CyberAlert -- 06/30/1997 -- Clinton's Calls Clipped

Clinton's Calls Clipped; CBS Slams Brady Decision

Today's (Monday, June 30) Investor's Business Daily, the national newspaper "for people who choose to succeed," dedicates a lengthy editorial to a list of Clinton scandal developments not covered by one or more network evening shows from February through April. Based upon information provided by the MRC, it condenses in one place much of the scandal coverage tracked in these MRC CyberAlerts.

  1. Clinton made fundraising calls from the White House. But the evening shows all ignore it as well as new evidence of John Huang's interest in CIA briefings on China.
  2. "It seemed like a logical idea," CBS reporter Jim Stewart says of the Brady law in his his very slanted look at the court ruling.
  3. Dan Rather equates making money in Hong Kong with controlling dissent. Tom Brokaw asserts that pollution in China is the "price" of industrialization.
  4. Theme of an ABC story: All the money belongs to the government, which might be "generous" and let you keep more.

1) Fundraising scandal revelations keep coming but the networks keep passing.

-- Scandal Skipped #1: A Thursday night AP dispatch revealed that notes from a White House aide showed that the President made fundraising calls. The Washington Post carried the AP story on Friday. The Wall Street Journal wrote up its version under the headline: "Clinton Raised $500,000 by Telephone, Notes from White House Aide Indicate." Friday's Washington Times played the discovery on the front page, "Clinton Implicated in Fundraising Calls: $500,000 solicited from the White House."

"Clinton Maintains He Can't Remember Making Fundraising Calls," declared a follow-up story in Saturday's Washington Post. Reporters Ann Devroy and Susan Schmidt found: "The White House maintained yesterday that President Clinton still cannot recall whether he telephoned potential political donors seeking $100,000 contributions, although newly disclosed memos suggest he personally requested the list of names and was credited by an aide with raising $500,000."

So, how much coverage did this non-denial of making fundraising calls from federal property, an issue the networks did pick up when Al Gore held a press conference to defend it, generate? After reviewing ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on both Friday and Saturday (June 27 and 28), plus the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows on Friday, here is the totality of coverage:

During the 7am news on the June 27 Good Morning America, anchor Elizabeth Vargas reported:

"Notes from a Clinton administration aide have investigators trying to determine if the President made fundraising phone calls from the White House. Mr. Clinton has said he doesn't recall asking for contributions but that he can't rule it out either. It is illegal to raise campaign money on federal property."

There you have it. One anchor-read brief on one half hourly news update on one show. Today and This Morning ignored the news, as did all the broadcast network evening shows on both Friday and Saturday.

-- Scandal Skipped #2: On Friday, June 27, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Democrats and Republicans agreed to offer immunity to four witnesses: two Buddhist nuns at the Temple where Al Gore raised money, and to two Maryland women who served as "straw donors" and donated money on behalf of a business partner of Charles Trie. The Washington Times played the story on page one, The New York Times and Washington Post put it inside.

Coverage: Zilch on Friday and Saturday's broadcast network evening shows.

-- Scandal Skipped #3: "Huang Had Special Interest in China, CIA Officer Testifies," announced a Saturday, June 28 Washington Times headline over an AP story. Saturday's Washington Post offered a headline emphasizing Huang's manners: "CIA Official Briefed 'Very Polite' Huang 30 Times at Commerce Dept." The AP item in the Washington Times began:

"John Huang, a central figure in the campaign fundraising investigation, expressed a particular interest in gathering secret intelligence about China, according to testimony by the CIA officer who briefed Huang 37 times." The testimony was taken as part of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch on whether Democratic donors were rewarded with trips on trade missions.

Coverage: Again, not a syllable on Friday and Saturday's ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News.

2) Friday's Supreme Court decision striking down the portion of the Brady law requiring local officials to run background checks, brought fairly balanced stories from ABC's Tim O'Brien and NBC's Pete Williams. But not from CBS.

In the very first sentence of his June 27 story, reporter Jim Stewart endorsed the view of gun control advocates:

"It seemed like a logical idea. Pass a law that says before anyone can buy a handgun they should first answer a few simple questions..."

