CyberAlert -- 03/06/2000 -- The Man Inside Anne

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The Man Inside Anne; Hsia Shunned More; Today's Expensive McCain Gimmick

1) Quotes of the Weekend: Larry King boasted of kissing a man on the lips and Anne Heche claimed she's as much male as female.

2) Maria Hsia shunned some more Friday: All three morning shows ignored the conviction of the woman behind the Buddhist temple event, as did two of the Big Three Sunday interview shows. On Inside Washington two media stars minimized Gore's culpability.

3) Anything for a gimmick promoting McCain. For the second time, on Friday NBC's Today went to great expense and logistical effort in order to broadcast a live interview from McCain's bus.

4) Friday night ABC eagerly relayed McCain's complaint about an anti-McCain ad: "McCain says the real issue is how the ad is paid for with those huge unregulated contributions he rails against." NBC ran an In Their Own Words from a conservative upset at McCain.

5) CNN's Jeff Greenfield hit George W. Bush from the right on his student testing plan.

6) Tim Russert to Bill Bradley: "Why would you embrace someone like Al Sharpton?"

>>> "McCain's 'So-Called' Straight Talk Express: Media Favor McCain's Sloganeering Bus Title, But Dan Rather Chokes on 'Christian Coalition.'" The March 2 Media Reality Check fax report is now online, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul. This edition by Tim Graham contends: "One measure of the media's uncritical acceptance of the McCain campaign spin is its unattributed use of the name of his famous press-schmoozing bus, the 'Straight Talk Express.'" Graham contrasted this with how Dan Rather regularly offers up such convoluted sentences as this in order to avoid accepting the Christian Coalition as a legitimate name: "The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls itself, quote, the 'Christian Coalition.'" To read this report, go to:


Quote of the Weekend: From actress Anne Heche's appearance Saturday night on CNN's Larry King Weekend along with Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone to promote HBO's If These Walls Could Talk 2, a movie which debuted on Sunday night showcasing vignettes about three generations of lesbians who lived in the same house. For those not up on Hollywood matters, Heche is DeGeneres's lover and Heche directed the portion of the HBO film featuring DeGeneres and Stone as present-day lesbians trying to have a child through artificial insemination.

First a little warm up before getting to the big quote:

Larry King: "I was just telling Anne that I've never been kissed by a man, except Brando. Brando kissed me on the lips."
Sharon Stone: "That's something."

Thanks for sharing that, Larry. Actually, maybe that should be my Quote of the Weekend.

Shortly after King's boast viewers heard this exchange, which features my original pick for Quote of the Weekend from Heche as she claimed she's both male and female.

King: "Do you miss anything about the male?"
Heche: "No I don't."
King: "You don't?"
Heche: "I don't at all. I mean, Ellen is to me the embodiment of both male and female. I think that's why our energies connected so quickly and so easily because I've always felt in my being that I'm both male and female, maybe a little more -- maybe a little more balanced out than most. I've just felt like I had a lot of male energy in me. So we connected so quickly because of that."

But there's more. Stone later poured out to Heche: "Anne is very special. She's like a little Buddha. She lives without prejudice, without bias. She can understand and accept everything in others and in herself."

This prompted Heche to hug Stone.

All this occurred in just one six minute segment of the one hour show.


Maria Hsia shunned Friday morning too without one syllable about her on the three broadcast morning shows, not even during Today's live bus interview with John McCain. (See item #3 today for more on Matt Lauer's Manhattan bus trip with McCain.) Plus, the ABC and CBS Sunday morning interview shows skipped her conviction while on Inside Washington NPR's Nina Totenberg maintained that Al Gore didn't know the Buddhist temple event was a fundraiser and Newsweek's Evan Thomas insisted it's "not all that clear-cut that Gore did something terrible at that temple."

The March 3 CyberAlert reported how the March 2 conviction of Maria Hsia on five counts of illegal funneling of campaign funds, including one count stemming from the infamous Buddhist temple event with Al Gore, was ignored Thursday night by NBC Nightly News and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams. ABC's World News Tonight gave the development 18 seconds and it earned just 23 seconds on the CBS Evening News. (CNN and FNC aired full stories Thursday night.)

Friday morning the Hsia conviction ran on the front page of both the New York Times and Washington Post. In the March 3 Post story, reporter Bill Miller summarized her transgressions and made a prediction about its impact on Gore:

Political fundraiser Maria Hsia, a longtime associate of Vice President Gore, was convicted yesterday of channeling more than $100,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic candidates in 1996, including $65,000 in tainted money she brought in the day after Gore's controversial appearance at a Buddhist temple.

