March 16 to discuss Kathleen Willey, who accused the President of sexual harassment. Co-host Lisa McRee asked Flowers: "Reaction to Ms. Willey and her story stands in stark contrast to the reaction to you and your story, why do you think that is?" McRee also inquired: "Patricia Ireland of the National Organization of Women said last night that she was deeply troubled by Willey’s account. Why didn’t feminists rally behind you and Ms. Lewinsky?"

One reason: Flowers’ mid-March appearance on ABC came six years and six weeks after her press conference claiming an affair with Clinton. She first appeared on the Today show in January 1998, after Clinton admitted the affair. By contrast, journalists charging George Bush with an affair in 1992 appeared within 24 hours on Good Morning America and on CBS This Morning, which has yet to have Flowers in for a chat.

Hillary and Jane’s Big Adventure. Columnist Cal Thomas was the first to assess CNN’s month-long March tribute to "A Century of Women" on the show Perspectives: "The history of women is a good subject, but CNN’s treatment is more ideological than documentary....it is largely one perspective that could have been titled ‘A Century of Liberal Women.’" Thomas noted the series included only one conservative woman (Phyllis Schlafly) while it featured tens of feminist icons. Hillary Clinton introduced and concluded each program, with Jane Fonda serving as narrator.

During the "Pursuit of Happiness" installment, Fonda offered painter Georgia O’Keefe as the feminist ideal: "O’Keefe found a champion in Alfred Stieglitz....a brilliant photographer as well as an influential art dealer. He was also married to another woman when he became O’Keefe’s mentor, promoter, and ultimately her lover. They defied convention by living openly with one another.... O’Keefe and Stieglitz finally got married, but she had no use for the traditional role of wife and mother. Eventually, they chose to lead separate lives."

The "Pursuit of Happiness" segment also promoted the need for abortion: "The ‘privilege’ of childbirth took the lives of 300,000 women between the years of 1910 and 1925. That’s more than all the men who died in American wars, from the Revolution until World War I. Women were desperate for a way out of constant pregnancies. They found a champion in Margaret Sanger." Sanger’s opposition to letting "inferior" races reproduce went unmentioned, but CNN rehashed old CBS footage of Sanger attacking the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraceptives: "Everything bears out that it’s an unnatural attitude to take. And what do they know? I mean, after all, they’re celibates. They don’t know love." A marriage-breaker and a Catholic-basher: just two of CNN’s female champions.

Illinois Extremist? When conservative Peter Fitzgerald defeated "moderate" (read: pro-abortion) Loleta Didrickson in the Illinois GOP primary for U.S. Senate on March 17, the media predicted disaster. Associated Press reporter Mike Robinson began: "It could be the Republican Party’s worst nightmare... Republicans threw away their chance of winning a U.S. Senate seat two years ago by nominating a pro-gun, anti-abortion conservative who was crushed by a Democrat in the fall election. They may have done it again."

CBS anchor John Roberts sounded the same alarm: "Conservative Peter Fitzgerald, who wants to legalize concealed weapons and ban abortions, won the GOP nomination over moderate Loleta Didrickson. Many Republicans say she would have had a better chance of beating [Sen. Carol] Moseley-Braun."

On Inside Politics, CNN analyst William Schneider suggested Didrickson "looked like the perfect candidate to defeat Moseley-Braun, a moderate woman who supports gun control and abortion rights." Even though they mentioned pro-life, pro-gun Democrat Glenn Poshard’s victory in the gubernatorial primary, CNN didn’t explain how that meshes with Didrickson’s "moderate" appeal. None mentioned the Illinois GOP nominated a moderate woman for the Senate in 1990 — Lynn Martin, who lost to Paul Simon, 65 to 35 percent.

Page Four

The Ron and Nolanda Story Continues...

