CyberAlert -- 04/03/2000 -- Leonardo DiCaprio, ABC News Reporter

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Leonardo DiCaprio, ABC News Reporter; ABC Muffled Elian; NBC's George Roche

1) Best line of the weekend: Tony Blankley suggested how Al Gore could become credible on campaign finance reform.

2) The April 1 Notable Quotables may have seemed all too real, but be assured they were made up. April Fools.

3) No April Fools joke: ABC News had actor Leonardo DiCaprio, emcee of an Earth Day celebration, interview Bill Clinton about Earth Day for an upcoming ABC News special. On Fox Brit Hume chastised: "This is a once great news division that has completely lost it's way and it is diminishing almost by the day."

4) ABC initially refused to show Elian Gonzalez saying he did not want to go to Cuba. ABC relented, but had Diane Sawyer talk over his comment. On FNC Cal Thomas contended: "If he had said he did want to go back to Cuba it would have been a soundbite."

5) Friday night Peter Jennings revived the story about President Bush and the supermarket scanner, a media tale discredited years ago by Brit Hume.

6) George W. Bush avoided a question last week about the investigation of Gore campaign manager Tony Coelho, FNC's Carl Cameron observed. The media are also avoiding it along with other fresh Clinton scandals, the MRC's Media Reality Check detailed.

7) CyberAlert's seconds-count on the minimal TV time given to a ruling that Clinton violated the Privacy Act was trumpeted by FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume and the Fox News newsletter.

8) George Roche meets Jerry Falwell. NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit aired a plot about a Christian college President who impregnates his son's wife. One detective: "Think tank for the neo-conservative movement?" Another: "That's an oxymoron."

>>> MRC gun study highlighted by the NRA's magazines. The April editions of the American Guardian and the American Rifleman magazines feature articles by MRC Senior Media Analyst Geoffrey Dickens summarizing the MRC's gun study, "Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate." You can also read the article by Dickens online, complete with a color photo of MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell announcing the results alongside Oliver North at a January press conference. Go to: <<<


Best line of the weekend. Tony Blankley, columnist and former Press Secretary to Newt Gingrich, on the McLaughlin Group: "The only way Gore can be credible on campaign finance reform is to turn himself in."


Before anyone goes and quotes them as accurate, let me make sure everyone is aware that all of the quotes in the April 1 edition of Notable Quotables, which was distributed to the CyberAlert list on Saturday, were made up -- hence the April 1 date on all of them and the April Fools! at the end.

In addition to one I wrote, those impersonating liberal media figures were MRC staffers Geoffrey Dickens, Paul Smith, Rich Noyes, Tim Graham, Brad Wilmouth, Liz Swasey and Tom Johnson.


It's apparently no April Fools joke, but it sure makes a joke out of ABC News and has disgusted former ABC News reporter Brit Hume.

"ABC News" had actor Leonardo DiCaprio, star of Titanic, interview President Bill Clinton on Friday for an April 22 ABC News special on Earth Day, Howard Kurtz reported quite seriously in the April 1 Washington Post. Chris Cuomo, a 20/20 correspondent and brother of a Clinton cabinet member, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, will narrate the show. Contravening any journalistic standards of independence, DiCaprio got the assignment even though he's Chairman of the Earth Day 2000 celebration committee and will emcee the left-wing political event on Washington's Mall.

An impassioned Hume lit into his former employer on Fox News Sunday, but only after Juan Williams got first crack during the show's roundtable segment. Williams showed it's not only conservatives who think ABC has gone too far:
"It's unbelievable. At first I thought it might be an April Fools joke. I mean it seems so ridiculous that they would put him in the position to act as a journalist and that they would risk their journalistic credibility, not only with a Hollywood actor and one who's 25 years old, but that they would risk their credibility with someone who in fact is the head of the Earth Day celebration here in Washington, therefore has a sizable commitment to a particular perspective on this issue. I mean I don't understand, it seems to me that they're out of control."

