Dobbs: Enron Gave to Dems Too; Not Even a "Whiff" of Scandal; Clinton's Links to Tyson Downplayed; Suffering Al Qaeda Prisoners
1) After a CNN story highlighted Enron donations to
Republicans, Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs prodded the reporter: "We do
have a sense that Enron not only contributing to Republicans but mightily,
as well, to Democrats, wherever it served the political purpose of the
company, isn't that correct?"
2) Add Newsweek's Howard Fineman to the short list of
media figures who don't see a Bush administration scandal tied to Enron.
"Not even a whiff of" a smoking gun, Fineman declared on
3) NBC's Today on Tuesday highlighted how both Republicans
and Democrats benefitted from Enron's largess as Katie Couric raised
Robert Rubin's calls. Tim Russert, however, said the calls symbolize how
money buys access.
4) Media Reality Check. "News Media's Scandal
Double-Standards. Shifting Standards: Tyson's Presidential Ties
Downplayed, but Enron's Links to Bush on Center Stage."
5) "It is a mosquito infested place at night, there
is no mosquito repellant being handed out," CNN's Bob Franken fretted
Monday night about the conditions being endured by the Al Qaeda prisoners
being held in "cages" on the Guantanamo Naval Base.
6) What Katie Couric considered the most important events
from her years at Today, which she joined in 1991: "We can see Anita
Hill testifying. All of a sudden we can talk about sexual harassment in a
very real way. We can look at how gays in America are treated when we talk
about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard."
7) "Homelessness -- one of the media's favorite tools
to portray the alleged downside of Ronald Reagan's '80s prosperity -- was
a more serious national problem during Bill Clinton's 1990s."
8) Letterman's "Top Ten Things People Scream at the
Television Screen While Watching Larry King Live."
9) A reminder. The MRC's "Dishonor Awards: Roasting
the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2001," will take
place on Thursday night. We're "oversold," but can still squeeze
in a few more. If you want to join us, you must order a ticket today.
gave a lot to Democrats too, CNN's Lou Dobbs pointed out on Monday's
Moneyline in gently reprimanding reporter Tim O'Brien after O'Brien's
story only mentioned donations to Republicans.
(Several Web sites
have picked up on this exchange, including one in Germany highlighted by
Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, as well as the Hotline.)
Dobbs opened his
January 14 show with a report from O'Brien, who joined CNN's Washington
bureau last year after ABC News, for which he had covered the
Supreme Court, did not renew his contract.
"Good evening, everyone. Tonight the investigations into Enron's
collapse have only begun, but the questions and the revelations are
flying, from charges of insider trading to more possible links between
Bush administration officials and Enron executives. Tim O'Brien reports
from Washington now on some of the facts and some of the fiction."
on the August memo to Enron CEO Kenneth Lay warning of financial
irregularities and how Arthur Andersen admitted internal memos raise
questions about whether documents were destroyed. O'Brien then observed:
"And the Center for Public Integrity, a
Washington-based public interest group, today reported that 14 high or
mid-level officials in the Bush administration hold or held Enron stock.
But the center's director says neither that nor the huge campaign
contributions Enron made to Bush and other key congressional candidates is
in and of itself suspicious."
Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity:
"The business community in general and the energy industry in
particular has traditionally supported Republicans two-to-one or
three-to-one, in terms of campaign contributions, for ideological reasons,
because of deregulation and the role of government in general."
O'Brien concluded: "The immediate focus of
all these investigations will surely be the actions or inactions of top
officials at Enron and Arthur Andersen. But Lou, it's also sprawling
and it's still so early, it's anybody's guess where it all might
Anchoring from New
York, Dobbs suggested: "Anybody's guess, Tim, as you put it, as to
where it might lead. But we do have a sense that Enron not only
contributing to Republicans but mightily, as well, to Democrats, wherever
it served the political purpose of the company, isn't that correct?"
but repeated Lewis's point about ideological symmetry between Republicans
and business: "That is certainly true. More to Republicans than to
Democrats, but certainly to both parties, and especially in Texas its home
base. But it's not surprising, especially the contributions to the
Republicans, which support causes that have always helped large industries
and particularly the energy industry, and such issues as
explained why he raised the point: "The one thing we don't want to
ever be accused of here is, of course, participating in creating, if you
will, in the court of public opinion, making it a hanging court. So many
questions here that I think it's really incumbent on us to be careful.
There is enough here to create huge questions, serious questions, perhaps
criminal indictment, and I just want to make sure we are balanced in
keeping it all in perspective, Tim. Thank you."
transcript of this story posted on the CNN Web site, which I corrected
against the actual video of the show, misidentified CNN's own reporter Tim
O'Brien, calling him "Ted" O'Brien.
