CyberAlert -- 04/07/2000 -- Titanic Song for Clinton

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Titanic Song for Clinton; Father's Words "Passionate"; Castro in Control?

1) The Washington media elite made fun of ABC News over the Leonardo DiCaprio interview: Bill Clinton was introduced with the playing of the "Love Theme from Titanic" at Thursday night's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner.

2) ABC's Leo-Gate. The Fox News Channel reported that Joe Lockhart won't back down on insisting ABC wanted an interview session, noted that ABC sent four camera crews with DiCaprio and relayed how the White House is now accusing ABC of "parsing" words.

3) GMA and Today hosts and reporters treated the airport comments by Elian's father as genuine. NBC's Katie Couric called them "very passionate words." Only CBS's Early Show raised the possibility it was "written by somebody in Havana."

4) Thursday night ABC and CBS realized Castro's control over Elian's father. NBC's Jim Avila provided an account of how Greg Craig had to convince Castro to allow Gonzalez to leave Cuba. Dan Rather seemed to blame the U.S. for keeping Gonzalez from his son.

5) NBC's Today spent the morning worrying about the whereabouts of Elian, quizzing guests about a "bundle" carried into the house.

6) Dan Rather asked Bill Clinton about his wife's complaint about a "right-wing venom machine" out to get her and if he thinks the "'wealthy hate Hillary campaign' will in the end sink her?"

7) Actress Cybill Shepherd contemplated a presidential run so she could "veto all this ridiculous legislation that's introduced in Congress every week trying to control women's bodily integrity."

8) Letterman's "Top Ten Things Elian Gonzalez's Dad Said His First Day in the United States." #6: "I will only be interviewed by respected ABC newsman..."

Correction: A reporter's name changed three-fourths the way through a transcript in item #3 in the April 5 CyberAlert. It recounted a World News Tonight story by ABC's John Quinones in which he asserted: "In Miami it's impossible to over-estimate how everything here is colored by a hatred of communism and Fidel Castro. It's a community with very little tolerance for those who might disagree." Later in the CyberAlert article Quinones was inadvertently referred to three times as "Avila," the last name of NBC News reporter Jim Avila who was quoted in another article in the same CyberAlert.


The Washington media elite are now making fun of ABC News for its Leonardo DiCaprio's interview, or whatever news division President David Westin maintains occurred, with President Bill Clinton. As Clinton approached the podium Thursday night at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, those in the room heard a CD of Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On," also known as the "Love Theme from Titanic." DiCaprio was the co-star of the movie Titanic.

Reaching the podium, Clinton dead panned: "Usually I go for Hail to the Chief, but this week I can't seem to get that song out of my head."

Clinton's aides prepared several DiCaprio/ABC News jokes for him to tell at the annual dinner held this year at the Washington Hilton and shown live at about 9:30pm ET on C-SPAN. Clinton began his comments by running through the barbs directed at Westin and/or ABC. Amongst them:

-- "ABC doesn't know whether Leo and I had an interview, a walk through or a drive by. But I don't know if all their damage control is worth the effort. I mean it's a little bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the set of This Week with Sam and Cokie."

That drew groans and boos from the audience.

-- "Don't you news people ever learn, it isn't the mistake that kills you. It's the cover-up."

That one generated loud cheers and laughter.

-- Clinton even impersonated DiCaprio, repeating his famous line from the movie as he spread his arms wide and shouted the ending phrase: "I just want to say this to David Westin. You know, I've been in a lot of tough spots. Don't let this get you down. You may not be America's news leader, but you're King of the World!"

++ See and hear how the media organization ridiculed ABC News Thursday night by playing the Titanic song to introduce Clinton. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip from C-SPAN's live coverage of the RTCA dinner. Go to:


Another Leo-Gate update: The Fox News Channel reported that White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart warned ABC News President David Westin they won't back down in denying his claim that ABC never wanted an actual interview session, just a White House tour; FNC's Jim Angle also learned ABC sent four camera crews for the non-interview and humorously relayed how the White House is now accusing ABC of "parsing" words; FNC's Brit Hume revealed that ABC re-shot DiCaprio posing his prepared questions.

Plus, the MRC's Media Reality Check pointed out some hypocrisy in Westin's record and looked at DiCaprio's political knowledge; and an E! Online trivia page noted that DiCaprio, chairman of Earth Day activities on Washington's Mall, has purchased two SUVs.

-- FNC's April 6 Special Report with Brit Hume featured a piece by Jim Angle on the DiCaprio controversy. Angle reported: "Spokesman Joe Lockhart has warned ABC News that if it continues to deny that it sent movie star Leonardo DiCaprio to interview the President for a news segment, the White House will be forced to keep saying that ABC is not telling the truth."

Nice to see the White House holding a network accountable for the truth, a service the networks rarely provided in reverse.

