CyberAlert -- 04/26/2000 -- ABC & CBS Avoided Clinton Lie

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ABC & CBS Avoided Clinton Lie; Gun to Elian "Warmed My Heart"; "Crazy Family"

1) NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely noted Al Gore's break with Reno on Elian and how liberal Laurence Tribe called the raid a "direct violation" of "constitutional rights." Myers and FNC picked up on Bob Graham's charge that Clinton promised not to act at night.

2) Questioning Joe Lockhart, The Early Show's Jane Clayson ignored the Graham charge, but Today's Matt Lauer pressed him about it. On Meet the Press Eric Holder maintained they did not go in at night: "We waited til five in the morning, just before dawn."

3) Thomas Friedman in the New York Times: "I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal...pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart."

4) "Crazy family," the Chicago Tribune's James Warren belittled the Miami relatives. Newsweek's Joe Contreras blamed the raid on "the intransigence of the Miami relatives." Larry King insisted it's "hard to argue" Elian wouldn't be "safer" in a Havana school.

5) ABC's Jackie Judd had no problem referring to "abortion rights advocates," but called "partial-birth" abortion "a term created by abortion opponents." CBS's Jim Stewart highlighted the cause of a woman in favor of the procedure, but not any woman opposed.

6) Out of the blue Tuesday, four weeks after she testified to a House committee, Good Morning America conducted the first morning show interview with Betty Lambuth about White House e-mail.


Attorney General Janet Reno's meeting with Senators and the move of Elian and his father to the Wye Plantation topped the CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC evening newscasts while ABC went first with the Supreme Court hearing arguments about partial-birth abortion (see item #5 today for more).

"Today Republicans gained two unlikely allies," NBC's Lisa Myers noted on NBC Nightly News as she uniquely picked up both on how Al Gore broke with the administration policy and an op-ed by Laurence Tribe: "The liberal Harvard constitutional scholar charges that the raid was an illegal search."

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference Democratic Senator Bob Graham repeated his charge that President Clinton made a commitment not to seize Elian at night. Lisa Myers highlighted his charge as did FNC's Brian Wilson on the Fox Report, but ABC, CBS and CNN all skipped it. On CNN's The World Today Chris Black showed a soundbite from Graham, but one of him complaining about how the administration did not get assurances Elian will not be "used as a trophy child for communism" if he returns to Cuba. CBS's Byron Pitts instead featured a clip of Chris Dodd demanding the Senate take up gun control.

All the networks reported how "playmates" from Cuba will soon visit Elian at Wye, but only ABC and FNC addressed the issue of contact with Cuban officials. ABC's Linda Douglass relayed how "the Justice Department insists no Cuban government officials are staying at the farmhouse." But on the Fox Report FNC's Rita Cosby acknowledged: "The official said no Cuban officials would be staying there, but they can visit at the request of Elian's father."

Here are highlights of Elian coverage on the broadcast network evening shows for Tuesday, April 25:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. With only one story, ABC devoted the least time to Elian. Linda Douglass reported how U.S. Marshals snuck Elian to new location, "a refurbished farm house on the Wye Plantation resort in Maryland, where the late King Hussein of Jordan stayed during Middle East peace talks."
After a clip of Clinton urging the family be given "space," Douglass asserted: "Though the family may be isolated, they may not be alone. The State Department will issue visas for eight Cubans, including four of Elian's classmates who may fly here to stay with them but the Justice Department insists no Cuban government officials are staying at the farmhouse."

Douglass showed a new photo, of Elian with his father, half brother and his father's wife, which was credited to "Jessica Campbell-Morrison," whom Douglass labeled a visitor. The name sounds suspiciously like an offspring from Joan Brown-Campbell.

The Miami relatives "insist he cannot be happy and say they fear he is being manipulated by Cuban psychiatrists," Douglass noted in reporting how the relatives have gone to court to request an order to allow them to see Elian.

-- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts led by stressing: "To help Elian feel more comfortable, the State Department promised today to allow some of his friends from Cuba to come for a visit. Still not welcome though are the boy's Miami relatives."

Byron Pitts noted how the relatives were again turned away from Andrews as Elian was on his way to Wye. Picking up on the Capitol Hill meting, Pitts reported Trent Lott announced hearings for next week as viewers heard Lott demand: "Why did you use this amount of force at this particular time. Why did it have to be done that day?"

