For Immediate Release: Andrew Langer (703) 683-5004 - Friday, September 17, 1999
Vol. 3, No. 34
Big Three Networks Very Slow and Skimpy on Coverage of Puerto Rican Terrorist Group Clemency
Little Sympathy for FALN Crime Victims
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings into Bill Clinton's decision
to offer clemency to 16 members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN. Clinton's
decision was criticized by Senators from both parties, including committee chairman Orrin
Hatch and liberal Democrat Robert Torricelli. Victims of the FALN's bombings spoke
emotionally about their outrage over the release [See box]. How much ABC, CBS, and NBC
coverage? Zero. It fits a pattern of neglect.
In the five weeks
from the Associated Press reporting the offer on August 11 through Thursday morning, Big
Three network coverage has been skimpy:
Evening news coverage: A total of six full stories: two on ABC, two on
CBS, two on NBC. Only one August 30 story by CBS's Jim Stewart preceded Hillary's sudden
opposition to clemency.
Morning news coverage: A total of 11 segments (seven news stories and
four interviews). That's if you count two partial stories that CBS aired (mixed in with
other Clinton news), and half an interview on Hillary with NBC's Tim Russert. Only one
August 31 story by NBC's Fred Francis came before Hillary's flip-flop. Only CBS
interviewed an FALN victim, policeman Anthony Senft. "We'll be following your
testimony," co-host Thalia Assuras promised Senft. CBS viewers couldn't follow his
testimony. It was spiked.
The networks have mostly labored to avoid occasions where they could underline the
unpopularity of Clinton's clemency offer and the emotional punch of opposition from law
enforcement officials and FALN victims:
September 14: The Senate voted 95 to 2 on a resolution calling
Clinton's clemency offer "deplorable." (Only Democrats Daniel Akaka and Paul
Wellstone voted no.) Big Three coverage? Zero, except a sentence previewing the vote on Nightline.
September 9: The House of Representatives voted 311 to 41, with about
70 Democrats voting "present" instead of standing with Clinton, to condemn the
clemency offer. Big Three coverage? Zero, even though ABC's and NBC's morning shows
mentioned the next day that the Puerto Ricans would be released that day. CBS Saturday
Morning mentioned the release the next morning.
August 27: The New York Times reported, "A wide range of
federal law enforcement agencies that were asked to review a clemency petition filed by
impris-oned members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group unanimously opposed any
leniency" before Clinton's decision. Big Three coverage? Zero. Law enforcement
opposition surfaced in only five stories: three on NBC, once on ABC and CBS.
August 23: New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir
held a press conference featuring police officers injured by FALN attacks to criticize
Clinton's offer. Big Three coverage? Zero, although CBS's August 30 evening story and
NBC's August 31 morning story both contained a clip from it.
August 13: A Wall Street Journal editorial underlined the
rarity of Clinton's offer: "From the time he took office in 1993 until April 2, the
date the Office [of the Pardon Attorney at the Justice Department] prepared its last
report, Mr. Clinton had received 3,042 petitions for clemency. Until Wednesday, he had
granted a total of three." Big Three coverage? Zero. Only one use of the word
"rare" by NBC's Andrea Mitchell reflected that fact. -- Tim Graham
L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent Baker, Tim Graham, Editors;
Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd, Geoffrey
Dickens, Mark Drake, Paul Smith, Brad
Wilmouth, Media Analysts; Kristina Sewell, Research
Associate. For the latest liberal media bias, read the
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