Nolanda Hill, a long-time business associate of late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown testified that, under the direction of Hillary Clinton, the administration sold seats on trade missions to big donors. Instead of running with the non-sex scandal story, ABC’s and NBC’s evening shows skipped Hill’s charges as CBS aired one story and then dropped the subject. But that’s still more coverage than Hill attracted last year when she said that Brown took payoffs.

Reporting on an affidavit released March 23 and her court testimony that day, at the top of FNC’s evening Fox Report, reporter Carl Cameron explained: "Hill said Brown told her that the scheme was First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s idea to raise money for the 1996 campaign." On the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer missed the Hillary connection, but added that "when a conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, became suspicious and filed suit to get government documents about the trips, she said Brown told her former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and presidential aide John Podesta urged him to hold back the documents until after the 1996 elections and to devise ‘a way not to comply with the court’s orders.’"

While CNN’s The World Today squeezed in a story, Inside Politics skipped the development. The next day ABC’s Good Morning America devoted a 17-second item to Hill’s allegations, but that was it for ABC: nothing on World News Tonight. NBC ignored the tale of corruption entirely on Nightly News and Today.

Last June ABC’s Prime Time Live featured a story by Brian Ross in which Hill told how she paid Brown hundreds of thousands of dollars for his interest in her businesses, for which he had paid nothing, and other shady financial dealings. Not only did CBS, CNN and NBC fail to report the bombshell allegations, but even ABC’s other shows refused to pass on their own network’s exclusive.




Review: It’s Not Just About Sex, It’s About Abuse of Power
Five Clinton Practices Ignored by TV News

Polls suggest the public believes that the Monicagate story is simply a sordid tale of office hanky-panky that a sex-starved media could not resist. The most serious aspects of the story — coverups, perjury, subornation of perjury, and obstruction of justice — have antecedents in previous White House attempts to stonewall damaging Clinton scandals. A MediaWatch analysis of past TV coverage suggests there are five regular Clinton administration practices that deserve investigation that the network evening news shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC have downplayed or ignored in non-sexual scandals:

1. Hush Money for Friendly Witnesses.

Hillary’s former law partner and friend Webster Hubbell was forced to resign in early 1994 as Associate Attorney General, the Justice Department’s number-three position, for embezzling nearly a half-million dollars from the Rose Law Firm, with some of his false expense accounts signed by his Rose Law partner Hillary Clinton. Last year, print reporters discovered Hubbell had been paid more than $500,000 from dozens of Clinton-affiliated people for "jobs" (on which little or no work was performed), more than he’d ever made in a year in his whole life. With the bonanza arriving as he was allegedly cooperating with Whitewater counsel Ken Starr, investigators suspect Hubbell was paid to keep quiet.

In May 1997, USA Today revealed Clinton pal Vernon Jordan got Hubbell a job with Revlon, the same company he later approached to get a job for Monica Lewinsky. In December, the Los Angeles Times reported Mickey Kantor, the President’s 1992 campaign manager later named Commerce Secretary, admitted he lied when he said he didn’t attempt to get Hubbell jobs. Neither of these stories was reported by any network evening news show — until NBC’s Lisa Myers explored Jordan’s role in a March 3, 1998 Nightly News story.

2. Destruction or Hiding of Documents.

Obstruction of justice occurred in the destruction of or hiding of relevant documents in the Whitewater investigation. Rose Law Firm shreddings, late-appearing billing records in the White House residence, and White House lawyers’ meeting notes like "Vacuum Rose Law files" underline that important evidence in the Whitewater story may never be recovered.

Last November, Associated Press reported that a mechanic discovered a stash of Whitewater documents, including a check made out to Bill Clinton from Whitewater partner Jim McDougal, in the trunk of a tornado-damaged Mercury Marquis once owned by McDougal courier Henry Floyd. Clinton claimed he never borrowed money from his felonious business partner, but the check matched the amount of a Whitewater loan repayment. The bank documents included information on the fraudulent Castle Grande transaction Mrs. Clinton worked on for McDougal. Only NBC Nightly News broadcast a full story.

