LaBella Memo Snubbed; Hsia’s Shunning Shown; Imus Zinged Brokaw
1) The LA Times disclosed Friday that the LaBella memo charged
Gore got special treatment from Reno, but ABC, CBS, MSNBC and NBC ignored it.
CNN and FNC pounced, but broadcast viewers instead learned about "the
living wage" and restaurant meal inflation.
2) ABC and NBC ignored LaBella Saturday night too. On Sunday,
ABC featured a story on how Al Gore is painting himself as a champion of
campaign finance reform, but still refused to mention LaBella.
3) FNC’s Sean Hannity highlighted CyberAlert numbers on how
little time Maria Hsia’s conviction earned on ABC, CBS and NBC. Charles
Krauthammer also relayed the notion on Inside Washington.
4) When Tom Brokaw recounted how Al Gore acted as if he
didn’t know Maria Hsia had been convicted, radio host Don Imus zinged him by
pointing out: "If he's watching NBC News he missed it." Brokaw
sheepishly conceded: "Yeah, well that's true."
5) MRC Study: Over just eight nights network reporters
referred to Bush tilting toward the right on 15 occasions, "but not one
evening news report described John McCain’s attack on the religious right as
‘liberal’ or ‘going to the left.’"
fundraising scandal development harmful to Al Gore suppressed by the broadcast
networks. Friday morning’s Los Angeles Times revealed much of the content of
the long-secret Charles LaBella memo, including how the former Justice
official, whose wish for an independent counsel to probe White House
fundraising was rejected by Attorney General Janet Reno, claimed Bill Clinton,
Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Harold Ickes got special treatment.
Friday morning, not a word about the disclosure appeared
on the ABC, CBS or NBC morning shows. Even though the networks had all day to
produce a story, not a syllable about it aired Friday night on ABC’s World
News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. Nor did MSNBC’s
hour-long The News with Brian Williams touch it. The story did, however,
capture some attention on cable as it topped CNN’s Inside Politics and The
World Today as well as FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume. FNC’s Fox
Report ran a story a few minutes into the 7pm ET show.
It was a slow news day on Friday, so what did broadcast
networks find newsworthy? Here’s a rundown of what ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and
NBC viewers saw instead on March 10:
-- ABC’s World News Tonight led with a full story on
what anchor Charles Gibson warned was the "most dramatic evidence
yet" of how humans alter the environment, a study in Science magazine
which found that pollution reduces rainfall. ABC’s second full story of the
night: How a Centers for Disease Control report documented media over-hype of
the flu epidemic.
Other subjects earning full-length field reports: How
floods in Mozambique have ruined an African success story; accusations that
Allstate Insurance representatives improperly discourage injured victims from
hiring lawyers; the FAA’s decision to move the entire town of Minor Lane
Heights, Kentucky in order to get the residents away from noise caused by new
runways at the airport in Louisville; and a story which re-ran already
twice-shown Nightline footage from IDEO company designs, on how designers are
"blending form with function."
-- CBS Evening News
opened with the debate over the minimum wage and how the House passed a $1
hike to be phased in over two years as well as tax cuts aimed at small
businesses. Clinton said he won’t sign the bill unless the tax cuts are
removed, but reporter Diana Olick painted the Republicans as the crass
political operatives, concluding: "So why did Republicans push this to a
vote when they knew their tax plan would just force a veto? Easy. It’s an
election year. So now they can tell voters we tried to give you a raise, but
the Democrats took it back."
Continuing CBS’s liberal crusade, Ray Brady provided
an upbeat look at a woman leading the campaign for "the living
wage." Without using the term "liberal," Brady asserted:
"Madeline Janis-Aparicio is part of a coalition of church people, unions
and other pressing cities and counties everywhere to increase worker pay and
Other full stories run on the show dealt with the
FAA’s new plan to reduce storm-related delays and cancellations; a brewing
scandal at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office where it is thought many
used bribes to get licenses to drive trucks; the ease of getting prescription
drugs from overseas via the Internet; a proposal
in Maryland to allow families to put cameras in nursing homes to discourage
abuse; and how scientists love the violent weather they can study atop New
Hampshire’s Mount Washington.
