Vulgarities at Fundraiser; Making Fun of Elian Photo; Disinterested in Disbarment
1) Robin Williams laced his jokes,
at the big Democratic bash featuring Bill Clinton and Al Gore, with
vulgarities. But that didn’t bother the Washington media even though it
meant C-SPAN cablecast in prime time words the broadcast networks never allow.
2) Time magazine showed the photo
of Elian wearing the outfit of the Pioneers, Cuba’s communist youth group,
but only to make fun of those upset by it, suggesting it’s no worse than
wearing a T-shirt advertising a U.S. TV show for kids.
3) The networks highlighted a
disbarment action this week against Clinton, but this week’s Media Reality
Check reviewed coverage over the last two years: "Most Network Morning
and Evening Shows Whistled Past Effort to Revoke Clinton’s Law
4) Letterman’s "Top Ten
Things That Will Get You Disbarred in Arkansas."
>>> Reminder: Chat
this morning with the MRC’s Tim Graham about the MRC’s Special Report on
Elian coverage. Friday, May 26, at 10am EDT, the Washington Post will host the
[Web update: See same link for full
transcript of online chat session.]
To read the Special Report, "Back to the
‘Peaceable’ Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian," go
Robin Williams delivered a vulgarity-laced comedy routine, praising Al
Gore and making fun of George Bush, Wednesday night at the DNC’s huge
"Tribute to President Clinton," which was carried live by
C-SPAN. [This item includes accurate quotations which feature vulgarities,
including the F word. Skip down to item #2 if this will upset you.]
But the news media
yawned at the fact such vulgarity was uttered at an event raising money
for one of the two major parties, featuring the President and Vice
President, even though it also meant C-SPAN aired words no broadcast or
non-premium cable network could in prime time, including
"bullshit" and "fuck." That in itself, you’d think,
would be noteworthy.
Rush Limbaugh on
Thursday devoted much of his radio show to the use of such language by a
celebrity at a political event attended by the President, but none of
Thursday’s morning shows touched on the language. Thursday’s
Washington Post story by Dana Milbank, in the paper’s "final
edition," mentioned the routine by Williams, but reported nothing
about its content. Recall that two years ago many reporters were indignant
over crude sexual jokes told by Don Imus at a media dinner. (I’m
traveling and so did not see Thursday’s evening shows, but doubt they
picked up on it.)
Thanks to transcribing
by MRC intern Michael Ferguson, here are some of the jokes with which
Robin Williams entertained the audience of 15,000 at about 9:45pm ET,
after Clinton and Gore had revved up the crowd. These quotes are provided
to both demonstrate the language he used as well as to show the liberal
political views espoused by a Hollywood celebrity who feels strongly
enough about politics to fly across the country to participate.
-- He opened his act:
"You feel the power. You got it in your spirit now, yes you think you
do now. Yes, you saw Bill open up a can of whoop-ass, you did. Yes sir, he
did. People are yelling stuff. Bill, opened up a can of whoop-ass. You saw
it right there, he was tighter than a hawk’s ass in a power dive. Yes
sir, and Al, sweet Jesus, Al, you were possessed. People, Lord, people
throwing down their crutches going, ‘I believe Al!’ People walking
forward going. ‘Yow! Sweet power, sweet power.’ So much for that
charisma bullshit, huh?"
-- On the NRA:
"Recently you even had a shooting at the Washington Zoo. Even the
bears are going, ‘bullshit, man. I thought I was safe. God
-- A joke that could
just as easily be applied to Gore: "We’re here tonight because of
the Shrub, you know who I’m talking about. George W. Bush, Jr. The W
stands for ‘where the Hell is it?’ You know, you look at George W. and
you realize some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some get
it as a graduation gift. So sad. I just want to ask the Secret Service, is
it true that his Secret Service code name is Gilligan?"
-- More on Bush: "I
don’t want to see him in charge of the economy. Basically, it’s like
giving O.J. a Benihana. No. No, I’m afraid of the cuts, you know what
-- On Dan Quayle and
conservatives: "I just want to tell Hillary, or the artist formerly
known as the First Lady, I just want you to know Dan Quayle is running for
the New York Senate. The problem is he moved to New Jersey. I don’t
know. He was hoping for the commuter vote...Every so often you look at
those guys and go, ‘Darwin was wrong.’"
