CyberAlert -- 04/02/1997 -- NBC Finds Sleaze

Copy of: MRC Alert: NBC Finds Sleaze -- In London; Brokaw's Temper

1. Democratic donors rewarded with federally guaranteed loans? Contributor money direct from a Chinese government bank? Two more stories ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC.

2. A Hubbell-related story got a bit of coverage Tuesday night, but three previous disclosures have not yet been picked up by the networks.

3. NBC News discovers sleaze: in Britain's Conservative Party.

4. Don't get between Tom Brokaw and his video. NBC's anchor threatens a lawyer for a minister who sold a cult video to ABC.

5. From the Late Show with David Letterman: "Top Ten Things Overheard at the White House Easter Egg Roll."

6. Cronkite's Crockery of the Day: Cronkite admits he "had trouble with" Reagan's "political philosophy."

So there is no confusion, please note that all the quotes in the April 1 Notable Quotables sent yesterday were fake. We made them up for our annual April Fools edition.


1) Two more Clinton fundraising scandal disclosures, two more stories ignored by the networks.

First, the Boston Globe uncovered the possibility that Democratic donors were rewarded with federal funds. "Trade-Trip Firms Netted $5.5b in Aid: Donated $2.3m to Democrats," read a front page story in the March 30 Boston Sunday Globe. Reporter Bob Hohler discovered that "27 corporations that sent executives on trade trips with the late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown obtained part of a multibillion-dollar commitment in federally guaranteed assistance from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., according to a Globe analysis of fundraising records, trip manifests, and OPIC documents."

"While the Globe reported last month that Brown's trade trips were a fundraising bonanza for the Democratic Party," Hohler explained, "what has previously gone unnoticed is the massive amount of OPIC support given to companies that traveled with Brown and donated money to the Democrats."

Second, Tuesday's Wall Street Journal reported that a large donor's money may have come from the Chinese government. The April 1 story began: "Charlie Yah Lin Trie, a central figure in the controversy over foreign contributions to the Democratic Party, received a series of substantial wire transfers in 1995 and 1996 from a bank operated by the Chinese government. The transfers from the New York office of the Bank of China, usually in increments of $50,000 or $100,000, came at a time when Mr. Trie was directing large donations to the Democratic National Committee."

Network coverage, Sunday through Tuesday night: ABC's World News Tonight: nothing CBS Evening News: not a word NBC Nightly News: zilch CNN's The World Today: a brief anchor-read item on Trie

Tuesday night


2) Tuesday night the three broadcast network evening shows did each devote short items, read by the anchor, to how Mack McLarty and Erskine Bowles admitted soliciting consulting deals for Web Hubbell.

NBC Nightly News led Tuesday with the shocking news that old documents show that Liggett tobacco company marketing targeted groups of potential customers. Later, Tom Brokaw gave 39 seconds to how McLarty and Bowles, the former and current Chiefs of Staff, "solicited work for Hubbell before he went behind bars. He received some rich consulting contracts from big campaign contributors. Republicans have charged this was hush money so he wouldn't cooperate in the Whitewater investigation, but the White House tonight is vigorously denying that allegation."

Dan Rather led the CBS Evening News: "President Clinton today called for keeping ads for hard liquor off television -- by law if necessary. The industry is launching a spirited counter-offensive." He gave 33 seconds to Hubbell.

ABC led with some actual news, the ups and downs of the stock market. In reporting the Hubbell news, ABC was the only network to mention an amount and the interest of Kenneth Starr. Peter Jennings explained: "Payments to Mr. Hubbell, which amounted to more than $500,000, are a major focus of independent counsel Kenneth Starr who wants to know if they were intended to buy Mr. Hubbell's silence about Whitewater matters."

The networks failed to do a full story on Hubbell, but the brief items were more than three previous Hubbell revelations have generated:

-- A March 20 front page New York Times headline declared: "Asian Paid $100,000 to Hubbell Days After Visits to White House." The Times discovered more evidence of possible hush money payments to Webster Hubbell.

Broadcast network coverage: Nothing. (Three days later ABC's World News Tonight gave it one sentence.)

-- The Thursday March 6 New York Times carried a front page story on a Chinese link to payments to Web Hubbell. The newspaper reported that Hubbell "received more than $400,000 from about a dozen enterprises, including the organizers of a multibillion-dollar development in China that received the endorsement of the Clinton Administration."

Coverage: Nothing on ABC and NBC. The CBS Evening News aired a story on how Hubbell got $400,000, but CBS didn't pick up the China angle.