-- NBC Nightly News
began with the FAA’s plan to reduce flight delays followed by a look at
rising gas prices. NBC devoted its "In
Depth" segment to Lisa Myers exploring the ups and downs of raising the
minimum wage. Next, NBC discovered the scandal of how restaurants charge more
for meals than the food components cost. Jim Avila ominously intoned:
"Across the country, menu prices rising faster than the inflation rate,
four years in a row." In fact, Avila announced, a 300 percent mark-up is
NBC’s other full-length pieces dealt with serious
subjects but were hardly breaking news: Security concerns for Clinton’s trip
to Pakistan, a trip the Secret Service doesn’t want him to make; a profile
of missionary woman from the U.S. working in Mozambique; and a "Home of
the Brave" piece by Tom Brokaw on a woman who was finally able to meet a
WWII vet who was with her husband when he died during that war.
-- MSNBC’s The
News with Brian Williams, anchored by Forest Sawyer, opened with the same FAA
plane plan story as had Nightly News followed by the same gas prices piece.
Interviews conducted by Sawyer consumed most of the rest of the show. After
each of the first two stories he interviewed a print reporter about the topic.
Then he talked with two Florida officials about the Governor’s effort to
eliminate racial quotas in some areas.
MSNBC re-ran the story about concerns related to
Clinton’s Pakistan trip before Sawyer talked with the Chicago Tribune’s
Jim Warren and Newsweek’s Matt Bai about the Reform Party. None mentioned
the LaBella memo, arguably the only real campaign news of the day.
Sawyer soon moved to an interview with two experts about
how to deal with the six-year-old shooter. The show ended with a segment on
the marketing of Sony’s new PlayStation.
Here’s an excerpt
from the March 10 Los Angeles Times story all but CNN and FNC refused to
touch. Reporters William C. Rempel and Alan C. Miller revealed:
WASHINGTON -- A confidential report by the Justice Department's former
chief campaign finance investigator, kept sealed by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno for
nearly two years, accused senior Justice officials
of engaging in "gamesmanship" and legal "contortions" to
avoid an independent inquiry into Clinton-Gore campaign fund-raising abuses.
According to an edited version of the 94-page document, former task force
supervisor Charles G. LaBella also faulted Reno's top advisors for using
"intellectually dishonest" double standards: endorsing independent
counsels to investigate Cabinet-level administration officials while opposing
them for similar or stronger cases involving senior White House figures.
Among those getting special treatment, the report said, were President
Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former
White House aide Harold M. Ickes. It is the first indication that the task
force was considering Mrs. Clinton's conduct in the fund-raising scandal.
The bluntly worded July 1998 report also called for a sweeping outside
investigation into "the entire landscape" of campaign finance
allegations, referring to the possibility of broad schemes "conjured up
by sophisticated political operatives to circumvent" election finance
laws during the 1996 presidential race.
Senior Justice Department officials strongly rejected LaBella's assertions,
saying that the report leaped to "outrageous" conclusions and
personalized policy differences....
The disclosures are certain to provide Reno's critics, including Republican
lawmakers, with powerful ammunition to renew charges that she acted to protect
the White House. Already, last week's conviction of longtime Gore fund-raiser
Maria Hsia on campaign finance violations resurrected Republican charges that
the Justice Department has failed to get to the bottom of the scandal.
And questions raised about Gore and Hillary Clinton in the long-sealed
documents could ricochet across the 2000 political landscape as well, as Gore
seeks the Democratic presidential nomination and the First Lady bids for a
U.S. Senate seat in New York. Ickes, a former White House deputy chief of
staff who spearheaded the Clinton-Gore reelection effort, is a key figure in
Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign.
LaBella's accusations are particularly troubling for the Clinton
administration because the career prosecutor was hand-picked in September 1997
to bolster public confidence in the Justice
Department-controlled investigations of political fund-raising abuses. It
was Reno who chose LaBella to head the Campaign Financing Task Force and
salvage much-criticized investigations then run by the department's Public
"The failure of Reno to listen to LaBella seems to me to put a cloud
on the impartiality of the top of the Justice Department in what was supposed
to be the most ethical administration in the history of the United
States," said Henry Ruth, a former Watergate special prosecutor and
criminal defense attorney. "I can't remember...someone at that level,
plus the FBI, saying 'go' and the attorney general vetoing it without
To read the entire lengthy story, go to:
In CNN’s lead story on The World Today Pierre Thomas
alluded to questions about Gore’s honesty:
whether Vice President Gore lied to the FBI about his role in the fundraising
scandal was the subject of a 90-day preliminary investigation by Reno in 1998.