A flabbergasted Hume asserted: "I worked there for 23 years and when I read about this I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or just scream with outrage. This is a once great news division that has completely lost it's way and it is diminishing almost by the day before our eyes. And this whole fiasco this week in which they had Diane Sawyer interview the little boy and then kept off the air the most newsworthy thing that he said, and then when there was, because of some principle that they were observing, and then when they was a dust up about it immediately abandoned that quote 'principle' and put the thing on the air the next day. These are people who no longer-"
Moderator Tony Snow: "And the thing was?"
Hume: "It was the boy saying he'd like to stay here, something that you don't know how seriously to take it, but if he said it it's newsworthy, if you do an interview that's what your looking for -- news. It is a news division, believe it or not, Leonardo DiCaprio notwithstanding. I mean this is a group of people who don't know what they're doing. They have completely lost their way."

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz broke the DiCaprio news in an April 1 story run on the front page of the Style section. Though ABC insisted to Kurtz that the show will not reflect DiCaprio's viewpoint, a White House official told Kurtz that he hopes DiCaprio "will bring some attention to issues that could use some more attention in Washington."

Here's an excerpt of the story by Kurtz:

In what can only be described as a journalistic decision of Titanic proportions, ABC News sent its newest star to interview the President of the United States yesterday.

His name is Leonardo DiCaprio.

We are not making this up.

In its wisdom, the news division of Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel decided that the heartthrob was the ideal person to chat up Bill Clinton for an hour-long special on the environment.

"I thought it was an interesting, innovative opportunity for us to take a very important subject and, with someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, be able to direct it to a young audience," said Phyllis McGrady, executive producer of the prime-time program. "It's a little bit of an experiment. It's a little different for us. That's what's good about it."....

"We thought it was a good opportunity to educate Americans about the importance of climate change and a host of other issues," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. DiCaprio, he said, "will probably help bring some attention to issues that could use some more attention in Washington."

DiCaprio is chairman and emcee of the main Earth Day 2000 event on April 22, a day of activities on the National Mall here with a four-hour show featuring such luminaries as Melanie Griffith, Chevy Chase, David Crosby, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen....

The hard-partying 25-year-old star of "Titanic" (huge) and "The Beach" (a bit of a washout) was "the catalyst" for the ABC program, his publicist said. "He approached ABC and said, 'I'm willing to be part of something in conjunction with Earth Day if you devote a serious hour to it,' " said [Ken] Sunshine. McGrady said the idea grew out of conversations between DiCaprio and his friend Chris Cuomo, a "20/20" correspondent and son of the former New York governor, who will anchor the program....

In denying that ABC was attempting a triple pander off the high board, ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy stressed that the late April special, pegged to Earth Day, was not a forum for DiCaprio's environmental musings. "Don't think you'll come away from this hour and all you'll know is what Leonardo DiCaprio thinks is important about the environment," she said. "To prejudge us based on who we're working with is a bit unfair. I don't think we're uncomfortable with it in any way."....

While ABC chose to dispatch DiCaprio, not Cuomo, to see Clinton, the network made clear he had plenty of adult supervision. "He went to the White House with our producers," Murphy said. "It was completely under the supervision of ABC News."....

END Excerpt

How reassuring. And how unfair is it to "pre-judge" a show when you send the spokesman for the political cause being examined to conduct your principle interview?

To read the entirety of Kurtz's story, go to:


Hiring Leonardo DiCaprio for a couple of hours came after ABC drew widespread criticism for its suppression of what Elian Gonzalez told Diane Sawyer. As Brit Hume alluded to in item #3 above, ABC initially refused to air, on Good Morning America last week, Elian saying that he does not want to return to Cuba, but soon relented, though muffled his Spanish words under a translation by Sawyer because ABC News President David Westin didn't want to have Elian's words used in a political campaign.

AP's David Bauder quoted Westin in a March 29 dispatch: "We believe it would be carried around the country, if not the world, almost instantaneously as part of a campaign....We've said from the beginning that we're not going to do this in a political way. We're not trying to take a position in a highly-charged political atmosphere. We are simply trying to report Elian's point of view."

Without actually presenting it.