3. Violating the Privacy Rights of Adversaries.

In June 1996, the White House admitted aide Craig Livingstone and others had collected FBI files on 338 Republican officials from past administrations. Later, the real number of files surpassed 900. After a brief burst of coverage, the networks dropped the story.

On September 25, 1996, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) revealed a six-month gap in the log which listed who at the White House was accessing FBI background files on Republicans. On October 4, Sen. Hatch released the deposition of White House aide Mari Anderson. She verified that pages of the log used to record the taking of FBI files were missing. Anderson also asserted, contradicting White House aide Craig Livingstone’s assurances, that Livingstone knew the Clinton White House was procuring the FBI files of Republicans. Only CNN reported these developments briefly.

4. Failing to Comply with Subpoenas.

Well after DNC Finance Director Richard Sullivan testified in July 1997 before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, the DNC belatedly released 4,000 pages of subpoenaed documents from Sullivan’s office. Months after the subpoenas arrived, the files supposedly were finally found by Sullivan’s successor in the only filing cabinet in his office.

A similar example emerged on November 6, 1997, when Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills admitted in testimony before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee that she and former Counsel Jack Quinn decided to withhold (for a total of 15 months) a White House staffer’s memo suggesting President Clinton wanted the newly created White House Office Data Base (WHODB) shared with the DNC. Neither of these stories got any TV news coverage.

5. Keeping Meetings Secret by Filing False Statements.

Last December, Judge Royce Lamberth fined the White House $286,000 for health czar Ira Magaziner’s lying (at White House lawyers’ direction) about the composition of Hillary’s health care task force in order to keep meetings closed to the public. Lamberth issued the fine to reimburse the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons for costs in their lawsuit against the Clinton health planners.

The White House claimed throughout the litigation the task force had no non-governmental employees on it. After Lamberth’s fine, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer called on Magaziner to resign. Just as they’d ignored the AAPS suit from the beginning, the networks aired nothing on the Lamberth decision or Archer’s call for Magaziner to step down.



On the Bright Side

ABC on the Budget-Busting Transportation Bill

When the Democrats were in control of Congress, the media rarely questioned pork barrel spending in their funding bills. With Republicans now in control it’s their turn to spend, but only ABC took on the GOP from the right, reporting that in the current, pork-laden transportation bill many Republicans have abandoned their promise to reign in spending.

In their nightly "A Closer Look" segment, the March 23 World News Tonight took a very critical look at the bill. Anchor Peter Jennings opened the story: "There is no doubt that much of the money to improve roads and bridges and tunnels is badly needed. What causes so many people distress is that in a Congress which promised fiscal reform and responsibility, it is pretty much business as usual."

Reporter John Cochran focused on where all the pork starts, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: "That’s the biggest committee in Congress, 73 members. Everyone wants to be on a committee eager to hand out billions, 43 percent more than the last transportation bill six years ago when Democrats ran Congress. That kind of spending disgusts some Republicans who say now that we’re in charge, we’re as bad as liberal Democrats."

Cochran compared the bill to the budget plan: "Remember the historic agreement to balance the budget? The transportation bill busts that to the tune of $26 billion. To make up the difference, Republicans promise to cut other programs but don’t say which ones. It could mean less for schools, law enforcement or health. It could also mean no tax cuts. That infuriates Republican Sue Myrick. She always felt the transportation bill was the worst kind of pork barrel politics."

Myrick went on to explain how she was offered $15 million for her district, which she turned down, in exchange for her vote on the bill. While Myrick was one of the exceptions, Cochran concluded by pointing out GOP hypocrisy: "Much of that money comes from your gasoline taxes. Democrats pushed through the last tax increase back in 1993 — 4.3 cents a gallon. And every Republican voted against it. Now, they need that money and more. So the same Republicans who screamed back then are now saying, ‘Fill ‘er up.’"



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