Reno decided there was no reasonable basis to conclude Gore had lied about
knowing that soft money he was raising was being forwarded to hard money
accounts. But now there are new revelations Reno's aides knew of statements
from then White House Chief of Staff Leon Penetta that potentially conflicted
with Gore's recollection."
Earlier, on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Jim
Angle outlined the relevant questions related to Gore:
about Gore first were whether or not he made illegal fund-raising calls back
in 1995 and '96 from his government offices, which is illegal. The second
question was whether or not Gore lied during the first inquiry, when documents
later surfaced suggesting a different story. And the LaBella memo says flatly
that Vice President Gore may have provided false testimony.
"Now, in the first
phase of the investigation, Mr. Gore said he didn't remember discussing calls
to raise money for the campaign, then later said the matter probably would
have been discussed, but only in passing. The attorney general found no
evidence to the contrary and said the calls were about unregulated
contributions, called ‘soft money,’ which she said was not illegal.
"But then some
memo surfaced from deputy chief of staff to Gore, David Strauss, which said
that not only had the vice president personally discussed the matter in
meetings, but it also said ‘Count me in on the calls.’ And Gore later
asked if he could make more calls than he'd been asked to. In addition,
documents indicated the White House meeting specifically talked about raising
hard money, which would have been illegal.
"So the attorney
general began a second review, and it was then that former White House chief
of staff Leon Panetta told the FBI he remembered the vice president
attentively listening to discussions about hard money and walking through the
papers. And of course, there is a photo, as mentioned earlier, that shows the
Vice President reviewing some sort of documents. It is not quite clear
ABC and NBC
took up campaign stories Saturday night, but still refused to touch the
LaBella development. Sunday’s World News Tonight on ABC even featured a
whole story on how Al Gore is painting himself as a champion of campaign
finance reform, but reporter Terry Moran failed to mention LaBella or remind
viewers of the Maria Hsia convictions.
College basketball bumped the CBS Evening News off most
ET and CT affiliates Saturday night, but a Nexis transcript showed the program
did raise the LaBella development. Mark Knoller, whose appearance might be
explained by the lower than usual viewership, looked at how Gore is trying to
portray himself as a crusader for campaign finance reform. After showing Gore
with Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, Knoller noted:
"But Gore again
finds himself on the defensive on that issue. A previously secret report has
surfaced which was written two years ago by Charles LaBella, who, at the time,
was the Justice Department's chief
campaign finance investigator. In the document, obtained by the Los Angeles
Times, LaBella says Gore 'may have provided false testimony' about
fund-raising matters and called for the appointment of an independent counsel
to investigate fundraising by the President, Gore and even the First
The same night, NBC Nightly News again skipped LaBella
and ran a piece from Jonathan Alter on how independents in Levittown, New York
are trying to decide between Gore and Bush. ABC’s World News Tonight led the
show with how the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll put Gore ahead of Bush
by 48 to 45 percent. John Yang provided more poll details, such as how 55
percent see Gore as a "strong leader," and showed what Gore and Bush
were doing during the day (Gore at a parade, Bush at a basketball tournament),
but said nothing about the LaBella memo.
Sunday night sports bumped both the CBS and NBC evening
shows in the east, leaving only ABC’s World News Tonight. On it reporter
Terry Moran examined how Gore is making campaign finance reform a theme of his
campaign with the goal of winning over McCain’s voters. Moran raised
Gore’s controversial past fundraising, but failed to mention Hsia or LaBella:
about Gore’s new found enthusiasm for reform is his own checkered history on
the subject. His 1996 visit to a Buddhist temple where funds were illegally
raised, has become a symbol of abuse and today Governor Bush mocked Gore’s
new claim to be a reformer....The Republicans will try to portray Gore as a
hypocrite for calling for campaign finance reform now, but Gore is trying to
inoculate himself by admitting, as he did today in the New York Times, that he
has made mistakes and now he says he speaks with the conviction of a convert
on the need for reform."