Not letting something said by an interviewee be used in the political process is a novel concern for a news operation. Indeed, on FNC's News Watch over the weekend, which airs at 11am Saturday ET and Sunday at 2pm ET, columnist Cal Thomas suggested ABC wouldn't have had such a concern if Elian answered differently. Thomas told host Eric Burns:
"I was amused by Diane Sawyer's comment Eric that she didn't want to inflame the climate by broadcasting his literal words that he didn't want to go back to Cuba. I can guarantee you because of the media's coverage, for over 30 years of Fidel Castro's island as a socialist paradise, that if he had said he did want to go back to Cuba it would have been a soundbite."

As evidence, fellow panelist Jim Pinkerton, a columnist for Newsday, picked up on a quote cited in the March 29 CyberAlert:
"If you want a reminder of how ABC looks at all of this, they were happy to get the interview because they're competitive and they wanted to elbow out NBC and that's why the NBC guy was so mad, Peter Jennings on the World News Tonight show says 'the government met with the family' -- the Elian Gonzalez family -- 'in Miami and failed to get,' this is a quote, 'failed to get the kind of cooperation from the relatives that might allow the case of this young boy to end in a civilized manner that is best for him.' Which is pure, means go back to Castro."

To catch you up on this story, the week before last Diane Sawyer crawled around on a playroom floor with Elian Gonzalez, asking him questions for what turned into a March 27-29 three-part Good Morning America series and a piece on the March 29 20/20.

During the segment shown on the March 28 GMA Sawyer revealed Elian's choice, but refused to let viewers hear it: "As we said before, the relatives in Miami say Elian repeatedly insists he does not want to go back to Cuba. He told us that, too, but in this inflamed climate, on this inflamed subject, we thought it best not to broadcast the exact words of a six-year-old child."

But everything else he said was just fine to exploit for ABC's ratings benefit.

Apparently responding to criticism for suppressing Elian's answer to this one question, the next day ABC relented, sort of. As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, on the March 29 GMA Sawyer reasoned:
"And as we told everyone yesterday, Elian Gonzalez did tell us when we saw him that he does not want to go back to Cuba, but we didn't want to broadcast his words yesterday in a way that might inflame a sensitive situation. We wanted to make sure that the context was careful, that we never lose sight of the fact that this is first and foremost a six-year-old child."

Then why do the interview in the first place?

Introducing a piece of her interview, Sawyer advised: "I'm going to play another clip in which we talk to him a little bit about his dad and about his not wanting to go back to Cuba, and again, see if it just says anything about the manner in which the whole issue should be disposed of."

Getting to the key exchange, she noted: "He seems happy drawing a picture of his dad, and when I asked if his dad is big, he says, mischievously, 'gordo,' heavy. And then later, we had this exchange:
"'Would you like it if your dad came to visit here?' we asked. [Elian continues to play, not answering the question].
"Again, we ask, 'Elian, if your dad came here, would you like it if he came to visit?'
"He whispers, 'No.'
"'No?' we ask. 'Why not?'
"He answers, 'Because he'll take me to Cuba and I don't want to go to Cuba.'
"We asked, 'Would you like it if he stayed here?'
"The answer: 'He can stay here. I don't want to go.'"

In relaying each of Elian's answers, she talked over his Spanish response.

Introducing the same segment later that day on 20/20, Sawyer cautioned: "The relatives in Miami also say Elian has repeatedly asked to stay in the United States. He said it to us too. But we emphasize a six-year-old child has a limited sense of a future."


ABC's Peter Jennings revived a made-up media story Friday night, reminding viewers of how President George Bush was supposedly once baffled by a supermarket scanner.

Running through a series of short "On the Money" items, over video of a grocery scanner, on the March 31 World News Tonight Peter Jennings snidely recalled:
"News for everyone, but former President Bush might take note. Self-scanning check-out systems are catching on at supermarkets. Customers scan and bag the groceries themselves and then to keep people honest, it checks to see if the weight of the groceries equals the weight of the items which were scanned."

Jennings was alluding to a February 1992 front page story in the New York Times which portrayed then-President Bush as amazed during a factory tour by the concept of a grocery scanner. But as Brit Hume, then still with ABC News, revealed in the January 1993 American Spectator, that story was "almost wholly untrue." Hume explained: "Bush's wonder was mostly politeness and the scanner, far from being ordinary, was a new and different device of which the company was especially proud."