Pitts relayed that "Republican lawmakers, mostly, believe the Attorney General used excessive force," but that "Democratic leaders say it's all unnecessary."
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd then got this lengthy soundbite: "Yesterday five kids were shot in this city. One of them's on life support right now. We can't get the juvenile justice bill on the floor of the United States Senate and gun control. I think the American public might like to see us spend a few weeks trying to pass some legislation."

Pitts found that while Reno "did not change a single mind on Capitol Hill, she did receive applause and an endorsement from her boss." After a clip of Clinton urging the family be left alone, Pits concluded by noting how a cousin and a school teacher will arrive Wednesday from Cuba.

Next, from Miami Jeffrey Kofman looked at the Cuban-American "dead city" effort to shut down Miami and found it a failure with life as usual outside of Little Havana. He concluded: "The Elian saga showed that Cuban-Americans can no longer count on support from Washington. The failure of this general strike shows they can't even count on support from their neighbors."

-- NBC Nightly News. Andrea Mitchell opened with the Miami relative rebuffed again as Elian traveled to Wye. After the soundbite of Clinton urging the family be given space, Mitchell announced: "To help reorient Elian, at his father's request playmates will be coming from Cuba to visit, says the State Department."
Jamie Rubin, State Dept.: "This is four playmates of Elian Gonzalez with one adult family member accompanying them for a brief visit."
Mitchell: "The children are packing, will get to stay for two weeks."
Ricardo Alarcon, Cuban National Assembly President: "Classmates, playmates, teachers. We never ask for permission to send an armored division to Washington."

Mitchell wrapped up by noting how the relatives have asked a court to appoint a guardian for Elian and that Clinton endorsed Reno's action.

Next, Lisa Myers played soundbites of Senators Trent Lott and Connie Mack complaining about Reno's decision as Lott set hearings for next week. Myers uniquely picked up on two quotes: "And today Republicans gained two unlikely allies. The Vice President says quote, [on screen with credit to NPR] 'I would have handled it differently...I would try to bring the family together and, barring that, to handle it in a family court.' And the liberal Harvard constitutional scholar [over shot of a New York Times op-ed headlined "Justice Taken Too Far"] charges that the raid was an illegal search."
Professor Laurence Tribe: "I think it was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of the family whose home was invaded and of the child who was forcibly taken."
Myers moved on to Clinton's lie: "Also upset, Florida Democrat Bob Graham, who insists the President personally promised him there would be no middle of the night raid."
Senator Bob Graham at press conference: "And I said, 'Mr. President could you commit that this administration would not take this child at night' and he turned to Mr. Podesta and said 'we can do that.'"
Myers: "A White House spokesman says the President made no such commitment and most Democrats say Reno's use of force was appropriate."
Following a soundbite from Chris Dodd, Myers concluded: "And Republican strategists are warning congressional leaders to tread carefully. They say the country is in no mood for still another investigation and that any attempt to reap partisan advantage could backfire."

To see Graham originally make his charge about Clinton, go to the April 24 CyberAlert to watch a RealPlayer clip of his appearance on Sunday's This Week on ABC:

In his April 25 New York Times op-ed, the liberal hero Tribe argued:

....Although a federal court had ordered that Elian not be removed from the country pending a determination of his asylum petition, and although a court had ruled that the Immigration and Naturalization Service could exercise custody and control of Elian for the time being, no judge or neutral magistrate had issued the type of warrant or other authority needed for the executive branch to break into the home to seize the child.

The agency had no more right to do so than any parent who has been awarded custody would have a right to break and enter for such a purpose. Indeed, the I.N.S. had not even secured a judicial order, as opposed to a judicially unreviewed administrative one, compelling the Miami relatives to turn Elian over.

The Justice Department points out that the agents who stormed the Miami home were armed not only with guns but with a search warrant. But it was not a warrant to seize the child. Elian was not lost, and it is a semantic sleight of hand to compare his forcible removal to the seizure of evidence, which is what a search warrant is for....

END Excerpt

New York Times "On the Web" subscribers can read the whole piece at:

Another usually conservative-bashing liberal icon, Alan Dershowitz, made a similar point on Monday's The Edge on FNC, MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey pointed out to me. On the April 24 show he explained: "They should have gotten a court order. They should have sought to hold the family in contempt. And if the family refused to comply with the court order, then they could have issued contempt citations and arrested the family. But I have a reason why they didn't go for a court order. They didn't go for a court order because they knew they couldn't get one."