If the networks continue to ignore major memos about his
activities and convictions of his aides, Gore won’t have to inoculate
himself against anything.
data on Maria Hsia is being spread to wider audiences. As reported in the
March 3 CyberAlert, Maria Hsia’s March 2 conviction for five counts of
illegal money laundering was ignored that night by NBC Nightly News and
MSNBC’s The News with Brian Williams while ABC’s World News Tonight gave
it 19 seconds and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather took 23 seconds to read a
short item on it.
Last week and over the weekend, fueled by the Republican
National Committee publicizing the lack of Hsia coverage, the numbers were
picked up by FNC’s Sean Hannity, who cited the MRC as his source, FNC’s
NewsWatch put them on-screen and on Inside Washington Charles Krauthammer
alluded to the coverage pattern.
-- MRC cited on FNC, a credit to which former MRC
analyst Mark Drake alerted us. Interviewing Congressman Dan Burton on FNC’s
Hannity & Colmes on March 9, co-host Sean Hannity observed:
"You know, the
other problem we have in this country, and I guess, thank God for the Fox News
Channel, and thank God, I guess, talk radio around the country and Rush and
some others. The Media Research Center did a little investigation. Here is a
woman, close associate with the Vice President, actively involved with him, a
friend of the Vice President, who was convicted on all five counts involving
this issue with the Buddhist temple. ABC World News Tonight spent a grand
total of 19 seconds on the story. CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, 23
seconds. NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw, he totally ignored it. Now under, could
you imagine any Republican President, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., George
W. Bush, when he becomes President, having a friend...having something like
this, and they ignore it. They don’t even bring it up?"
-- Saturday on FNC’s 11am ET NewsWatch conservative
panelist Cal Thomas pounded away at how the broadcast networks have ignored
Hsia and an on-screen graphic displayed later in the show listed the number of
seconds devoted to her convictions by the three evening shows.
-- Columnist Charles Krauthammer complained on Inside
Washington: "Gore will have the media on his side. If you look at the
coverage of the networks, Maria Hsia, close friend of the Vice President, the
one who organized the Buddhist temple thing, is found guilty on five felony
charges. On one of the networks it wasn’t even on the evening news and on
the other two it was less than 30 seconds."
boasted to radio host Don Imus last Wednesday about how he confronted Al Gore
during Super Tuesday coverage about Maria Hsia. When Brokaw recounted how Gore
seemed to act as if her conviction was news to him, Imus zinged him by
pointing out how Gore wouldn’t have learned about it from watching NBC News.
Imus is as informed as an
attentive CyberAlert reader.
As transcribed by the MRC’s Tim Graham, on the March 8
Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC, Brokaw told Imus:
"One of the flaws
of Al Gore is that he does have that remarkable ability to look into the
camera earnestly and furrow the brow and then just kind of rewrite history.
He’s done that in the past with his dying sister and his own support of
tobacco and growing tobacco at the time. He certainly did it last night with
campaign finance reform. And I think it has neutralized the issue because
every time he begins to raise a wagging finger and aim it at Governor Bush,
that’s what they’ll be bringing up. They’ll just be running ads. You can
just see the ads running across the screen with Charlie Trie and Johnny Chung
and Maria Hsia and all that happened at the Buddhist temple. You know, those
pictures are around, so we cannot expect to see that."
"I didn’t think he did a very good job answering you last night. He
looked to me, I saw it live, he looked to me like you’d punched him."
Brokaw: "I think
he was not expecting that question...It’s tough running for President, but
you know, part of the price that you pay is you’ve got to be prepared to
answer any questions, especially those that are not speculative. This was a
wholly factual question about his background, and he was the one who raised
the idea that we’re going to get rid of all the soft money, I’m a
reformer, he was saying let’s go to the debates, so..." Imus jumped in:
"He acted like he barely knew that this Maria Hsia, didn’t he? Like he
was ready to drag her up out of a park someplace." Brokaw agreed:
"Oh, I know, yeah, it was: ‘Did I miss that?’ It was as if he were
saying, ‘Did she get convicted?’ He said, ‘It's still in the courts.’