In fact, the New York Times reporter who wrote the story had not even accompanied Bush on the factory tour and drew his anecdote from the pool reporters, an extraordinary insight Hume thought: "Only the Times drew from that pool report the picture of Bush as a man awed by a supermarket scanner. It may be the only time on record where anybody got an exclusive story out of a pool report. Such is the Times's influence, however, that the story became part of the legend of a President who just didn't know how things were out there in the real world."


FNC's Carl Cameron highlighted last week how presidential candidate George W. Bush won't take on the latest of Al Gore's scandals, and as a MRC Media Reality Check summarized, neither will the broadcast networks. On the March 29 Special Report with Brit Hume, Cameron observed:
"When opportunities to blast Al Gore come up, lately the Governor has side-stepped them, preferring to focus instead, aides say, on issues, and trying to beef up his policy portfolio. Bush was asked at a news conference if Gore campaign manager Tony Coehlo should step down or be given forced leave of absence because of a criminal investigation of non campaign related activities. Bush left it up to Gore."
Bush: "I would hope he'd take it seriously because it's a serious issue when someone's under criminal invest, I didn't meant to say indictment, criminal investigation."

As detailed in the March 28 CyberAlert, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN all skipped the Coelho investigation, which was revealed in March 23 and 24 print stories, while CNN mentioned it and FNC ran a full story.

For Thursday's Media Reality Check fax report the MRC's Tim Graham outlined how the broadcast networks and weekly news magazines have refused to tell their viewers and readers about Coelho or three other Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton or Al Gore-related scandals. The fax report began:
"President Clinton's post-impeachment press conferences sound more like friendly bull sessions in the faculty lounge than the dodge-the-beanball approach of the Reagan years. Yesterday, not a single reporter asked Clinton about former Justice Department investigator Charles LaBella's long memo arguing the President and Vice President received preferential treatment in the DNC fundraising scandal. But it's just a small part of a continuing scandal blackout among the broadcast networks and news magazines."

The other scandals largely avoided: E-mail, Air Hillary and the judge's ruling that Bill Clinton violated the Privacy Act.
To read the fax report posted by Webmaster Andy Szul, go to:


On the air and via e-mail, Fox News Channel relayed to a much wider audience an item from the March 30 CyberAlert.

-- On the March 30 Special Report with Brit Hume FNC used a calculator to add up some numbers presented by CyberAlert. With a graphic reading "Oblivious Networks," Hume informed viewers:
"The Media Research Center says ABC, CBS, and NBC News devoted a total of 66 seconds to that federal judge's ruling Wednesday that President Clinton had committed a crime in releasing the famous Kathleen Willey letters. As for cable outlets, CNN and MSNBC, they gave the ruling a total of 51 seconds. There was no reaction to the judge's decision from George W. Bush or his campaign, and at mid-day Wednesday Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said she didn't even know about it."

-- The March 31 edition of The Balance Sheet, the Fox News viewer newsletter, featured this article:

A Crime?

A federal judge finds that President Clinton violated the Privacy Act by releasing Kathleen Willey's personal letters to the press. News? We thought so. That's why FNC filed full-length reports on Special Report with Brit Hume and The Fox Report with Shepard Smith. But according to independent media watchdog Media Research Center, if you didn't hear it on FNC, you probably didn't hear about it at all. Here's a breakdown of how much time the networks gave the story Wednesday night*:

ABC's World News Tonight: 19 seconds
CBS Evening News: 29 seconds
CNN's The World Today: 28 seconds
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams: 23 seconds
NBC Nightly News: 18 seconds
FNC: 9 minutes, 18 seconds

*Source for ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and NBC coverage times: Media Research Center CyberAlert, Thursday, March 30th, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 54).

END Excerpt

To read this newsletter online, go to:


TV producer Dick Wolf has struck again, once more using cartoonish conservative characters as the evil-doers in one of his growing list of prime time shows, a plot line which again afforded dialogue to one detective for some conservative-bashing.