Dershowitz predicted, probably all too accurately: "They acted lawlessly. They couldn't get one because the 11th circuit had already turned down their request for a court order, and the family would have argued that giving the child over to the father, at this point, would moot the case in the 11th circuit because, predictably, within a few days, Greg Craig will come out with a hand-scrawled little note from Elian saying he now withdraws his application for asylum."


Though Bob Graham made his charge on ABC's This Week -- that Bill Clinton made a commitment to not seize Elian at night -- the network has yet to mention it on World News Tonight or Good Morning America. Not even his repeating it at a press conference Tuesday motivated World News Tonight producers. Senator Connie Mack raised the charge on Tuesday's The Early Show, but CBS's Jane Clayson soon ended the interview. And the CBS Evening News has also not told its viewers about Graham's recollection.

NBC's Today, however, did press White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart about it Tuesday morning in this April 25 exchange taken down by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:

Matt Lauer: "Let's be honest here. That it's not only Republicans. There are Democrats who are concerned as well. Bob Graham said that he was made a promise by President Clinton. Let's play what he had to say."
Bob Graham on ABC's This Week: "The President of the United States made that commitment to me that there would be no taking of this child at night. I felt that my, the promise that had been made to me had been abrogated. I don't know if the President knew that the decision was being made by lower echelons within his administration. But it was a clear commitment which was violated."
Lauer: "He says that commitment was made at a meeting several weeks ago. What have you found out about that commitment?"
Joe Lockhart: "Well I've talked to the President about this and it was very clear in that meeting that Senator Graham opposed any removal of the boy and still does and I believe that, that's a principled opinion that he has."
Lauer: "What about the President's promise?"
Lockhart: "The President said that we didn't want to do this. That we didn't want to be forced to do this. But unfortunately we were and he didn't make a commitment that we wouldn't go in and remove."
Lauer: "He didn't tell Senator Graham we will not take this boy out of the house in the middle of the night?"
Lockhart: "He did not make a commitment."
Lauer: "Okay so we are not splitting hairs here about middle of night or early predawn raid?"
Lockhart: "No we're not splitting hairs but I'll tell you there is a difference between Senator Graham and some of the Republican leaders that have come out. I have no doubt that he firmly opposes this as the senator from Florida he has every right to do that."

What might have raised even Lauer's suspicion about the definition of "night"? Well, darkness at 4:45am which he called 5am isn't night to Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. On Sunday's Meet the Press Tim Russert played a clip of an exchange with Holder from a two weeks earlier:
Russert, April 9: "You wouldn't send a SWAT team in the dark of night to kidnap the child, in effect?"
Holder: "No, we don't expect anything like that to happen. We will do what is necessary to reunite father and son, however."

Back on the April 23 show, Russert asked: "Why such a dramatic change in position?
Holder replied: "I'm not sure I'd call it a dramatic change. We waited till five in the morning, just before dawn..."

Oral sex isn't sex and now nighttime darkness before dawn isn't night.

Tuesday morning CBS's Jane Clayson also interviewed Lockhart but failed to bring up Graham in the Early Show interview. Next up, she quizzed Graham's Florida Senate colleague Connie Mack. After asking if he will still push for hearings given how the public opposes them, she contended: "Some people accuse you, Senator, of using Elian as a political pawn. Wouldn't you lose political support, especially in Florida, if you held any other position in this case?"

Mack answered, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Well Jane, look, I'm not running for re-election. I mean, if that were my motive then why would I be doing it?....I think that in a sense it is the reaction of this Administration, whenever you disagree with them on policy to charge you with politics. I would ask them to ask this question: Do they believe that Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida who said that the President broke his promise to him about the use of force, is Aaron Podhurst the attorney in Miami playing politics? Is the President of the University of Miami playing politics when they said it was this government that was not negotiating in good faith. I think when you've got those kinds of questions then I think we should seriously pursue questions about why force was."

But CBS ran out of time to pursue the Graham charge, as Clayson wrapped up: "Alright, Senator Connie Mack of Florida. Senator, thank you."


"Reno for President," proclaimed the headline over an April 25 New York Times column by former reporter Thomas Friedman, a frequent analyst on PBS's Washington Week in Review. He boasted about how the photo of the INS agent with his gun aimed at Elian and the fisherman "warmed my heart" because it showcased "the rule of law." In the piece to which the MRC's Tim Graham alerted me, Friedman found the photos of Elian and his father to be genuine but the video made by the relatives to be something "you can fake."

Here's an excerpt of his April 25 column:

Frankly, I liked both pictures.

Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart. They should put that picture up in every visa line in every U.S. consulate around the world, with a caption that reads: "America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it. Come all ye who understand that."

And I was also warmed by the picture of Elian back in his father's arms. Some things you can fake -- like a 6-year-old wagging his finger on a homemade video and telling his father to go back to Cuba without him -- and some things you can't fake. That picture of Elian and his father illustrated the very parent-child bond that our law was written to preserve.

Hats off to Janet Reno for understanding that the Elian Gonzalez case was about both of these pictures: the well-being of a child and the well-being of our Constitution, on which all good things in our society rest. But hats off twice to Ms. Reno for understanding that these two noble virtues are not equal. The fear of causing some trauma to Elian by rescuing him could never outweigh the need to uphold the rule of law.

One only hopes that this affair will remind the extremists among the Miami Cubans that they are not living in their own private country, that they cannot do whatever they please and that they may hate Fidel Castro more than they love the U.S. Constitution -- but that doesn't apply to the rest of us....

END Excerpt

New York Times "On the Web" subscribers can read all of it at:


Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren denigrated the Miami Gonzalez's as a "crazy family," Newsweek's Miami reporter Joe Contreras blamed the raid on "the intransigence of the Miami relatives," and Larry King went too far for even Tipper Gore when he maintained it would be "hard to argue with" Juan Miguel Gonzalez's claim that "his boy's safer in a school in Havana than in a school in Miami."

Three noteworthy quotes from last week and earlier this week:

-- The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz concluded an April 24 story by quoting Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren, a familiar reporter to McLaughlin Group watchers, relaying his assessment of the news value of the relatives in DC on Sunday:
"'I'm not going to pitch [for Page 1] the crazy family running around here all day and bitching on television, but it's going to be all over CNN and MSNBC and Fox,' Warren says. 'The soap opera will continue. It's good and cheap television.'"

-- Watching Saturday night's special edition of MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, MRC analyst Paul Smith caught this exchange between the anchor of the same name and Newsweek Miami reporter Joe Contreras.
Brian Williams: "As you look back on this day, if context is possible, at this hour, after all of these events, what emerges as the headline to you?"
Joe Contreras: "To me ultimately the context is the intransigence of the Miami relatives and their refusal to comply with the valid federal government order brought all this about. If they had been willing to hand the boy over voluntarily and deliver him to a Miami area general aviation airport all of this would not have to come to pass..."
Williams: "So to those who say that there is a story here in the uh, lets say in the way the feds went about it, the expression heavy-handedness has been used today. Do you dispute that?"
Contreras: "I am not a law enforcement professional but my sense is that if they had not gone in with an overwhelming display of force, the entire operation would have become very complicated and let us remember that they had given the Miami relatives nine full days to comply with a federal immigration order that had been issued on or about April 13. So heavy-handed it may so seem, no one was hurt. A few doors may have been busted but I think they had little choice in the matter."

As for who was violating the law, Contreras should consult Laurence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz. See their analysis as cited at the end of item #1 above.

-- The MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me to this insightful question from Larry King which MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth tracked down. It's from CNN's Larry King Live on April 20 with Al and Tipper Gore as King's guests:

Larry King: "Tipper, one of the things that Elian Gonzalez's father said that I guess would be hard to argue with, that his boy's safer in a school in Havana than in a school in Miami. He would not be shot in a school in Havana. Good point?"
Tipper Gore: "Well, I think that's a, that's a bit of a harsh point, particularly right now when our country is still dealing with the effects of school violence. I think that it's important that we all recognize that schools are actually safer than they were...."


ABC didn't want to use the term "partial-birth abortion," but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia did employ it, prompting ABC reporter Jackie Judd to call it "a term created by abortion opponents and not used by doctors." She spent her entire story, on the Supreme Court hearing arguments about a Nebraska law banning the procedure of whatever name, referring without caveat to "abortion rights advocates." CBS's Jim Stewart offered a graphic description of the procedure and highlighted the cause of a woman who "became an abortion rights activist in 1997 after undergoing the procedure when she discovered her fetus had no brain," but offered no equal time for a woman on the other side.

In his daily e-mail message on Tuesday plugging World News Tonight, forwarded to me by the MRC's Rich Noyes, Peter Jennings assuringly noted: "We try very hard to avoid the politically loaded terminology sometimes adopted by opposing sides in various debates." He then previewed the show: "Today is a good example of a newsroom debate about language. The subject under discussion in the Supreme Court was what phrase should be used: 'partial birth' abortion, 'second trimester' abortion, 'late term' abortion or simply 'dilation and extraction'? In the past, we have settled for'later term' abortion, while pointing out that critics of the procedure use 'partial birth' abortion."

