Now They Decide To
Cover a Scandal
The following article
appeared in Investor's Business Daily on January 26th, 1998
When Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr
spoke publicly on Thursday about the current sex scandal, ABC News
reporter Tim O'Brien stood behind him and interrupted by yelling,
"How is this Whitewater? How is this Whitewater?"
The question is not why Starr is going
beyond Whitewater. The question is: When will the networks go beyond sex?
A former Clinton Cabinet officer is
indicted while those around another official admit giving him illegal
gifts. Another Cabinet secretary contradicts earlier statements and
concedes he made payments to former Associate General Webster Hubbell. A
federal judge rules that the first lady and a top White House aide made
misleading statements in court papers. The discovery of an old check
contradicts the president’s earlier sworn Whitewater claims.
All that happened in the past three months,
before the Clinton sex scandal fueled the network news frenzy. But
television viewers learned little if anything about any of the
In early November, Cable News Network broke
a story about the discovery, in the trunk of an abandoned car, of a 1982
Madison Guaranty check for $27,000 to Bill Clinton. The check contradicts
Clinton’s assertion that he never borrowed any money from the failed
savings and loan.
A few days later NBC picked up on the
explosive find that suggests the president committed perjury in his trial
testimony, but ABC never got around to it in the morning or evening. Zilch
on the CBS "Evening News" or "CBS This Morning."
Not even a prison term and a guilty plea
that implicated a former Cabinet official could stir the broadcast
On Jan. 15, the ex-mistress of former
Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded guilty and agreed to a 3 1/2-year
prison term for fraud and conspiracy related to her lying about how much
Cisneros paid her to keep quiet about their affair. CNN and Fox News
Channel ran stories, but ABC, CBS and NBC were silent on both their
evening and morning shows.
The Cisneros indictment a month earlier,
for lying and obstructing justice during his FBI background check, did
warrant a full segment on NBC, but generated just 18 seconds on ABC’s
"World News Tonight."
CBS didn’t get around to it for another
day. Dan Rather gave it nine seconds on Dec. 12. That same night, he gave
two minutes to El Nino’s impact on butterflies.
The plight of those around former
Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy has also gone unnoticed by network
Not even the cable networks that mentioned
Cisneros on Jan. 15 bothered with the Espy case in their prime time shows.
That day, a Tysons Food Inc. vice president and lobbyist were indicted for
giving illegal gifts to Espy and later lying about it.
Ignoring Espy is nothing new. The Dec. 2
conviction of Ronald Blackley, Espy's top aide at Agriculture, for lying
about money he received never made it onto an ABC, CBS or NBC morning or
evening news show, or CNN in prime time.
The networks were just as uninterested in
the latest news about Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force. The news
of a federal judge’s Dec. 18 ruling that White House officials lied
about the makeup of the ‘93 health plan panel didn’t generate one
network story. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth accused White House
officials of engaging in a "cover-up" and levied a $285,000
Clinton health care adviser Ira Magaziner
had insisted the panel included "only federal government
employees" and didn’t have to hold open meetings. Lamberth ruled
that Magaziner’s claim was "actually false." The only network
coverage of this fabrication: One question from Tim Russert over a week
later on NBC’s "Meet the Press."
And former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor
admitted that he had indeed helped Webster Hubbell obtain a do-nothing
contract with the Los Angeles city government.
The Los Angeles Times noted on Dec. 14 that
Kantor "said earlier this year that it would have been
‘inappropriate’ for him to have gotten involved with the Los Angeles
payment," but "in sworn testimony to congressional
investigators...Kantor described steps he took to help Hubbell obtain the
$24,750 payment from the city government in late 1995."
The networks, however, didn’t devote so
much as one second to this admission of "inappropriate"
These are important stories that deserve as
much attention as Monica Lewinsky and then some. The American viewing
public deserves better.
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