Providing further evidence ABC planned to have DiCaprio interview Clinton, and didn't just get forced into it at the last minute by Clinton, Angle disclosed: "On a patio just outside the doors leading to the Oval Office about twenty ABC crew members showed up with three cameras to shoot the interview. A fourth camera was ready for the tour."

Angle humorously passed on to Hume: "One official said that ABC has 'given lawyerly answers to simple questions.' 'They're parsing their words,' the official continued, 'and we know what that's like.'"

-- Later in the same show, Hume revealed: "When the interview was over and the President had left, sources say some of DiCaprio's questions were revised and re-shot at an ABC News producer's suggestion so that the questions and he would sound better."

-- "Leonardo: ABC's Liberal Laughingstock: 25-Year-Old Movie Star/Teen Idol/Earth Day Activist Hired as White House Correspondent For a Day." The April 6 Media Reality Check fax report by Tim Graham begins:

ABC News President David Westin fired 21-year veteran Bob Zelnick because of the "appearance problem" caused by Zelnick writing a biography of Al Gore for Regnery, a conservative publisher. Last year, Westin strongly objected to the hiring of "reckless" Internet star Matt Drudge as an ABC Radio host. So Westin looks a little funny trying to deny ABC intended President Clinton to be interviewed by 25-year-old movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, now promoting a big liberal Earth Day rally in Washington.

Does DiCaprio have the gravitas to be White House correspondent for a day? In the March 1995 issue of Details magazine, DiCaprio asked, "Who's Newt Gingrich? Oh, wait a minute, I've seen Newt on TV. He's that funny-looking guy. I haven't really been following politics lately."

A look at DiCaprio's current talents on the official Earth Day Web site is not encouraging. In the kickoff press conference, DiCaprio interviewed Earth Day organizers with multiple insertions of "wow," "cool," and "scary stuff." (DiCaprio has endorsed Al Gore for President.)

In a separate Yahoo! chat, DiCaprio's answers suggested he hasn't exactly hit the books to determine his political positions. "I watched a lot of television programs, documentaries, and movies on wild life[sic] and the environment and was shocked to find out what we were doing to Earth. Now I am in a position to make a difference, and I really want to."...

END Excerpt

Nice that ABC News gave him an opportunity "to make a difference."

To read the rest of this fax report, go to:

-- DiCaprio, an environmental hypocrite? Keith Appell of Creative Response Concepts forwarded a circulating e-mail making note of a trivia page on E! Online, "50 Things You Might Not Have Known About Leonardo DiCaprio." The two illuminating facts: "#11: His first car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which he bought for himself when he turned 18." And: "#12: He now drives a black Chevy Tahoe."

To see this page, which also features photos of DiCaprio for those of you not familiar with the teen heartthrob, go to:


All three morning programs delivered live coverage to their ET affiliates Thursday of Juan Miguel Gonzalez'z angry statement read at Dulles Airport at about 7:15am ET. But ABC and NBC hosts and reporters treated his comments as the genuine feelings of an aggrieved father. Only CBS's Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson raised the possibility it was "written by somebody in Havana."

Instead of considering the likelihood that a Castro aide wrote the written out words and the dictator approved them, Good Morning America co-host Jack Ford pressed a Miami family lawyer about charges leveled in "his statement." NBC's Katie Couric referred to Juan Miguel Gonzalez's "very passionate words" while reporter Jamie Gangel relayed without skepticism the Cuban claim that Gonzalez "is free in the United States to come and go as he pleases."

-- Good Morning America, April 6. Immediately after the Dulles statement was shown via a translator, Jack Ford returned to an interview with Roger Bernstein, one of the attorneys for Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives." Ford pressed:
"Let me ask you for your reaction to some of the comments made. Mr. Gonzalez said that he is hopeful that his son Elian will be returned to him, as he said, 'as soon as possible' and his plans then would be, in his words, 'to go back to Cuba immediately.' What's your reaction to that statement?"

Ford insisted "these are his words" in asking: "What about his statement where he claims that his son Elian has been, again these are his words, 'submitted to cruel psychological, psychological pressure' and that he has been paraded before a variety of individuals and institutions in order to derive some political advantage from his personal tragedy?"

Ford kept up the "his words" mantra, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "His father also complained about the fact that, according to him, his son has been subjected to, his words, 'politicians, journalists, lawyers, all pursuing him.'"

Later, from Dulles Linda Douglass treated the statement as a genuine reflection of the father's attitude: "It was a fascinating spectacle here because clearly the father is not only defiant, he seemed to be very angry, he seemed to be very frustrated. He spoke as a father who had lost his child to family members who the child doesn't know, according to the father."

