CyberAlert -- 03/28/2000 -- ABC Skipped Gore's Past

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ABC Skipped Gore's Past; Coelho Quashed; Hollywood Helping Gephardt

1) All three broadcast network evening shows relayed Al Gore's new campaign fundraising plan, but only CBS recalled his record. Peter Jennings lamented that whenever reform comes up, "Gore's fundraising in the past comes up as well." Just not on ABC.

2) Al Gore's campaign chairman is under investigation for the misuse of federal funds, but ABC, CBS, MSNBC and NBC ignored the revelation Friday. CNN noted it and FNC offered a full report.

3) Current gas prices, adjusted for inflation, really aren't that high, ABC and CBS noted Monday night in making a point the MRC's MediaNomics detailed last week.

4) The Oscars: Maria Shriver promised her husband is "not as conservative as you think," Jane Fonda presented an honorary Oscar to a filmmaker who focused on "tragedies brought by communism," and a screenwriter thanked pro-abortion groups.

5) Kevin Spacey, Michael Douglas and many other actors and Hollywood moguls are actively helping Dick Gephardt take over the House, the Washington Post detailed.


Al Gore's attempt to get in front of the campaign finance reform issue by making his own proposal for more limits on free speech and more government regulation was noticed by the three broadcast networks Monday night, garnering a short item on all three broadcast networks. Only CBS followed up with a rundown of Gore's past misdeeds and while NBC's Tom Brokaw mentioned the conviction of Maria Hsia he also led into a soundbite from Gore by stressing how "he said he has learned his lesson."

CBS and NBC briefly noted George W. Bush's reaction, but not ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings offered only Gore's point of view. Jennings also assured viewers that "whenever the subject comes up Mr. Gore's fundraising in the past comes up as well." But ABC didn't bring up those subjects Monday night and the show hasn't mentioned Hsia since a 19-second item on March 2 and has yet to cite the LaBella memo.

Jennings took 38 seconds on March 27 to read this item:
"In presidential politics today, Al Gore trying to make some headway on campaign finance reform. Whenever the subject comes up Mr. Gore's fundraising in the past comes up as well. Today Mr. Gore made some new proposals, he suggests a $7 billion non-partisan endowment to fund campaigns for the House and Senate as long as candidates refuse money from anyone else. He would also try to force television stations to give free air time to candidates. Mr. Gore acknowledged his record on this subject. 'I know,' he said today, 'I may be an imperfect messenger for this cause but the real wounds will be to our democracy itself unless we address the problem.'"

On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw consumed about one minute to relay:
"Vice President Gore unveiled a sweeping new campaign finance reform proposal. His plan includes a $7 billion fund that would pay for congressional campaigns, a ban on unregulated soft money donations, mandatory disclosure of the sources of independently financed attack ads, free broadcast air time for candidates. Gore, of course, is facing persistent attacks on his own fundraising excesses, including his appearance at a Buddhist temple which led to a jail term for one of his top fundraisers. Again today he said he has learned his lesson."
Gore: "Now I know I may be an imperfect messenger for this cause, but the real wounds will be to our democracy itself unless and until we address this problem."
Brokaw followed up: "Gore's opponent, Texas Governor George W. Bush, said the Gore plan is quote 'hollow,' a 'hollow attempt to go after reform supporters' and that the Vice President has no credibility on this issue."

Dan Rather similarly summarized Gore's plan for CBS Evening News viewers and ran the same soundbite of Gore as had NBC, then went to Eric Engberg for a "Follow the Dollar" report on Gore's fundraising history. Engberg reviewed Gore's 1997 "no controlling legal authority" claim and fundraising at a Buddhist temple, suggesting temple video will soon be featured in Republican TV ads. Engberg went on to remind viewers of Hsia's conviction and vaguely raised the LaBella memo by listing as one of the questions Gore must answer: "Did Gore mislead Justice Department investigators?" Engberg noted Gore's excuse for why missed the part of a meeting where raising hard money was discussed, that he was drinking a lot of iced tea and so may have been in the rest room, and suggested that too is an excuse Gore's opponents won't forget.