Friday night's episode of NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, was clearly based upon the case of Hillsdale College President George Roche who allegedly had a long-time affair with his son's wife, leading to her suicide last year. In the Wolf/NBC version, Roche became a Christian college President and his son's wife met her demise not by suicide but by murder.

Strongly suggesting NBC and Wolf knew the real-life connection informed viewers would draw, an on-screen graphic at the top of the 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT show cautioned: "Although inspired in part by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event."

The show revolves around the New York City Police Department's Special Victims Unit which investigates major sex crimes. As detailed in the January 18 CyberAlert, the January 14 episode had liberal actor/activist Richard Belzer as "Detective John Munch," assault Newt Gingrich for "being a pedantic megalomaniac who espouses family values while serving his cancer-stricken wife with divorce papers." Go to:

Last year, Wolf's Law & Order NBC series, from which SVU spun off, portrayed a Ken Starr-like independent counsel as a sex-obsessed character assassin. "Have you no shame?" a star asked in reminding viewers of McCarthy before denouncing "forty million dollars worth of misinformation." Go to:

Now to the March 31 episode of Law & Order: SVU. A woman with semen in her vagina is found strangled to death in New York City hotel room. The detectives learn that she's "Sylvia Hadley" and she was in New York with her father-in-law, "Dr. Benjamin Hadley," and his wife, to attend the "National Conference of Christian Colleges." Sylvia Hadley is married to "Benjamin Hadley Jr.," a professor at the fictional Baltimore college for which she is s fundraiser, just like the real Lissa Roche.

The Hadley name prompts Richard Belzer as "Detective John Munch" to launch into this polemic in the squad room: "Not the Benjamin Hadley, more powerful than Pat Robertson, able to leap a tall Democrat in a single bound? President of 'Midvale College,' which used to be a podunk nothing, now it's suddenly a think tank for the neo-conservative movement."
"Detective Olivia Benson" chimes in her own insult: "Although that's an oxymoron."
Munch: "I love you Olivia. 'Family values,' other euphemisms for smug sanctimony: 'study the dead white men,' 'freedom from government.'"

Only writers in Hollywood could be so naive as to not understand that a conservative Christian college would hardly be a place for a "neo-conservative" anything.

The detectives initially pursue the case assuming the crime was committed by a hotel burglar who escalated to robbery/rape homicide. In the midst of their investigation Dr. Benjamin Hadley holds a press conference to decry his daughter-in law's murder as "part of the moral decry of America. At Midvale we still believe in the absolute truth, that morality and family strength is still important. This sick has taken a taken a valiant member of our organization, of our family away from us. We will not rest until the killer is found."

When the detectives learn Sylvia was two months pregnant they follow the theory that she was having an affair and zero in on college financial officer "Brad Weber" who was seen with her in the hotel bar before the murder. Detective Munch pursues the angle of the college's financial problems and how the senior Hadley alienated his professors. Munch visits one now at New York University who had left Midvale. Munch asks: "We understand Dr. Hadley learned some of his management technique from Stalin." The professor replies: "On the Origin of Species was the first to go. The college became something I hated. I fought with Hadley but I realized to him the curriculum was nothing more than a way to tap into wealthy conservative donors."

The "DNA evidence" excludes Weber, so the detectives talk to "Mrs. Hadley," wife of Hadley Senior. She reveals that her husband has been having an affair for two years with her son's wife, Sylvia. Detective Benson then realizes a possible motive as Hadley Senior is "a religious huckster...and he knows that once he's exposed the money stops."

Hotel elevator video shows that Hadley Junior was not in Baltimore at the time of the murder as he'd claimed, so the detectives bring in father and son for a dramatic showdown. They show Hadley Junior the DNA results which match his father, news that shocks him and prompts him to confess that he suspected his wife was having an affair and so confronted her, an encounter that led to a fight in which he strangled her to death.

The show ends with Mrs. Hadley saying in disgust: "Fathering his own grandchild."

As of Sunday night Wolf gained another forum for his political views: DC, a drama on the WB network about twenty-somethings running the government. One leading character, in the show for which he is Executive Producer, is a lobbyist for something called "Animals First." -- Brent Baker

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