-- The February 25 Los Angeles Times ran a front page story headlined: "Clinton Intermediary Kept in Touch with Hubbell." Reporter David Willman discovered: " private, the Clintons have stayed quietly in touch with Hubbell -- through a trusted White House aide who has acted as a confidential go-between. During the 16 months that Hubbell spent in prison, the White House aide, Marsha Scott, frequently visited him....And when Hubbell was first appearing before a grand jury investigating the Whitewater controversy, Scott traveled to Little Rock to confer with him."

Coverage: Nothing on ABC, CBS or NBC, nor CNN's World Today.


3) NBC Nightly News on Tuesday (April 1) found just 39 seconds for the Hubbell news and no time for the Trie revelation, but devoted a full story to a sympathetic look at a London PR guy who sells "sleaze" stories about the Conservative Party to the tabloid newspapers.

Reporter Ron Allen in London explained:
"In Britain, it's a single issue campaign: sleaze. Charges of adultry, indecency, bribery. Three disgraced members of the Conservative Party quit the race in one week. They're the party in power who say they stand for family values."

After a soundbite from the anti-Conservative Party public relations guru, Max Clifford, Allen continued:

"Scandal is making the race a stroll for the man who wants to be Prime Minister, Tony Blair of the Labor Party. Twenty points behind and mired in sleaze the incumbent, Conservative John Major. Clifford says the conservatives are ruining Britain. In one sleaze attack he gave the tabloids letters a Conservative lawmaker wrote to his underage gay lover...He then helped a 17-year-old waitress expose another Conservative lawmaker."

Following another bite from Clifford, Allen intoned:

"Sleaze didn't start with the current campaign, it's been dogging the Conservatives for years. Since the last election in 1992, at least 16 senior officials with the ruling party have left office clouded in scandal. And it's not just sex. Some are accused of pocketing thousands of dollars in bribes."

David Leigh, journalist: "We've had one party for 18 years whose slogan has been 'greed is good.'"

Anyone in the U.S. who raises Clinton's sex life is disparaged. Talk about it in reference to the right-leaning party in England and NBC celebrates you.

NBC made four references to "sleaze" and the Conservative Party. All in one story. That's four more references to sleaze than NBC has applied in four years to the Clinton Administration. While it didn't cover the networks, a 1994 MediaWatch Study is illustrative: As reported in the May, 1994 issue, the MRC's Tim Graham discovered that "Clinton has never been identified with the 'sleaze factor'" in the three news weeklies, The Washington Post and New York Times, but the term was applied 114 times since 1984 to the Reagan administration or Republicans.


4) NBC's Tom Brokaw was not very happy when ABC bought videotapes that Brokaw thought he had a deal to buy. In Tuesday's USA Today Peter Johnson reported:

"Lawyer Patrick Edwards, representing a minister who received farewell tapes from the Heaven's Gate cult, says in an affidavit...that NBC's Tom Brokaw 'set off in a tirade' after Edwards sold ABC News the tapes for $50,000. Brokaw 'began threatening me, claiming he would file a grievance, that he would sue me and that I would never work in the city of Detroit again.'"

Brokaw conceded that he called Edwards just before going on the air Thursday night and turned angry when he learned ABC beat him out. "'I had every reason to be angry,' Brokaw said Monday. 'I did raise my voice, but I did not yell at him, and it was not a tirade. I was very unhappy. I did not say you'll never work in Detroit again. I thought he was in the suburbs. But I did say I'd 'let the Michigan bar know and everyone in your community know how you've conducted yourself.'"


5) From the March 31 Late Show with David Letterman, "Top Ten Things Overheard at the White House Easter Egg Roll." (Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.)

10. I'm sorry, Mr. President, this event doesn't involve any actual eggrolls.

9. For a 94-year-old, that Strom Thurmond sure can hop.

8. I didn't find any eggs, but I did find these old Whitewater documents.

7. And now, ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Gore will chase, catch,
and devour a live rabbit.

6. Is that Senator Kennedy trying to roll a shot glass?

5. $500 seems a little steep just to roll an Easter egg into the Lincoln bedroom.

4. Isn't that cute -- the Easter bunny gave Hillary a chocolate subpoena!

3. Look -- President Bush is skydiving with a bunny suit on!

2. No Mr. President, we didn't hide any 'Easter bacon.'

1. Hey -- that's no kid -- that's George Stephanopoulos!


6) Cronkite's Crockery of the Day. Today's quote is lifted from page 238 of Cronkite's book, A Reporter's Life:

"The Fords were among the most friendly occupants of the White House, but Reagan won the affability contest hands down. I had trouble with his political philosophy, particularly his endorsement of laissez-faire trickle-down economics, the concept that if the people and industries at the top are successful, prosperity will somehow be visited on all the rest of us."

So, Cronkite does not see himself "at the top" of society?

-- Brent Baker