After Engberg's piece Rather noted Bush's reaction, but then tried to reassure any liberal viewers upset by CBS actually airing a critical piece on Gore: "Tomorrow CBS will report to you in depth on big money fundraising questions about the Bush campaign."


The chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign is under criminal investigation, the National Journal disclosed on Thursday, leading to Friday newspaper accounts, but the broadcast networks and MSNBC ignored it and CNN gave it a few seconds. Only FNC provided a full report Friday night.

The March 24 Inside Politics included a short item on the probe of Tony Coelho and during the 8pm ET The World Today anchor Jim Moret read this item, which MRC analyst Paul Smith timed at 19 seconds: "Gore's campaign chairman Tony Coelho is under a criminal investigation by the State Department. Law enforcement officials say the investigation is based on an audit of Coelho's financial transactions while he was in charge of the U.S. pavilion at the 1998 World's Fair. Vice President Gore said today Coelho is doing a quote, 'terrific job'"

Not a word about it appeared Friday night on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams and nothing aired Friday night or since on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News.

FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report on Friday only gave the development a brief mention, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, but the 6pm ET/9pm PT Special Report with Brit Hume led with the news. Regular Friday anchor Tony Snow began the March 24 show with an understatement:
"It may not have gotten page one coverage in major newspapers, but the continuing investigation into the financial dealings of Vice President Al Gore's campaign manager Tony Coelho could complicate Bill Clinton's quest for a legacy and Al Gore's drive for the White House. A year-long State Department inquiry has gotten more serious and, as Fox News's Rita Cosby tells us, the Vice President is having to deal with it."

Cosby opened with a clip of Gore defending Coelho and then explained: "Coelho, who left Congress more than a decade ago under an ethical cloud, is now the focus of a criminal investigation by the State Department's Office of Inspector General. The investigation involves Coelho's term as U.S. commissioner general of Expo '98, the World's Fair held in Portugal. In a report released last fall, the OIG found Coelho had exposed the U.S. government to liability for a $300,000 private loan which at that point had not been repaid and that he had leased for himself at taxpayers' expense an $18,000-a-month waterfront apartment in Lisbon."

Cosby continued: "Sources close to the investigation tell Fox News authorities are also looking into whether Coelho knowingly used at least three of his companies to purchase lavish gifts for himself and his clients, eventually bankrupting those companies and possibly committing fraud. Coelho's attorney said his client did nothing improper and questions the timing of this information leaking out to the press. He said, quote, 'Al Gore sews up his nomination two weeks ago, and now this is coming out. It's all politically driven.' But Gore's rival, Governor Bush, only briefly talked about Coelho and other Gore-related scandals during a campaign stop."

Following a soundbite from Bush, Cosby concluded: "Coelho's attorney remains optimistic and says he does not believe any charges will eventually be filed, but he does not expect this investigation to wrap up any time soon during this election year."


In the first 12 weeks of the year only two broadcast evening network stories out of 60 bothered to take inflation into account and note that gas prices really aren't high by historical measure. Monday night two out of three stories made the point which CyberAlert had raised on Monday in plugging a story by the MRC's MediaNomics.

The March 27 CBS Evening News asked Sandra Hughes to look at some gas price victims, and she focused on a pizza delivery guy who must buy his own gas for his car, but she concluded her piece: "While two bucks a gallon may seem outrageous, it's been worse. Remember the oil shortages of the 1970s and '80s? Well for today's prices, adjusted for inflation, to be as bad as they were back then, stations would be charging as much as $6 dollars a gallon."

Over on ABC's World News Tonight Ned Potter observed how cheap a barrel of oil is compared to an equal amount of products such as milk and orange juice, adding: "Economists point out that when you account for inflation the price of oil has been going down. Despite the current spike it is still cheaper than it was in 1980."

(Next, ABC's John Martin focused on the evils of the "secret pricing formula" used by oil companies to set rates charged to service stations based on the income and population density of the area. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued it should be illegal: "Zone pricing is wrong because it amounts to a restraint on the free market.")

Back to inflation-adjusted gas price trends. In the March 24 MediaNomics piece from the MRC's Free Market Project, Rich Noyes determined:

From January 1 through March 22, the increases in gas and oil prices garnered a total of 60 stories -- 23 anchor-read briefs and 37 field reports -- on the three network evening newscasts. Many of these reports argued that gas prices were "sky high," as Rather asserted on March 2, or at "an all-time high," as NBC's Tom Brokaw stated on February 28.