After he read quotes from the Antonin Scalia's majority opinion and John Stevens' minority opinion, Stewart continued by showcasing how even those normally identified as anti-gun control were baffled by the decision:

"Even gun dealers today were a bit puzzled by the ruling. Don Davis of Indianapolis said the background checks had allowed him to turn away dozens of convicted felons."

Davis: "Oh, it's going to increase sales. I'm going to make another million dollars. Hurray for me, but America can't live with it, you can't live with it. All you have to do is stand in this gun shop one day and you'll see you that can't live with it."

(Memo to Davis: If you know you are selling guns to people who are misusing them, then you can stop selling them without any law.)

Stewart proceeded to note that the White House called for states to continue the checks. Then, three-fourths of the way into the piece, Stewart finally got around to mentioning that sheriffs who brought case say it took too much time and distracted from their duties. After a bite from a sheriff suggesting that the Feds handle the checks, Stewart concluded with what could have been lifted from the Handgun Control Inc. press release:

"No matter who does the checking, supporters of the Brady law say one lesson from this is very clear. If no background check is done anyone can walk into a gun store and purchase a weapon, including the nearly quarter of a million felons who tried to and were turned away the four years the Brady law was in effect. Jim Stewart, CBS News, at the Supreme Court."

ABC and NBC portrayed the decision as a setback for gun control and a victory for states rights, but none of the networks approached the issue from another conservative angle: as a victory for civil rights.

3) As Hong Kong moves from a colony of a free country to a colony of a communist dictatorship, a couple of interesting items from Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw.

-- Rob Geist of Craig Shirley and Associates alerted me to what Dan Rather said in Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister's June 26 column. Shister recounted what Rather told her from Hong Kong:

"It's money that will cause the biggest change in Hong Kong life, Rather predicts. The Chinese government 'will do everything it can to create freedom to make money, and that means keeping tight control on dissent.'"

That awful freedom really doomed Hong Kong to economic disaster.

-- The June 24 CyberAlert cited a report from China in which Dan Rather blamed a housing shortage on too much capitalism and sympathized with the difficulties of running such a large country. To be fair, on Friday night's Evening News (June 27) Rather offered a tough look back at Tieneman Square. As he stood in the square, Rather concluded:

"...The subject remains so sensitive, to this date, government officials who monitor everything we shoot anywhere in China have asked us not to mention what happened here eight years ago. The square is sanitized and patrolled today. But still when the wind comes up and makes the kites dance over Tieneman you can't forget [video starts of soldiers marching by] the hundreds killed and thousand imprisoned by the government about to take over Hong Kong."

-- But on Friday night's NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw returned to Rather's earlier theme, blaming a problem in China on capitalism instead of seeing as the result of communism. Brokaw narrated a piece on the terrible pollution problem throughout China. After showing a dirty river, Brokaw explained:

"...It's worse in the canals. These farmers hope to make some extra money fishing, but their nets come up empty. The water is not fit for humans or plants, even machinery. Cancer rates are rising, the crops are withering. It's a terrible price the Chinese people are paying for the rush to become a modern industrial nation..."

No, it's the "terrible price" they are paying for communist oppression. After the Berlin Wall came down it became evident that the pollution problem was far worse in the communist east than in the capitalist west. Environmentalists may not be satisfied with U.S. environmental laws, but as at least Western nations strive to balance economic growth and environmental preservation. It's in communist nations where all the factories are state-owned that the people have no voice in enacting any environmental guidelines.

4) Summarizing the tax bills, on Friday's World News Tonight ABC's John Cochran asserted: "Both the Senate and the House would cut capital gains taxes. The difference here is the House would be more generous by cutting taxes on investment profits caused by inflation. Sorry investors, it probably won't happen. Neither the Senate or the President wants to be that generous."

"Generous"? Whose money is it? Another way to look at it would be to say that the government is so "greedy" that it refuses to stop taxing illusionary gains caused by inflation.

Also on Friday's World News Tonight, as viewers heard substitute anchor Aaron Brown say that the Supreme Court will take up an affirmative action case in the fall, viewers saw ABC's graphic with the words "Affirmitive Action." Would it be too rude to wonder if an affirmative action hire at ABC is in charge of spelling?

-- Brent Baker