The verdict marked one of the biggest victories yet for the Justice Department's oft-criticized campaign finance task force. It also rekindles an issue that could cause Gore problems in his quest for the presidency. Within an hour of the jury's finding, the Republican National Committee -- which had a staff worker follow the trial -- issued a statement depicting Hsia as a "small fry" target and calling on prosecutors to go after Gore and other Democratic Party leaders....

The verdict followed 10 hours of deliberations and a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in which the jury got an exhaustive education in campaign fundraising tactics and federal election laws. Prosecutors argued that Hsia deliberately broke the law to enhance her influence in the Democratic Party, collecting money from "straw donors" who were then illegally reimbursed for their contributions.

END Excerpt

"Rekindles an issue that could cause Gore problems"? In newspapers, but not on the networks as National Review Washington Editor Kate O'Beirne astutely observed in her Outrage of the Week on Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN:
"This week, Al Gore's longtime fundraiser Maria Hsia, identified as an agent of the Chinese government by a congressional committee, was convicted of five felony counts for illegal fundraising, including the infamous Buddhist temple event. Although Secret Service and Gore staff memos all refer to the temple visit as a fundraiser, the Vice President implausibly insists he had no idea money was being raised there. Now that his old friend has been convicted, Gore, the beneficiary of her illegal activities, refuses to discuss them. As long as the network news all but ignores Hsia's conviction, Al Gore can continue his dodge."

Indeed, after ignoring it Thursday night the NBC Nightly News on Friday night failed to catch up with the story. Friday morning, all three broadcast networks shows refused to tell their viewers about it. Good Morning America dedicated its 7am half hour to another interview about gun control and a look at "pump and dump" schemes related to penny stock scams. CBS's The Early show focused on guns in schools in its 7am half hour and had time in its news update for a look at a robotic gas pump in Indianapolis. See item #3 for more on Today.

Sunday morning, neither Gloria Borger or Bob Schieffer raised Hsia's name during interviews with George W. Bush and John McCain. Neither did Cokie Roberts or Sam Donaldson during interviews with Bush, McCain aide Rick Davis or Bill Bradley. NBC's Tim Russert did bring up her conviction near the end of his Meet the Press interview with McCain and made it the subject of his very first question to Bill Bradley. Fox News Sunday raised Hsia during the roundtable segment.

On Inside Washington two media heavyweights tried to downplay the degree of Gore's misdeeds. Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas insisted:
"As I keep trying to read the facts of this story, it is awfully murky. It's not really a clear-cut, to me it's not all that clear-cut that Gore did something terrible at that temple."

NPR's Nina Totenberg piped in: "I don't think he probably, I certainly don't think he knowingly did. But that's undoubtedly true of Bob Dole and one of his top campaign people last time, in the middle of the campaign, had to plead guilty to major campaign finance abuses but there's no film in that case. In this case there's film at 11."

If I recall correctly, the man in the Dole story was a donor, not a paid fundraiser and it did not involve an event which Dole attended.

Moderator Gordon Peterson asked: "In other words you believe that Gore thought this was all part of a community outreach?"
Totenberg confirmed: "I think Gore thought it was part of a fundraising swing where you go and talk to people and then you follow up with their friends and things like that, yes I do."
It took the liberal Jack Germond to point out the obvious flaw in Totenberg's rationalization: "He wasn't at all non-plussed by being with a bunch of monks at a fundraiser?"


What expense won't NBC incur in order to promote the McCain campaign? Before the North Carolina primary they broadcast a live interview by Jonathan Alter with McCain as McCain's bus cruised down an Interstate highway, a feat which took two helicopters above: One to pick up the signal from the bus and another to relay it to a satellite.

Friday morning, instead of having McCain get off his so-called "Straight Talk Express" and walk into Today's street-side studio in Rockefeller Plaza, when the bus pulled up Today co-host Matt Lauer climbed aboard to conduct another technologically challenging live interview at great extra expense. As Lauer explained, in South Carolina the bus was in an open area, but all the tall buildings in Manhattan make it very difficult to transmit a live TV image. So, did Today just have the interview take place in the bus as it remained stationary? No, NBC just ordered up more helicopters so they could have the gimmick of a live interview from a moving bus.

Lauer, unlike Alter last month, at least did spend a reasonable portion of the interview challenging McCain about his honesty in denying a connection to anti-Bush flyers and phone calls, but that was only after a series of softballs about the inaccuracy and questionable funding of new Bush ads against McCain and Lauer urging McCain to get back onto his winning message after being sidetracked by attacking the Religious Right.