Nominally, that's true, but only two stories bothered to point out that, when eighty years of inflation is taken into account, gasoline remains moderately priced. Indeed, as year-by-year figures compiled by the American Petroleum Institute (API) demonstrate, gasoline prices are just now bouncing back from historic lows.

From 1920 through 1992, the retail price of gas sold at the pump averaged $1.91 a gallon, adjusting for inflation. That dipped to an average of just $1.36 from 1993 to 1997, and slipped even further to a record low $1.16 per gallon in 1998. The price rebounded only slightly to $1.24 last year as OPEC began trimming its production, before finally surging to $1.57 in March of this year as the production cutbacks began to affect the market.

END Excerpt

To read the entire article, which includes an API chart on inflation-adjusted gas prices throughout this century, go to:


Oscar observations: Maria Shriver assured viewers her husband is "not as conservative as you think," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected Jane Fonda to present an honorary Oscar to a filmmaker who focused on "tragedies brought by communism," and in accepting his award on stage the screenplay writer for The Cider House Rules thanked two pro-abortion groups.

-- During the 8-8:30pm ET Countdown to the Oscars show on ABC Meredith Viera talked with Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He praised the upcoming show's new producers "because I think they're going to bring a whole new spin to the whole thing and cut it down on time." Reality: The show lasted four hours and eleven minutes, the longest Academy Awards show ever.
Shriver offered: "We agree sometimes on politics. He's not as conservative as you think."

Trying to reassure her liberal fans that she's no traitor to the cause?

-- During the actual Academy Awards show Jane Fonda came on stage to present an "Honorary Oscar" to a Polish filmmaker whom she described as "often at odds with government censors, his films not only chronicled the politics of Eastern Europe, they paved the way for change."
Accepting the award Andrzej Wajda spoke in Polish, but his words were put on-screen in English: "The subject of many of our films was the war, the atrocities of Nazism and the tragedies brought by communism. Today I thank the American friends of Poland and my compatriots for helping my country rejoin the family of democratic nations, rejoin the Western civilizations, its institutions and security structures."

Of course, while he was chronicling the tragedies brought about by communism Jane Fonda was in North Vietnam trying to trap more people under communism.

-- At about midnight ET John Irving bound on stage to accept an Oscar for "Screenplay Adaption" for the film The Cider House Rules. His first words: "I want to thank the Academy for this honor to a film on the abortion subject. And to Miramax for having the courage to make this movie in the first place."

It really takes "courage" for a bunch of liberals to make a pro-abortion movie which then earns awards.

After thanking members of his family and some colleagues he added in ending his acceptance remarks: "And everyone at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights League."


Actor Kevin Spacey, who won the "Best Actor" Oscar for his role in American Beauty, a movie which mocks traditional values in suburban life, is actively working to help Dick Gephardt take over the House this fall, the Washington Post reported on Saturday in a piece on how Hollywood liberals are paying attention to House contests. Reporter Juliet Eilperin disclosed that last year Spacey provided the "Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 100 tickets to the Washington premiere of his film American Beauty, giving House Democrats a chance to reward their best donors with a glitzy reception."

Actor Michael Douglas has already given the House Democratic committee $50,000, Eilperin reported, and the host committee for an Oscar night viewing party fundraiser included "mogul Barry Diller, singer Gloria Estefan, and actors Woody Harrelson, Martin Sheen and Hilary Swank."

Here's an excerpt of the March 25 Washington Post story:

Kevin Spacey, the wisecracking Academy Award nominee known for playing a murderer and a pot smoker, does not have much in common with the rather strait-laced Richard A. Gephardt, except for this: Both men are pushing hard for the Democratic Party to regain control of the House.

A longtime supporter of President Clinton, Spacey is now putting his considerable star appeal at the disposal of the House minority leader. Last June, he arranged for a staging of his Broadway hit "The Iceman Cometh" for the benefit of a Democratic fund-raiser in New York. Last fall he gave the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 100 tickets to the Washington premiere of his film "American Beauty," giving House Democrats a chance to reward their best donors with a glitzy reception.