-- He did deliver one
anti-Reno joke: "Thank you for letting me come here today and just do
a few minutes. Initially I couldn’t work it out in my schedule, but when
Janet Reno showed up with those INS people, I worked it out. Damn, it’s
amazing what happens when they kick down your door and go, ‘Move
-- Yelling out at
someone leaving the high-priced floor seats during his act: "Good
night, sir. Thank you for coming. At $500,000 he’s going, ‘Fuck you,
I’m out of here.’ Good night, take care. Oh my God, I’ve pissed off
In the midst of all
this, Williams spotted a kid in the audience, prompting him to joke about
his language: "Hello. There’s a child in the front row. We’ve
learned some new words haven’t we?"
Viewers of Thursday’s
morning shows didn’t get a hint about any coarse language, MRC analyst
Jessica Anderson determined:
-- ABC’s Good Morning
America, May 25. John Cochran reported at 8am: "To some people, the
biggest fundraiser ever was impressive. To others it was obscene.
Hecklers, who also had to pay to get in, taunted President Clinton,
chanting, 'Stop the corruption now.'...The price of admission, which
ranged from $50 to $500,000, also included some entertainment. Political
humor from Robin Williams."
Williams: "And the NRA is opening a wonderful café
in, basically in downtown Manhattan -- what they've called an interactive
firearm experience. For every place else in the country it's called
-- NBC’s Today. During
the 7am news update, Ann Curry relayed: "The never-ending race for
campaign cash smashed all records last night. The Democrats and the
Republicans held dueling fundraisers. They raised a combined $40 million,
but it was the Democrats who broke the all-time record for fundraising in
a single night. NBC’s Bob Kur reports."
Kur began: "Robin Williams supplied the
Williams: "Thank you!...You know, you look at
George W. and you realize some men are born great, some achieve greatness
and some get it as a graduation gift."
week’s Time magazine ran a fairly small reprint of the photo of Elian in
the uniform of the Pioneers, Cuba’s communist youth group, but only to
make fun of those upset by the sign that Elian’s communist
indoctrination is occurring on U.S. soil.
As recounted in this
week’s MagazineWatch by Geoffrey Dickens and Tim Graham, in a box on
page 24 the May 29 Time displayed the Pioneers photo (in which Elian is
also holding two wooden sticks) next to a photo from April 20, before the
raid, with Elian in oversized sunglasses, a Nickelodeon "Blue’s
Clues" T_shirt, and a scooter. Time snidely wondered: "Havana
Ball. The Cuban_American community was (again) outraged last week, when a
new photo of Elian was released. Was it the Pioneer scarf instead of the
TV_show T_shirt, the lack of sunglasses or the switching of a $129 scooter
for two wooden sticks?"
To see the Pioneers
photo as shown last week by Fox News Channel, go to the May 18 CyberAlert:
(As reported in that and
subsequent CyberAlerts, FNC and ABC’s Good Morning America showed the
photo and it popped up on the May 20 Capital Gang on CNN, but that was it
for network TV coverage last week.)
Other items in the May
23 MagazineWatch about the May 29 issues:
1. The news magazines probe Rudy Giuliani’s replacement in the New York
Senate race, Rep. Rick Lazio. Can he be demonized by Hillary and company
as a harsh "Newtie"?
2. Time’s Douglas Waller reported Sen. Jesse Helms "hasn’t lost
his hard edge, particularly when it comes to civil rights, women’s
rights, and gay rights." As for the rights of people trapped in
communist regimes, "Clinton may want to build a foreign policy for
the 21st century, but Helms is happy to remain its Tyrannosaurus
3. Amy Dickinson in Time gave a favorable review to Dr. Laura
Schlessinger’s new book but Dr. Laura took it on the chin in the rest of
To read these items, go
May 25 Media Reality Check: "Disbarment? What Disbarment? Most
Network Morning and Evening Shows Whistled Past Effort to Revoke
Clinton’s Law License." As noted in the May 23 CyberAlert, the
night before NBC’s Tom Brokaw told Bill Clinton in an interview that
disbarment could be "a stain on your record well outside the
political arena," but as the MRC’s Tim Graham determined, TV news
spent months ignoring the stain’s development.