-- NBC's Today. Katie Couric assessed the statement: "Well he gave quite an angry statement, angry and passionate." At another point Couric repeated her "passionate" evaluation and also claimed the senior Gonzalez "is free to come and go as he pleases." She asserted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"He will be staying with the chief diplomat in the United States in the Washington suburbs. The Cuban government announced it had lifted diplomatic immunity. He is free to come and go as he pleases. He is accompanied as you see by his wife and their six month old son. He had some very passionate words to say about the situation. He appeared angry at the relatives in Miami who have been caring for his son for the last four months saying that he had repeatedly tried to reach him and had been, had great difficulty in doing so. And claims that they have used his son as a political pawn."

From Dulles Airport Jamie Gangel offered the same assurance about Juan Miguel Gonzalez's freedom to do whatever he wants, as if Castro has no control over him when members Gonzalez's family remain in Cuba: "I think the point they made about lifting the diplomatic immunity is very important. I think that, that is a statement by the Cuban government saying look Juan Miguel Gonzalez came here. He is free in the United States to come and go as he please, do as he please. But he wants to come back to Cuba and bring his son back of his own free will."

-- CBS's The Early Show. Things were so bad Thursday on GMA and Today that Bryant Gumbel provided the balance. MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this exchange:
Gumbel: "Kind of a strange speech that Mr. Gonzalez made. One thing that we have not made mention of by the way is the extent of Juan Miguel Gonzalez's education. We don't really know if he is a very educated man or not. But certainly the speech would suggest that either he has a great deal of education or that it was written by somebody in Havana."
Jane Clayson: "Sounds like it was written by somebody in Havana."
Gumbel: "It certainly does, but we don't want to characterize it as that until and unless we know."

He backed off there at the end, but at least he raised the issue. In the 8am hour Jeffrey Kofman, from in front of the Miami house, related skepticism about whose words Juan Miguel Gonzalez was mouthing:
"When Juan Miguel started speaking this morning on television they watched with rapt attention hanging on every word, trying to interpret, trying to understand just whether it was Juan Miguel speaking or Castro. And let's just say, they were skeptical."


The April 6 evening show teams brought more rationality to the Juan Miguel Gonzalez coverage Thursday night with ABC and CBS both noting Castro's control over him and NBC's Jim Avila providing an "insider" account of how Greg Craig had to personally convince Castro to allow Gonzalez to leave Cuba. So much for blaming the father for not traveling to the U.S. sooner. He couldn't leave if he had wished to.

Dan Rather wrapped up the CBS Evening News with a bit of commentary which seemed to blame America's "free society" for the delay in Gonzalez being reunited with his son.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass ran without comment a soundbite of Gonzalez at the airport followed by a clip of Thom Fassert of the United Methodist Church, which she reported is paying Greg Craig's legal fees, claiming Gonzalez can go anywhere and is not in the custody of Cuban government. But, in a look at the possibility of defection, John McWethy noted how his family has been moved into a government compound in Cuba, so "he is far from a free agent."

-- CBS Evening News. Byron Pitts declared: "Cuba's President did not make the journey, but Castro's thumb print seemed evident in the twelve minute speech delivered by Juan Miguel, a security guard back in Cuba who spoke from a written statement." (Two nights earlier, NBC's Jim Avila said he was a cashier at a park.)

Rather ended the show by putting the blame for father-child separation not on a nation from which citizens are barred from leaving, but on the U.S.:
"More than four months ago a little boy was nearly lost at sea. Ever since we have watched young Elian Gonzalez carry on with his life as six-year-olds will, while grown-ups near and far cooked his simple, tragic story into a thick stew of politics, legalities, ideology and raw emotion. Today's irony is that to get close to his son, this boy's father had to travel more than a thousand miles to a foreign capital and even then, even now, he must wait for the long-sought reunion. Such are the ways of politics and the law in a free society."

-- NBC Nightly News. From Havana Jim Avila related an "insider" account of a meeting amongst lawyer Greg Craig, Fidel Castro Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Cuban assembly chief Ricardo Alarcon (sp?):
"Fidel first greets the idea of Juan Miguel leaving with anger. It's not his strategy and sends his best leverage to the United States. The insider describes the meeting as going badly, Castro entirely opposed. He calls it a matter of Cuban dignity and refuses to let Juan Miguel return with Craig on the plane, complains it would look too much like an American rescue mission. The compromise that turns the tables, Craig returns to the United States alone and Juan Miguel waits til morning to return with a top Cuban official."


NBC's Today staff appeared paranoid Thursday morning, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, about the whereabouts of Elian, pressing several guests about who they saw carrying what in or out of the house.

-- Jamie Gangel to Juan Miguel Gonzalez lawyer Greg Craig: "There was some concern last night that the son was away from the house very late and then no one really saw him come in. Someone carried in a blanket in a bundle but no one saw him. Are you concerned about where he may be?"