It's no longer in the courts! The jury has ruled! Guilty! Five counts!
Imus shot back:
"Well, if he's watching NBC News he missed it."
"Yeah, well that's true."
Imus: "And he only
saw 19 seconds of it with Dan [Rather]."
Brokaw: "Yeah, I
Indeed. Today and NBC Nightly News have yet to mention
Hsia’s conviction. It should be noted that the day of her conviction, March
2, Brian Williams filled in for Brokaw as anchor of Nightly News. But Brokaw
has done nothing since to help his viewers catch up and not even Imus’s
prodding last Wednesday led Brokaw to utter Hsia’s name on his daily
broadcast. Nor the name LaBella.
Bush Is "Far Right," McCain Wasn’t "Left." TV
Evening News Couldn’t Find a Left Turn on the Republican Campaign Steering
The text of the March 10 Campaign 2000 Media Reality
Check fax report compiled by the MRC’s Tim Graham, with input from the MRC
The Bush campaign was often described by TV evening news shows as tilting
toward the "far right," but when John McCain made that charge, he
wasn’t described as "liberal" or going "to the left."
MRC news analysts surveyed evening news shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, FNC’s Fox
Report, and CNN’s The World Today (and WorldView on weekends) for coverage
of George W. Bush in the days after the South Carolina primary (February 20 to
28), and stories on John McCain in the days after his attack on religious
right leaders (February 28 to March 6).
In the Bush coverage, evening news reporters or anchors referred to Bush
tilting toward the right on 15 occasions. Of those 15, nine described tilts to
the "far right," "hard right," or "too far to the
right." But not one evening news report described John McCain’s attack
on the religious right as "liberal" or "going to the
left." MRC news analysts provided the network breakdown:
ABC analyst Jessica Anderson identified three instances of Bush tilting to
the right. For example, on February 21, John Yang asserted: "After
veering to the right in South Carolina, Bush came to this inner-city community
center to return to his theme of compassionate
conservatism." On the 29th, Linda Douglass explained that McCain attacked
Pat Robertson as "part of an effort to reach out to moderates and
independent and Democratic voters."
CBS analyst Brian Boyd discovered CBS was the most aggressive user of
extreme conservative labels, employing "hard right" and "far
right"on four occasions. On the 24th, Eric Engberg claimed, "The
support of far right organizations ignited Democrats and independents who
fueled McCain’s win." McCain’s attacks on Robertson and Falwell drew
no labels, as Rather declared, "McCain gives leaders of the religious
right holy Hell while Bush tries to mend fences with Roman Catholics."
NBC analyst Geoff Dickens found three instances of Bush tilting to the
right, and one to the extreme right. On February 21, Tim Russert announced,
"Bush wanted to win this nomination viewed as the compassionate
conservative without having to tilt right." A week later, Anne Thompson
cited: "Aides describing the assault as the defining moment in McCain's
campaign, aimed at moderate Republicans....The goal: To tie George W. Bush to
the extreme right."
CNN analyst Paul Smith found two extreme-right references to Bush
("too far to the right" or "farther and farther to the
right"). After McCain’s attack, CNN
suggested he "continues to aggressively court Democrats and
FNC analyst Brad Wilmouth noted Fox only referred to Bush tilting right on
the 28th. Carl Cameron reported on "John McCain trying to drive George W.
Bush to the right and distance himself from Christian conservatives."
Shepard Smith asked if Bush was "a captive of the right."
If past campaigns are any indication, this pattern will continue, with TV
reporters suggesting Bush has to move away from a "far right,"
as Gore comfortably appeals to "moderates and independents." Will
journalists be fair, or will Gore’s consultants echo McCain aide Mike Murphy
and rely on their "base in the media"?
Of course, this finding
complements the ongoing media pattern of warning of how Bush became a
"Pat Robertson Republican" and must move to the center while never
portraying Al Gore as an "Al Sharpton Democrat." To reporters, Gore
is already in the center.