Here are the questions Lauer posed as McCain's bus cruised through Manhattan in the 7am half hour, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:

-- "I know you haven't had a lot of time to watch television since you've been in New York but I want to talk to you about a couple of ads that are now running. The first is about breast cancer, paid for by the Bush campaign. In it a breast cancer survivor says that John McCain in the Senate voted against funding for breast cancer research. What's your reaction to that ad?"
-- "Is this is a case of your record being twisted then by the Bush campaign?"
-- "Are you more concerned with another ad that's also running here in New York and from what I understand in some other states as well. This one deals with the topic of clean air and it says Senator John McCain voted against solar and renewable energy. The implication being that Governor Bush is more for clean air than John McCain. This one is not paid for, from what we understand, by the Bush campaign. It's paid for by a small political action committee out of Texas. What's your reaction to that one?"
-- "Let's talk about New York. The latest poll came out last night. In it Governor Bush has inched ahead of you in the polls. Still within the margin of error. What do you need to do in your short time here in New York to get a win here? Because it's a crucial state, huge number of delegates."
-- "Is it fair to say, but is it fair to say Senator that in the last couple of weeks you've gotten a little bit off that message? That you've spoken as much about your enemies on far right side of your party as you have about reform in unifying the party. For example your challenges to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."
-- "But it was a risky strategy. A lot of people said it was a big gamble. It appears if you look at the results you had since you made that speech that the gamble may have backfired. In Virginia, in Washington state you took a beating with Republican voters especially the staunch Republican loyalists."
-- "Even if it's at your own personal expense because you have to know that you're gonna need certain parts of their voting block to win this nomination."
-- "Gary Bauer after he ended his presidential bid. He became one of your supporters. He said this. Quote, 'I must in the strongest possible terms repudiate Senator McCain's unwarranted, ill advised and divisive attacks on certain religious leaders.' This is a guy who backs you."
-- "Bill Bennett a conservative who was leaning toward endorsing you said that your comments crossed the line. He's not sure anymore."
-- "Let's talk about Straight Talk. We're on the Straight Talk Express. Earlier this week in California you called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agents of intolerance. Forces of evil. A day later you said after much criticism, 'I was kidding.'"
-- "But you've said to people a hundred times in this campaign, 'I will always tell you the truth.' Let me bring up a couple of instances though. During a debate, televised debate with George Bush. He took a flyer out of his pocket. He said this is negative against me. Why did you do this?' You said, 'That's not part of my campaign.'"
-- "The next day you admitted that your campaign had distributed those flyers."
-- "When the Bush campaign accused you of sponsoring recorded telephone messages accusing him of being anti-Catholic you said it didn't come from my campaign. The next day you said, okay they did approach me about this and we did pay a company to make those calls."
-- "Foreign policy. Taiwan wants to buy some weapons from the U.S. They have a list of, their wish list. On it are some weapons that in the past we've denied selling them because we felt they could be used for offensive, not only defensive purposes. The Aegis destroyers, certain missile systems. Given the current state of tension between China and Taiwan should we make that sale?"
-- "But would you be at all concerned about ruffling the feathers of the Chinese with an arms sale to Taiwan?"
-- "Let me talk about Super Tuesday. An enormous number of delegates up for grabs. 13 states. New York, Ohio, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts. Do you have a number in your mind in terms of the number of states you need to win, the number of delegates you need to come away with that's the make or break number that says I go on or I get out?"


The most important issue of the day on Friday to ABC News: John McCain's complaint about a TV ad attacking him paid for by an independent expenditure. ABC made it their lead story and set out to discredit its funding and points with a story overwhelming tilted in favor of McCain's campaign finance "reform" agenda.

Anchor Peter Jennings opened the March 3 World News Tonight:
"We are going to begin with unregulated money and the Republican presidential campaign. It is called soft money by some people. It's what you may give in unlimited amounts to support a political campaign, because it's illegal to give more than $1,000 to a candidate directly. We begin there tonight because two very wealthy men in Texas are spending more than $ 2 million of their own money to help George W. Bush defeat John McCain, and Mr. McCain, as you know, has made the effect of money in politics his campaign priority."

Douglass went right to McCain's complaint: "John McCain told a raucous crowd in New York that he has caught the Republican establishment red-handed, playing a dirty trick."
McCain: "They're trying to fool you again. Two million dollars just came into this campaign from a source we don't know, alleging things that are not true. Don't be fooled by them, my friends."

Douglass elaborated: "For two days, people have been asking who is spending $2.5 million on an ad campaign which claims McCain sides with polluters, and portrays George Bush as a champion of clean air....The ad claims to be from a group called Republicans For Clean Air, which lists as its phone number the home of a young woman in Virginia who would not say who she worked for. The FCC was considering forcing the commercials off the air unless the group revealed who was behind it. Today Republicans for Clean Air put out a press release announcing it was formed just this week by two of George Bush's biggest contributors, Sam and Charles Wyley of Texas. The Wyley brothers insist they did not coordinate with the Bush campaign. That would be illegal."

