CyberAlert -- 04/24/1997 -- Susan McDougal a Martyr

Susan McDougal a Martyr; Hard Right Ralph; Katie on Buns

1. CBS portrays Susan McDougal as a martyr suffering in a small jail cell so that the truth will prevail.

2. Dan Rather questions the Christian Coalition's name and says its "hard right agenda" faced setbacks.

3. At the New York Times conservative environmentalists are "conservatives," liberals work for "nonprofit research" groups.

4. Don't come between Katie Couric and the buns she loves or Stone Phillips and the boobs he bobs.

1) Though the front pages of Wednesday's Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times and Los Angeles Times all carried news of an extension of the Whitewater grand jury as Kenneth Starr claimed that he had encountered "obstruction of justice," the networks didn't find the development so momentous. As noted in the April 23 CyberAlert, Tuesday's ABC World News Tonight and CBS Evening News ran brief items. Wednesday morning Today ignored the development and Good Morning America, MRC analyst Gene Eliasen observed, gave it a brief mention on just the 7:30am news update. Wednesday night, NBC Nightly News again avoided the subject.

Meanwhile, CBS is portraying Susan McDougal as a martyr. She's in jail on a contempt charge because she refuses to appear before a grand jury to say whether Bill Clinton was truthful when he testified at her trial and denied attending a meeting at which an illegal $300,000 SBA loan was discussed. On Wednesday's (April 23) CBS Evening News Dan Rather intoned:

"A federal court ruling in Arkansas yesterday, extending the Whitewater grand jury investigation an extra six months, is having an immediate impact today on a key figure in the case. Susan McDougal says special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is trying to pressure her to lie an implicate the Clintons. She's been jailed for refusing to talk to the grand jury and can be kept in jail as long as the grand jury exists."

Viewers then saw reporter Phil Jones, with a cellular phone to his ear, standing in parking lot outside a Los Angeles County jail as he talked to Susan McDougal. The Sheriff, he said, would not allow an on-camera interview. Jones emphasized the awful living conditions faced by McDougal in the Sybil Brand women's facility, "an overcrowded Los Angeles jail" where "she awaits trial on a non-related Whitewater matter." Jones didn't explain that the non-Whitewater matter is a charge of embezzlement from a recent employer. As viewers saw full-screen drawings of her block and cell, Jones continued:

"She claims she's in solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day...She made this sketch of Block 4200 and sent it out to us. There are 12 cells, housing women on charges including murder. McDougal is in cell five. It has an upper and lower bunk, a closet, a sink, a toilet."

Jones to Susan McDougal: "How big is it?"

Susan McDougal: "I don't know the exact measurements, but I'm thinking it's about five by nine, something like that."

Jones noted that a local judge asked that she be moved to a better facility, but that has yet to occur. Jones then explained that Susan McDougal insists that her husband Jim is lying when he says that Bill Clinton attended a meeting on an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan. "McDougal denies suggestions that she's been promised something for her silence," Jones reported before airing a soundbite from Susan saying of Jim: "He's lost his soul."

Jones concluded the story: "Susan McDougal may be locked down in jail, but she appears locked in to her silence."

2) Of the broadcast networks, only CBS on Wednesday night (April 23) announced Ralph Reed's decision to step down this summer from the Christian Coalition. But CBS had to add its own twist. Here's the entire transcript of how Dan Rather delivered the news:

"The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls itself, quote 'the Christian Coalition' said today he's leaving to start a political consulting business. Ralph Reed's group took a beating on some of its hard right agenda in the last election."

And CBS calls itself, quote 'a balanced news organization,' but it has taken a beating on some of its hard left bias displayed again during this very story.

3) Tuesday's Washington Post ran a story on environmental education that labeled conservatives but not liberals, the April 23 CyberAlert detailed. MRC analyst Clay Waters let me know that the New York Times did the same in an April 22 story headlined "Critics Rise Up Against Environmental Education." A front page plug read: "A generation after the first Earth Day, some conservatives contend that the teaching of environmentalism in schools is biased. Page A10."

In sequence, here's how Washington correspondent John Cushman Jr. tagged conservatives but not liberals:

  • "...Michael Sanera, a policy analyst at the Claremont Institute, a conservative research organization in California."
  • Gaylord "Nelson is now a counselor at the Wilderness Society, a leading national environmental organization based in Washington."
  • "But a report by a conservative research center in Washington, the George C. Marshall Institute,..."
  • "...the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research and policy group in Washington..."
  • "Marianne Manilow, Director of a pro-environmentalist California group called the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education,...."
  • "'Basically, this document is itself a distortion,' Michael Oppenheimer, a climate specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said after reviewing the chapter on acid rain in Mr. Sanera's book."

In the New York Times lexicon if you are conservative you cannot just be an environmentalist or work for "non profit research and policy group." Readers must be warned of who you really are.

4) The bottom line, shall we say, of this item: Katie ogles buttocks, but Stone Phillips doesn't practice what he preaches.

MRC analyst Steve Kaminski alerted me to the amusing news in the opening of an April 28 Newsweek story on the perils of mis-directed e-mail messages. Newsweek's Leslie Kaufman wrote:

"Love your butt, that was the gist of the intraoffice e-mail that flashed across the computer screen of Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips. Now, most guys are willing to stomach some playful physique critique, but the ever-controlled Phillips -- whose improbable name and bland good looks have given him something of a reputation for being, well, a stiff -- was not amused, especially since the identification tag at the end of the note belonged to a young (fairly low-level) female staffer with whom he had little contact. So the upright anchor confronted her and demanded an explanation. The bewildered desk assistant protested her innocence -- she barely knew Phillips, much less his buns. So who was the real source of the naughty note? None other than that chipper prankster Katie Couric, co-host of the Today show. Joke's on you, Stone."

A woman commenting on his body upsets Phillips, but he would have no reticence about commenting upon the attributes of another woman. Appearing on NBC's Tonight Show on Tuesday (April 22), Phillips recalled that after interviewing Tanya Tucker in Nashville, she invited him to join her at a Sony Records party. While on stage, Phillips told Jay Leno, she flashed her breasts in "a momentary lifting of the blouse to a friend of hers." But, "I was looking the other direction, so I missed it."

Phillips, ever the reporter, assuringly noted: "Had I seen it, we could have talked about shape and size and bounce and lift. We'd have reaction and analysis."

But back to Katie. In the May issue of George magazine, MRC analyst Tom Johnson noticed, Couric explained her attraction to husband Jay Monahan: "'I find brains really sexy,' she explains. 'He has a nice butt, too.'"

Now, if she starts admiring Matt Lauer's backside we'll know all those supermarket tabloid rumors about their budding affair are really true.

-- Brent Baker