Here’s the text of the
latest Media Reality Check fax report:
All of the Big Three networks led Monday
night with the formal recommendation that President Clinton be disbarred
for lying under oath in the Paula Jones case. But how well had TV news
covered the story before that? Most network morning and evening shows
hadn’t. For example:
-- September 15, 1998: The Southeastern
Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court
Committee on Professional Conduct regarding Clinton’s "willful
professional misconduct by lying under oath in a court of law."
-- April 12, 1999: Judge Susan Webber
Wright issued her contempt of court citation against Clinton for lying
under oath. Coverage? ABC and NBC gave the news barely a minute that
night, less time than they gave to a man rescued by helicopter from a
crane above an Atlanta fire. CBS aired a full story and mentioned the
possibility of disbarment, as did CNN and FNC. The next morning, NBC’s
Tim Russert called it a "big deal," but Today gave the
decision four minutes, compared to 13.5 for the Atlanta fire.
-- December 13, 1999: The SLF filed a
request for the Arkansas Supreme Court to order a disbarment review.
Coverage? Brit Hume asked reporter Wendell Goler one question on FNC’s Special
Report with Brit Hume.
-- January 27, 2000: The Arkansas Supreme
Court granted the SLF request, ordering the Committee on Professional
Conduct to proceed with the SLF complaint. Coverage? Brit Hume read an
anchor brief on FNC’s Special
-- February 10, 2000: The Committee serves
President Clinton with a formal ethics complaint, giving the President 30
days to respond. Coverage? FNC’s Rita Cosby filed a full story for Special
-- February 16, 2000: CBS reporters John
Roberts and Mark Knoller both asked Clinton at a White House press
conference about whether he would surrender his law license or fight the
proceeding. Coverage: Despite quoting from the press conference, ABC, NBC,
and even CBS failed to report on the disbarment exchanges. CNN’s Inside
Politics and FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume did note
them. Knoller did show a snippet three days later on Saturday morning’s The
-- March 16, 2000: Clinton lawyer David
Kendall asked for "an application for an extension of time for the
president to respond, until 30 days after he leaves office."
Coverage? A question to Rita Cosby on Special Report, a 50-word
anchor brief on CNN’s Inside Politics, and a 59-word brief from
NBC’s Tom Brokaw.
-- April 21, 2000: Kendall filed a formal
response. SLF President Matthew Glavin called it "pathetic" but
did not release specifics in order to comply with court rules. Coverage?
-- April 28, 2000: SLF reported that
Clinton’s response admitted misleading statements in the Jones case.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declared: "We have no intention of
putting the President's response on the public record." Coverage? A
Brit Hume question to Wendell Goler on FNC’s
-- May 5, 2000: SLF filed a formal
rebuttal. Coverage? FNC’s David Shuster reported a full story on the
progress to date for FNC’s Special Report.
PBS’s NewsHour was the most
apathetic, filing only a 59-word brief on disbarment so far this week.
CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten" list
intended to be shown on the May 23 show: The "Top Ten Things That
Will Get You Disbarred in Arkansas." Though this list was bumped from
the show, it did appear on the Late Show Web page, thus enabling you to be
entertained by a list viewers never got to see or hear. Copyright 2000 by
Worldwide Pants Inc.,
10. Citing the wrong episode of
"Matlock" as legal precedent
9. Neglecting to remove hay from mouth before addressing judge
8. Lying under oath without crossing your fingers
7. Filing motion for "yee" without motion for an accompanying
6. Getting involved in crooked land deal, not letting your friends join in
5. Taking too long with closing statement, forgetting courthouse turns
into pool hall at 5
4. Placing 3 X's on jug of moonshine when it's only strong enough for 2
3. Letting possum out of your briefcase while court's in session
2. Forgetting to tip the state trooper who brings you a hooker
1. Too much fancy book_learnin'
Two options for my last
If #2 were accurate, Bill Clinton would have been
disbarred years ago.
If #2 is accurate, Bill Clinton must be a good and
-- Brent Baker, from the CyberAlert
satellite center in New Hampshire