-- Matt Lauer to Linda Osberg-Braun, Miami family attorney: "A couple of points I think are important Ms. Osberg-Braun and that is Elian, right now in the home of Lazaro Gonzales?"

Lauer pressed again: "Well we are watching some pictures here that were taken late last night of a relative from Miami carrying what appears to be a young child in a blanket into that home. There is no way to see the face of that young child. Can you tell me then is Marisleysis in that home?"

And again: "Just to clear up though you're telling me there is a possibility that Elian Gonzalez is not in the home where the crowds have gathered in Miami?"

-- Katie Couric sought assurance from NBC reporter Fredricka Whitfield: "And that he is inside the home Fredricka? Because there was some question as to Elian's whereabouts."
Whitfield: "At least according to one of the members of the Cuban American National Federation. He said that Elian inside is sleeping. Of course we saw last night, late last night Lazaro Gonzales, the great uncle of Elian. His wife Angela did go into the home late last night carrying a bundle, presumably, Elian inside the home, that was the last that we heard or even saw anything of Elian. But family representatives assured that Elian is inside."


Dan Rather asked Bill Clinton about his wife's complaint about a "right-wing venom machine" out to get her and if he thinks the "'wealthy hate Hillary campaign' will in the end sink her?"

Rather was in Washington Thursday to present an award at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner to CBS colleague Bob Schieffer, so CBS arranged for an interview with Clinton. Instead of an actor, the White House got Rather and he sprinkled excerpts of his interview throughout the April 6 CBS Evening News broadcast.

Deciding to highlight a poll showing Giuliani behind Hillary, Rather announced: "There's a CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight about the U.S. Senate race in New York. It suggests that, for the moment at least, Democrat Hillary Clinton may have a clear lead over Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This poll indicates voter approval of Mrs. Clinton is rising, but as CBS's Jim Axelrod reports, there may be other factors at work."

Axelrod asserted that "for six years New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been the man with the golden gut, a former prosecutor who trusted his law and order instincts to cut crime and used his own rough edges to sand a new shine onto a city. But now many Republicans are wondering if the mayor is losing his touch."

The supposed problem: Giuliani's decision to release the record of a victim of a police shooting. Axelrod focused on how "former supporters like the Reverend Michael Faulkner were disgusted and started calling for the mayor's resignation."

After Axelrod's piece, Rather slipped in a couple of his questions to Clinton, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed. Rather inquired:
"On the subject of the First Lady's Senate campaign against Mayor Giuliani, I asked the President today about his recent comment that she is up against a big money, quote, 'right-wing venom machine,' that's collecting, again quote, 'double tons of money,' to defeat her. So on reflection, does the President think that that was too strong?"
Clinton stood by her: "Using the same old standard hard-core right-wing stuff, the kind of stuff we saw Governor Bush do to Mr., Senator McCain in South Carolina, that kind of thing. You know, beating Hillary or beating the Vice President is another way of going after us for what we've tried to do on issues like gun safety, and vetoing the big tax cuts to keep a balanced budget and a surplus, other things we've fought for. They see that as a way of continuing the battle."
Rather followed-up with a blast at Hillary's opponents, though he didn't say from which newspaper the negative attack emanated: "You don't think that what one newspaper has called the, quote, 'wealthy hate Hillary campaign,' will in the end sink her?"


What we missed when actress Cybill Shepherd decided not to run for President. Watching Thursday's Today MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught her paranoia about any infringement on "reproductive freedom."

Matt Lauer: "You also write in the book about wanting to become President of the United States or at least seriously considering it, in this year 2000. Why did you think you'd be a good candidate?"

Cybill Shepherd: "Well I seriously considered it, in order to bring attention to reproductive freedom because we are approaching a crisis particularly with the presidential election. The next President will appoint at least three Supreme Court justices and we are gonna rely on this President to continue to veto all this ridiculous legislation that's introduced in Congress every week trying to control women's bodily integrity. Trying to keep women, force women to bear unwanted children, keep contraception from us, and to curb spending for research into contraception. And so I wanted to speak out because the only woman that was going to run for President was anti-choice. And it's a very important. We are approaching a crisis here in terms of women's reproductive freedom."


From the April 6 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Elian Gonzalez's Dad Said His First Day in the United States." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "You people are some Starbucks-lovin' sons of bitches."
9. "I want to thank your great land for not turning my young boy into a political football."
8. "Something's wrong with this television -- the picture's in color."
7. "Elian can wait -- first I visit the grave of Ricky Ricardo."
6. "I will only be interviewed by respected ABC newsman Leonardo DiCaprio."
5. "Does anyone know who shot J.R.?"
4. "I don't care if you are from the Yankees -- I can't pitch."
3. "I have just heard a shocking story about your President Clinton and our cigars."
2. "As long as I'm here, I also want to take back Jennifer Lopez."
1. "What's a Regis?"

-- Brent Baker

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