Rob Allyn, President of Allyn & Company, explained: "This is a group in formation. This is the first week of operation, so our first and primary focus was to let voters in New York, and California, and Ohio, and all across America, know about the great record that Governor Bush has about clean air."

Douglass continued: "Today, Bush said he knows the Wyley brothers but insisted he knew nothing about the ad."
Bush: "There is no coordination between us. I can't put it any more plainly to you. I had no idea the ad was going to be run."

Douglass concluded by using a liberal group as her authority: "As for the ad itself, the Sierra Club says it is factually wrong, arguing Bush's state of Texas has one of the worst air pollution records in the country. McCain says the real issue is how the ad is paid for with those huge unregulated contributions he rails against."

That's certainly the "real issue" for ABC News as well as the network compliantly produced a story matching his political agenda. ABC didn't bother pointing out that if we didn't have the current inane $1,000 donation limit Wyley could have given his $2 million directly to the Bush campaign which then would have produced an ad it would have to defend. Under the campaign finance regulatory regime Wyley had to make the ad himself without any coordination with the Bush campaign, so the Bush people didn't have to stand by its accuracy and have plausible deniability about knowing its content beforehand.

Friday's CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News also picked up on McCain's complaint, but did not devote an entire story to it. NBC ran an unusual "In Their Own Words" segment from a Christian conservative upset by McCain's remarks earlier in the week. Anchor Brian Williams set up the first person narrative:
"One other factor that's working against Senator McCain tonight, at least with some Republican voters, his use of the word 'evil' in connection with some prominent Christian conservative leaders. Jack Thompson is an attorney in Miami and was a McCain supporter until those remarks came earlier this week. They changed his mind. Here he is tonight In His Own Words."

Thompson contended: "I was drawn to Senator McCain because I thought him to be a man of principle, a man of courage. When I heard Senator McCain describe Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberston and the things that they had done in the political process as evil, that got my attention because frankly then Senator McCain was talking about me, as well. And about other people I know of faith who have -- has allowed and properly sowed their religion to inform animate their political actions. I didn't take Senator McCain's comments, though, personally but what struck me instantly was here's a man who doesn't understand the role of religion in the life of a society. And it was an alarm bell. John McCain may, years from now, understand that he was this close and what he decided to do for personal pique, or for some other reason was to turn on the very core foundation of this Party. Incredible blunder."


An unusual question from the right to George Bush about his education plans. As noted in the March 2 CyberAlert, at CNN's Wednesday night Democratic debate Jeff Greenfield pressed Gore and Bradley about condemning Al Sharpton. Thursday night Greenfield was among the reporters quizzing McCain, Bush and Keyes at the Republican debate sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and shown on CNN.

Greenfield again posed a rare media question, pressing Bush from the right about his proposal to make states receiving federal money show education success by subjecting students to a Department of Education-approved test. As taken down by MRC analyst Paul Smith, Greenfield suggested:
"It seems to me a conservative's worst nightmare to say, once you take federal money we will require you to impose standardized tests. Why not leave it, as most conservatives say in most areas, to the local and state authorities?"


Speaking of Democratic alliances with Al Sharpton, the liberal hypocrisy in condemning George W. Bush for his speech at Bob Jones University while cavorting with a race-baiter isn't making it onto the broadcast network morning or evening shows, but it was raised last week in the Democratic debate and on Sunday's Meet the Press Tim Russert asked Bill Bradley about it.

On the March 5 show, Russert observed to Bradley: "You have been critical of presidential candidates going to Bob Jones University, a school which tolerates, until last week, no interracial dating and some anti-Catholic language. There has been criticism of you embracing Reverend Al Sharpton in New York, a man who said that Mario Cuomo had Mafia connections, Pat Moynihan had racist theories, that former Mayor Dinkins was a whore, that the Jews should pin their yarmulkas back and come get it on, that a Jewish businessman's a white interloper. Why would you embrace someone like Al Sharpton?"

Bradley replied: "Well, Tim, I haven't embraced Al Sharpton. I have gone to the House of Justice last summer to make a presentation to 600 community residents in Harlem. And I was the first Democratic primary candidate since Bobby Kennedy in 1968 to go to Harlem and make that kind of presentation. That was the venue that was afforded me by Reverend Sharpton. I don't agree with Reverend Sharpton on a lot of things. But at the same time, I took advantage of that venue."

Russert countered: "People would say George W. Bush took advantage of Bob Jones' venue. And he was criticized for not challenging Mr. Jones' thinking. Why not challenge Mr. Sharpton's thinking in front of his own people?"

Final Note: George W. Bush is scheduled to appear in person Monday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tune in to see if he can improve upon his Letterman show flop done via satellite. -- Brent Baker

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