CyberAlert -- 04/07/1997 -- NBC Says Clinton is Hubbell's Victim

MRC Alert: NBC Says Clinton is Hubbell's Victim; Poisoned Brains

1. Clinton knew in advance of illegal fundraising; donor hit up in Cuba; DNC had plan to use non-profit groups. Stories all skipped by the networks while NBC portrays Clinton as Hubbell's victim.

2. Allen Ginsberg died. In 1994 he tied Rush Limbaugh to concentration camps.

3. Two headline contrasts for stories on a day care study.

4. Cronkite's Crockery of the Day: Americans have failed to embrace left-wing environmentalism because poison has "crippled" our brains.

1) The networks aired stories last week on how Mack McLarty and Erskine Bowles helped Web Hubbell get money, but they ignored some devastating revelations in the memos from Harold Ickes, revelations published in newspaper accounts.

-- On April 3 The Washington Post and New York Times reported that President Clinton knew DNC fundraising was breaking the law. The Times reported: "On another document, in October 1996, which projected the debt that the Democratic committee was likely to face after the election and recommended that the committee budget $1 million for potential fines, Mr. Clinton wrote 'Ugh.'"

-- "A Felon's Donation to Democrats Was Sought in Cuba, Inquiry Says" read a front page headline in Friday's (April 4) New York Times. The story reported that "Jorge Cabrera, a drug smuggler who has emerged as one of the most notorious supporters of President Clinton's re-election campaign, was asked for a campaign contribution in the unlikely locale of a hotel in Havana by a prominent Democratic fundraiser....On his return to the United States several days after that meeting, in November 1995, Mr. Cabrera wrote a check for $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee from an account that included the proceeds from smuggling cocaine from Colombia to the United States, said the investigators, who spoke on condition of anonymity."

Cabrera then attended a dinner with Al Gore and Christmas party at the White House.

-- The DNC had an elaborate plan of how to not raise suspicions while funneling money to non-profit get out the vote groups, the Los Angeles Times discovered. The April 4 story explained: "The plan...called for the Democratic National Committee to transfer 'limited' amounts of money to tax-exempt groups that sign up voters or get them to the polls on election day. The limit the memo suggested was $500,000. 'Grants of amounts much larger would risk drawing public, press and FEC attention,' wrote DNC chief counsel Joe Sandler."

The DNC needn't have worried about widespread press attention. The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows failed to report the disclosure. They also didn't bother telling viewers about the Cabrera development or that Clinton knew in advance about planned illegal fundraising.

Instead, NBC portrayed Clinton as the victim. On Friday's Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced:

"In almost every major White House scandal, it's the President's friends who make the trouble. And throughout Washington and Arkansas tonight a lot of people are wondering if history is repeating itself with this President and his friend Web Hubbell, formerly Hillary Clinton's law partner."

Reporter David Bloom began: "Tom, the White House tried to explain today how the President did not know, or at least did not believe, that his good friend Web Hubbell was in deep legal trouble, even as the President's top advisers were steering high-paying jobs Hubbell's way. Today, a subtle shift in the White House explanation. Spokesman Mike McCurry stressing not that the President didn't know of the allegations against Hubbell, but that he didn't believe them..."

Bloom went on to explain that Hubbell says he lied to Clinton in 1994 about not stealing from the Rose law firm, but it's not Hubbell that is getting Clinton in "trouble" -- the trouble comes from the suspicion that those close to Clinton paid Hubbell in order to keep him from revealing Clinton's Whitewater improprieties.

(While on NBC, I'd note that in Jim Miklaszewski's April 2 Nightly News story on the Ickes' memos, Miklaszewski noted: "Other documents show that those White House coffees with big contributors were a big hit, raking in $400,000. Today the White House backed off its original claim those coffees were not fundraisers." But that wasn't exactly breaking news since it appeared in the March 23 New York Times in a story NBC ignored at the time.)