Newsweek's Howard Fineman to the short list of media figures who don't see
a Bush administration tied to Enron. "Not even a whiff of" a
smoking gun, Fineman declared on Sunday's Today.
As noted in the
January 14 CyberAlert, on the McLaughlin Group Lawrence O'Donnell
declared: "It is a business scandal story. There is absolutely not
even a whiff of political scandal in this thing so far. And it's really
funny to watch the Washington press corps try to manufacture it."
On the January 13
Today, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, Bloom proposed to Newsweek's
chief political reporter: "Howard, first of all, no smoking gun
right, there's nothing that we can tell from these phone calls that these
White House and Bush administration
officials did to actually help Enron."
"Not even a whiff of smoke at this point, David. There were lots of
calls. Ken Lay, the head of Enron, made a number of them to the Secretary
of the Treasury, he called Don Evans, the Commerce Secretary..."
The networks seem
to be getting the message, with Monday and Tuesday night stories focusing
on what Enron executives and Arthur Andersen auditors did, instead of on
phone calls to Bush officials who took no action. (Nightline, however, on
Tuesday night looked at the Bush team's links.) But maybe the network
fall-off is more attributable to producers backing off as soon as they
figured out that top Democrats also received money from Enron.
Today on Tuesday highlighted how both Republicans and Democrats benefitted
from Enron's largess as Katie Couric raised Robert Rubin's calls with Tim
Russert. He agreed that Democrats would be attacking Bush officials
whether or not they took any action in response to phone calls.
portrayed a broken system in which the calls themselves symbolize how
money buys access: "The calls are not illegal, but the concern in the
Bush administration and in the political community and in the country is
that if you give lots of money then you have lots of access. A normal
businessman in the country wouldn't have been able to make these phone
calls and get through."
Actually, I'd bet
when the CEO of any top ten firm calls he would get through.
Geoffrey Dickens alerted me to this exchange on the January 15 Today.
Couric pointed out to Russert: "Now that we also learned that Mitch
Daniels, who's Director of the Office and Management and Budget, was also
called. Anything inappropriate about these calls, Tim, and why should we
Russert replied: "Katie, the head of a CEO
of the seventh largest company in the country was going down. He called
the Secretary of Commerce and said, 'could you intervene with the credit
agencies and basically shore up our credit so we could borrow more money?'
Secretary Evans said he said no. Secretary O'Neill said he never asked for
anything but later Enron people called O'Neill's deputies and asked for
the same thing, also told no. Mitch Daniels says his call was from Ken Lay
about the economic stimulus package, nothing about Enron's fiscal
situation. The calls are not illegal, but the concern in the Bush
administration and in the political community and in the country is that
if you give lots of money then you have lots of access. A normal
businessman in the country wouldn't have been able to make these phone
calls and get through."
Couric: "You have access and you can
possibly get help."
Russert: "Or you could perhaps influence
them to do something inappropriate. They insist nothing inappropriate
happened and thus far there is no evidence that anything inappropriate at
that level did happen."
Couric: "According to these officials these
calls were not discussed with President Bush. Should they have been?"
Russert: "Secretary Evans said he did not
talk to President Bush, Secretary O'Neill said the same. Secretary Evans
did say he spoke to the President's Chief of Staff and then later spoke to
President Bush about Enron but did not reveal his phone call from Ken Lay.
It's an open question. The Democrats are suggesting when the Bush
administration was alerted to the financial situation of Enron they should
have done something. Intervened in some way to help the shareholders.
Secretary Evans says, 'Wait a minute, if I had gone to the credit agency
and helped them out, would I have not aggravated the plight of the
shareholders down the road?'"
Couric: "Well I was going to say isn't that
what the Democrats would be now pointing a finger at, if in fact the White
House had intervened because of the very thing you said at the beginning
of this interview?"
Russert: "That's what Republicans are
saying: 'They are trying to set us up. Either way we would get hit.' The
fact is both parties now acknowledge you can't have a situation where 129
people at the top of Enron cash out a billion dollars in stockholdings and
thousands of little people who have their life-savings are locked out from
doing that because of a law imposed upon them."
Couric asked about
the financial scandal before pointing out: "You know Democrats and
Republicans have both received campaign contributions from-"
Russert: "Katie, 71 percent of the Senate
and 40 percent of the House of Representatives have received contributions
Couric: "Is it fair to say Republicans
received much more money
Russert: "About 3 to 1."
Couric: "Alright, well Bob Rubin, who was of
course the former Treasury Secretary under the Clinton administration now
senior executive at Citigroup, made a call to an undersecretary at the
Treasury regarding Enron. Ultimately it was decided they should not get
involved in this, it wouldn't be prudent. But is this muting calls by the
Democrats because the Democrats themselves might be culpable? Or they
might be fingers ultimately pointed at them as well?"