The warm relations between Spacey and Gephardt, who began talking politics in earnest in a Los Angeles hotel gym a few years ago, are the fruit of an unprecedented Democratic effort to collect campaign funds for the drive to retake the House. While Clinton has successfully tapped the entertainment community for campaign money since he first ran in 1992, Gephardt and his colleagues are finding California celebrities increasingly amenable to their cause this election season....

For all their political activism, most stars and studio execs are fairly parsimonious when it comes to writing checks. As Gephardt put it carefully, "People in show business have strong feelings about issues, but they don't always step up to the plate and help you."

This year, however, the television, movie and music industries have showered House Democrats with contributions. Last election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, they collectively gave $488,000 to the DCCC. In 1999 alone, by contrast, they donated $960,000. Oscar night Sunday will be no different: House Democrats are holding a $75,000 viewing party at the Los Angeles Petersen Automotive Museum, with a host committee that includes mogul Barry Diller, singer Gloria Estefan, and actors Woody Harrelson, Martin Sheen and Hilary Swank.

According to industry officials, impeachment accounts for part of this phenomenon -- many Hollywood figures were outraged by the congressional action against Clinton -- but the party's strong showing in the 1998 elections also has translated into more dollars from L.A. luminaries.

Andy Spahn, who heads corporate affairs for the DreamWorks studio, had no trouble enticing executives and stars to support a $2.1 million fund-raiser for House and Senate Democrats sponsored by DreamWorks partner David Geffen in May. "There was tremendous anger about the partisan nature of the Republican leadership of the House, particularly with regards to impeachment," Spahn said.

Democrats have always managed to connect with show business types on social issues such as gun control, abortion and the environment, and now that they are within striking distance of the majority, they have found Hollywood a fruitful source of income even as the impeachment issue has faded. Just this year, for example, movie star Michael Douglas gave House Democrats $50,000.

"People feel like Democrats have a chance to win and it would be better to have them in charge, so they have come out of the closet to give again," said one entertainment industry executive who asked not to be identified.

A few Republicans have defied this trend. Despite his role in impeachment, California Rep. James E. Rogan is being backed by industry heavyweights, such as Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, who appreciate his work on copyright and other issues of concern to the industry. But Rogan's challenger, state Sen. Adam Schiff, has still raised more than twice as much from the television, movie and music industries for what will be one of the marquee races of the congressional elections....

Gephardt has made repeated trips out west and has established close ties with celebrities and prominent insiders such as Fox Family Worldwide CEO Haim Saban. Saban, an Israeli who created the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has donated $246,000 to the DCCC this election. "A lot of Democratic officeholders spend time cultivating people over there," Valenti said. "It just didn't happen overnight."

Gephardt has been friendly with Spacey since 1997; in December, Spacey flew back from filming in London so he could give Gephardt the Directors Guild of America's award for defending filmmakers' rights, sparking a minor controversy when he joked about his friendship with the minority leader.

"We have stood together during moments of national peril: I have gotten stoned with him on many nights," Spacey said. "In fact, that scene in 'American Beauty' in the alley, it's entirely based on an evening behind the Capitol Dome -- the great reefer and the House leader."

Though Spacey made it clear he was joking, Gephardt's opponent in Missouri, Bill Federer, seized upon the statement and mailed an account of the speech to his political supporters. The attack even prompted Loreen Gephardt, the Congressman's 92-year-old mother, to publicly defend her son as the only 1988 presidential candidate to have never used illegal drugs.

The media hoopla surrounding Spacey's remarks obscured the more serious point the actor made in his speech, which helps explain why he has come to Gephardt's aid this year.

"Men like Dick Gephardt are the vaccines we receive to fight the virus being spread by politicians who use their power and influence to try to define what art is," Spacey said.

The two men have established a sort of mutual admiration society. Spacey likes talking politics, education and health care with Gephardt, while the minority leader praises the actor's craft and his lack of pretentiousness....

END Excerpt

American Beauty portrayed a Marine officer as a closet homosexual who beat his teenage son. Imagine the media reaction if Republican leaders ever accepted free tickets to a movie which offered such a derogatory portrayal of a feminist or abortion-rights crusader. -- Brent Baker

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