Jennings, however, adopted the language of the other side: "There were few indications today that any of the justices had shifted their positions on the abortion question -- the court remains narrowly in favor of abortion rights."

Now to ABC's actual April 25 World News Tonight story. Jennings opened the show:
"Good evening. For the first time in eight years there's been a full scale debate at the Supreme Court about abortion. It's a case which began in Nebraska when the state made illegal a specific kind of abortion often used late in a woman's pregnancy, but abortion rights advocates joined by the Clinton administration, argue that the law is unconstitutional and that Nebraska's elected officials are really trying to undermine the court's landmark decision which entitles a woman to have an abortion if she chooses."

Jackie Judd began by showing protesters from both sides, including those for "abortion rights," before she reported how the law forbids "'partially delivering...a living unborn child before killing the unborn child.'" After a soundbite from Dave Maurstad, Lt. Governor of Nebraska, Judd related:
"In the courtroom today passions ran high. Justice Antonin Scalia described the 'horror of a live human creature outside the womb dismembered.' He challenged the lawyer opposing the law to admit this was a 'partial-birth abortion,' a term created by abortion opponents and not used by doctors."

Judd noted how some justices were concerned about a lack of an exception for the mother's health or how the language was too vague and could prevent all abortions after the third month. Judd elaborated: "Abortion rights advocates believe that is exactly the point of the Nebraska law, to slowly eliminate abortion as a constitutional right."

On the CBS Evening News Jim Stewart noted there are 1.4 million abortions a year with 130,000 coming late in pregnancy: "Opponents call them partial-birth abortions. A surgical procedure in which a doctor withdraws the feet and lower body of the fetus before puncturing the skull, allowing the rest of the fetus to be pulled away."
Stewart continued: "Justice Antonin Scalia referred to the 'horror' of the procedure while Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wondered is 'there no exception for the health of the woman?' Maureen Britell had the same question. She became an abortion rights activist in 1997 after undergoing the procedure when she discovered her fetus had no brain."
Maureen Britell, National Abortion Federation: "I think that women throughout their pregnancy and throughout their lives, their medical decisions should be made with their physicians, not their politicians."
Instead of finding a woman horrified at the procedure, Stewart decided her point is backed by those on the right to life side: "Britell and others fear that if the procedure is overturned it will chip away at a woman's overall right to an abortion first granted by the Supreme Court 27 years ago and opponents don't argue."
James Bopp, National Right to Life Committee: "It would correctly draw into question, not only their previous holdings, but the whole abortion jurisprudence."


An amazing event Tuesday morning: E-mail scandal addressed by ABC's Good Morning America. Back on March 24 when Betty Lambuth appeared before the House Government Reform Committee, NBC's Today and CBS's The Early Show ignored the hearing as did ABC's GMA which gave 17 seconds to the Justice Department launching a probe.

But four-and-a-half weeks later GMA became the first morning show to tell her story, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed. Jack Ford introduced his April 25 segment with her and Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman:
"This morning a key witness is coming forward in the White House e-mail matter. The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into whether the White House illegally withheld e-mail messages from previous investigators, including Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Specifically, the question is whether the White House intentionally failed to fix a computer glitch that prevented e-mail from being saved as required by law. Now Betty Lambuth, who used to help run and maintain the White House computer system, says that she was threatened with arrest by administration officials unless she kept quiet about that computer problem. I spoke with her and her lawyer just a few moments ago."

Amongst his questions:
-- "Ms. Lambuth, tell us if you would, in simple layperson's terms, what exactly was the problem with the computer system and how did it interfere with the ability to retrieve these e-mails that were being sought?"
-- "Now you claim that when you brought it to the attention of administration officials, that you were threatened by them. Who threatened you and what did they say?"
-- "Now the White House response has been that no one ever threatened you, but the White House was concerned about the information not getting out to the public, that there were problems with the computer system. Is it possible that this might be one of those situations where you and Mr. Lindsay are remembering the same conversation, but in different fashions?"
-- "But there was no doubt in your mind, as you walked out of that meeting with Mr. Lindsay, that you had just been threatened? That if you disclosed the problem with the computers, that you would be fired, and also subjected, possibly, to jail time?"

Once again, no room for Leonardo and Bill. Will try again to get that into the next CyberAlert. -- Brent Baker

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