Russert: "Absolutely. The Republicans are
using Bob Rubin as a poster boy to say it just, it isn't just us. Here's
Bob Rubin involved with Citicorp, Citigroup. Enron owed them $750 million.
Why would he make a call even suggesting that something be done. Both
parties here are pointing fingers, both are culpable. There's a lot of
money in this political process."
text of a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes, which was
distributed by fax on Wednesday morning titled, "News Media's Scandal
Double-Standards. Shifting Standards: Tyson's Presidential Ties
Downplayed, but Enron's Links to Bush on Center Stage."
The pull-out box
in the middle of the faxed page explained:
"Once the media demanded public officials avoid even the 'appearance
of impropriety' -- behavior that might have been ethically permitted but
looked bad because of financial or political ties. That strict standard
went out the window during the Clinton years, but it's conveniently
returned with the Enron story."
To access the
Adobe Acrobat PDF version, go to:
Now, the text of
the January 16 Media Reality Check:
Who could ignore a story involving
allegations of criminal wrongdoing against a huge company that's been a
longtime supporter of the President? Well, journalists may be going nuts
over George W. Bush and Enron, but the indignant network scandal machine
barely twitched a few years ago when the company was Tyson Foods and the
President was Bill Clinton.
Much of the media's Enron coverage has
blended and blurred the large donations Bush's campaign received from
company officials with the sad details of Enron workers whose pensions
vanished with the company's bankruptcy, never stating what -- if anything
-- Bush or his aides have done, or are suspected of having done, that was
unethical. But during the Clinton years, the media compartmentalized
individual allegations and questioned the motives of investigators who
dared burden a President by forcing him to deal with hyped scandals.
Clinton's Tyson ties were known before he
reached the White House. "Tyson Foods has provided free airplane
rides for the governor and his wife, and its executives have helped him
with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and industry
fund-raising efforts that fueled Clinton's reelection campaigns and his
race for President," the Washington Post's David Maraniss and Michael
Weisskopf chronicled in a March 22, 1992 front-page article. They quoted
company chief Don Tyson: "You've got to support the governor."
Two years later, the networks learned that
a Tyson's lawyer, James Blair, had helped Hillary Clinton scoop up nearly
$100,000 in profits trading cattle futures during her husband's first year
as governor. Sounded fishy, but the networks weren't very excited. During
the six weeks after the story broke on March 18, 1994, ABC, CBS, CNN and
NBC had run just 18 stories on their evening newscasts -- fewer than Enron
got during the past week alone.
Later in 1994, Clinton's Secretary of
Agriculture Mike Espy was discovered to have received $35,000 in favors
from Tyson. When Espy resigned on October 3, 1994, ABC's Peter Jennings
mourned the departure of a "young man who seemed to represent so much
promise." That was also the end of the story, at least as far as the
three broadcast networks were concerned. While Independent Counsel Donald
Smaltz convicted several lobbyists and extracted a $6 million guilty plea
from Tyson, the networks aired only two stories from the time Espy left
office until he was indicted 35 months later. The media could have scolded
Clinton for the "appearance of impropriety" when they learned
his wife pocketed $100,000 or when his Agriculture Secretary took improper
gifts, but they didn't. (ABC's Nightline did devote an entire program to
Espy's acquittal in 1998, however.)
Now the appearance standard is back.
"Enron was a company with deep political connections to the Bush
administration, and so there are political issues to be dealt with,"
Jennings stated on January 10. Three days later on Face the Nation, CBS's
Bob Schieffer hoped the bad press would motivate the President to support
campaign reform: "[If] it makes the White House look bad because all
those Enron people who gave so much during the campaign are now calling to
see if the White House can help them a little, well, here's another
thought: Outlaw the big corporate contributions. That way it won't look
like the companies are calling in a chip every time they call the White
House." But what did Enron's chiefs get for their calls, Mr.
At its core, the "appearance"
standard is a sloppy rule that allows the media to decide which scandals
they'll promote and which they'll bury. Its selective application over the
years reveals the depths of the media's scandal double-standards.
END Reprint of Media
Bob Franken fretted Monday night about how the Al Qaeda prisoners being
held in "cages" on the Guantanamo Naval Base, are suffering
because "it is a mosquito infested place at night, there is no
mosquito repellant being handed out."
On the January 14 NewsNight, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed, Franken recounted the arrival
of new detainees: "They went to their new home which is this eight
foot by six foot by eight foot high, well, it's a cage, they [the
military] don't like to call it a cage, but it is a cage. It is a mosquito
infested place at night, there is no mosquito repellant being handed out.