Friday night the CBS Evening News plugged 60 Minutes with an excerpt from Mike Wallace's interview with Web Hubbell. In the excerpt from the story which aired April 6, Wallace asked:

"I know that you don't want to talk about the Riady's, but you can understand why some people are skeptical about the sequence of events in 1994. You step down from the Justice Department. Three months later you have breakfast with your friend James Riady. That same day James Riady is welcomed at the White House and then a short time after that a company owned by the Riady's pays you $100,000."

Hubbell's response: eleven seconds of silence.

That sequence may have been news to CBS Evening News viewers, but not to New York Times readers where it was laid out on a front page story on March 20, a disclosure all three broadcast networks ignored.

Next, Rather declared: "To no one's surprise, Republicans are missing no opportunity to profit from White House embarrassment over Hubbell and disclosures about political fundraising in general..."

Reporter Phil Jones seemed baffled by the political appeal sent by the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

"Regarding the China connection, Republicans call this money 'a direct slap to those brave, young American soldiers who spilled their blood defending freedom.' China is referred to as 'Red China.'"

To Steven Law of NRSC: "Why not just call it China? Why call it Red China?"

2) The death on Saturday of radical left poet Allen Ginsberg generated glowing reviews of his life as all the network treated his death as a major news event. ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News aired full stories Saturday night. NBC Nightly News not only led with the poet's passing, but devoted an extraordinarily long (for television news) 3 minutes and 28 seconds to a tribute to his life. In all the analysis of how he influenced a nation and changed a generation, none of the stories mentioned his mean-spirited comments about conservatives. So, from the Notable Quotables archive, here's a quote from an article by Ginsberg which appeared in the August 1994 Progressive magazine:

"I have not doubt that if Rush Limbaugh or Pat Buchanan or Ollie North ever got real power, there would be concentration camps and mass death."

3) Last Friday the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development released a federally-funded study of day care. Newspaper headlines provided a variety of spins on what the researchers found. Here are two contrasting sets of headlines:

"Day Care Study Offers Reassurance to Working Parents" -- Washington Post, April 4

"Day Care Study Provides 'Cautionary Note' to Mothers: Second Report in Multiyear Research Finds Lower Maternal Sensitivity" -- Washington Times, April 5


"Day Care Not Harmful to Growth or Bonding" -- USA Today, April 4

"Study Says Day Care Affects Bonding But Not Learning" -- Los Angeles Times, same day

4) Cronkite's Crockery of the Day. Today's quote comes from page 285 of the retired CBS anchor's book, A Reporter's Life. Cronkite recalls one of his "proudest" achievements: a series run over several years on the Evening News called "Can the World Be Saved?" The series exposed environmental threats, Cronkite explained, noting that "we launched the programs just in time to be in the vanguard of the not-yet-named Decade of the Environment."

Cronkite describes one segment:

"One of our interviews was perhaps the most provocative of my career. Rene Dubos was an internationally respected microbiologist at the Rockefeller Institute and one of the first to become seriously concerned about the poisons that were being introduced into our foodstuffs as pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives.

"He explained to me that such poisons first affect, but very slowly, the muscles. And, he noted, the brain is a muscle. What alarmed him was that these poisons might be eroding our ability to think our way out of our problems. The day could come, he forecast, when we would pass the point of no return -- our brains would be so crippled that we couldn't solve our problems but we would be unable to recognize our disability. Yes, he repeated, the day could come, and he looked out his window and, with that professional sotto voce, added: 'Or maybe we already have passed that point.'

"When we look at the problems that threaten our existence on Earth -- overpopulation, pollution, nuclear proliferation, to name just three of the more ominous -- and we look at our puny, impractical, overpoliticized efforts to solve them, we must conclude that Dr. Dubos' doomsday scenario may not be far off the mark."

If all goes as planned, this will be the last CyberAlert sent via CompuServe. Future editions will be distributed through a listserve.

-- Brent Baker