But the place is supposed to be sprayed by [sic] mosquitoes. It is a
pretty dismal existence and nobody knows exactly how long these people
will be there or what they're going to do with them."
through a liberal prism of oppressed people. During Monday's Today show
50th anniversary special retrospective broadcast, MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens caught how co-host Katie Couric recalled what she considered the
most important moments from her years at Today, which she joined in 1991:
"We can see Anita Hill testifying. All of a
sudden we can talk about sexual harassment in a very real way. We can look
at how gays in America are treated when we talk about the brutal murder of
Taranto's "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com has
been highlighting examples of media outlets focusing on homelessness now
that a Republican occupies the White House. On Tuesday, he picked up on an
e-mail message from MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey, which Greg
Pierce reprinted in his Washington Times "Inside Politics"
column on Monday.
An excerpt from
Pierce's January 14 column:
"Homelessness -- one of the media's
favorite tools to portray the alleged downside of Ronald Reagan's '80s
prosperity -- was a more serious national problem during Bill Clinton's
1990s," the Media Research Center's Elizabeth J. Swasey writes.
"Patrick Markee of the Coalition for
the Homeless admitted as much on [Wednesday] night's 'Hannity and Colmes'
on the Fox News Channel: 'Definitely, we saw more homelessness in the
1990s than we did in the 1980s.'
"But we saw far less homelessness on
TV sets during the Clinton years. The MRC did the math: During the first
Bush administration, morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC and
CNN ran an average of 53 stories on homelessness annually, compared to
less than 17 per year during the Clinton administration," the writer
"The soon-to-be No. 1 New York Times
bestseller, Bernard Goldberg's 'Bias,' devotes an entire chapter to the
media's indulgence in advocacy journalism on this topic. In it, Goldberg
cited a 1999 column by the Providence Journal's Philip Terzian, formerly
of the Carter administration, that showed the New York Times ran 50
stories on homelessness in 1988, including five on page one, but in 1998
ran only 10 -- not one on page one.
"The expanding homeless population was
out of sight during the Clinton years but just three short weeks after
George W. Bush assumed office, ABC won the race to be the first network to
rediscover the homeless: On Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001, 'World News Tonight'
Sunday anchor Carole Simpson intoned: 'Homelessness, which is estimated to
affect from 2 and a half to 3 and a half million people, is again on the
END of Excerpt
For a full
transcript of that ABC story which ran just weeks after Bush was
inaugurated, as well as to view it via RealPlayer, refer back to the
February 12, 2001 CyberAlert:
daily "Inside Politics" column:
the January 15 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by Larry King's
new $7 million per year for four years deal with CNN, the "Top Ten
Things People Scream at the Television Screen While Watching Larry King
Live." Copyright 2002 by World Wide Pants, Inc.
10. "Larry doesn't look a day over
9. "Honey -- the remote control is busted again!"
8. "I can't believe I was married to that hump!"
7. "Larry, you're my favorite suspender-wearing television
personality since Mork!"
6. "Damn, Sally Jessy looks like hell!"
5. "I can't believe I was married to that hump!"
4. "Somebody call an ambulance -- Larry's pinned under his enormous
3. "Oh my god -- there's a barn owl loose in the studio! Oh wait,
2. "Help...choking...pretzel lodged in windpipe!" (President
1. "I can't believe I was married to that hump twice!"
tomorrow night. A reminder to those planning to attend the MRC's
"Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal
Reporters of 2001." It will take place Thursday, January 17 in the
Atrium Ballroom of the Reagan International Trade Center, at 1300
Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, DC. Reception at 6pm, dinner and roast
at 7pm. Dress is business attire.
The MRC's Bonnie
Langborgh set up a page with maps of the area, a diagram of the
building and information about parking, the nearest Metro stop and ground
transportation to DC from the local airports: http://www.mrc.org/bookstore/moreinfo.html
For a good map of
the area around the building, check out:
And a few tickets
are still, barely, available. We've had to add tables to accommodate the
expected crowd, but since there will inevitably be some last-minute
cancellations and no-shows, we can probably squeeze in a few more people.
procrastinated and now realize you don't want to miss out on an amusing
evening making fun of the media, call the MRC's Sue Engle TODAY, that's
Wednesday, and she'll take your order. It's $150 per seat. You must call
on WEDNESDAY. Call (703) 683-9733 and ask for Sue at extension 163. She'll
probably be around into the early evening.
This is your LAST
CHANCE. For the 1999 Dishonors we packed 500 seats in a hotel room. This
year we found a larger room and planned for 750 seats. We now expect more
than 790 attendees. If you want to join us, call Sue immediately.
I look forward to
meeting all the CyberAlert readers who will be in attendance.