CyberAlert -- 07/01/1996 -- Hypocrisy on Aldrich; Media "Harder" on Clinton

Hypocrisy on Aldrich; Media "Harder" on Clinton

One Media Reality Check and two other quotes today.

1) A little media hypocrisy on the Gary Aldrich book Unlimited Access? On Monday night the MRC released a fax report, as part of our Media Reality Check 96 project, which documented that "while TV producers echo George Stephanopoulos in insisting that guests meet a threshold of credibility,' the networks have not been so high-minded when allegations were made against conservatives."

2) A Chicago Tribune reporter says that because reporters are of the same generation and share the same values as Clinton, they are "harder on him."

3) Before we get too far from policy, don't forget that as soon as Dole suggests a tax cut, the media hordes will descend upon him. A Newsweek reporter says a tax cut "is the worst thing we could do."


The MRC's Media Reality Check 96 as put together Monday by Tim Graham and Steve Kaminski:

July 1, 1996
Contact: Keith Appell (703)683-5004
The Networks' Selective Sense of Sourcing

"If privacy ends where hypocrisy begins, Kitty Kelley's steamy expose of Nancy Reagan is a contribution to contemporary history." -- Reporter Eleanor Clift in Newsweek, April 15, 1991.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The decision of CNN's Larry King Live and Dateline NBC to cancel interviews with author Gary Aldrich is just the latest example of the networks' double standard on stories of sexual scandal. While TV producers echo George Stephanopoulos in insisting that guests meet a "threshold of credibility," the networks have not been so high-minded when allegations were made against conservatives.

MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III asked: "Who better meets the threshold of credibility: a 30-year veteran of the FBI who worked inside the Clinton White House or the unproven allegations of Anita Hill? Or Kitty Kelley? The networks didn't pause to investigate these stories or knuckle under to White House wishes: they put those stories on the air in a major way."

For examples, see the following cases from the MRC database:

-- Kitty Kelley, who implied Nancy Reagan had extramarital affairs while at the White House, appeared in three consecutive morning interviews on NBC's Today show (April 8-10, 1991) and also on CBS This Morning (April 11, 1991). The New York Times put her unproven charges on page one, without any attempt to prove her allegations. Time and Newsweek both put Kelley's book on their April 15, 1991 covers. Wrote Newsweek's Jonathan Alter: "Of course there are some mistakes in it....The point, however, is that Kelley's portrait is not essentially untrue."

-- Anita Hill and her unproven allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas drew 67 network evening news in the first five days (more than 13 a night) before the Senate hearings even began. Dan Rather interviewed Hill on the CBS Evening News (10/7/91) asking "Why do you believe this man, Judge Thomas, that you have worked closely with for a long time, has not spoken directly to what you consider to be the substance of this charge?" If unproven allegations should not be heard on the network airwaves, how do the networks explain Anita Hill interviews or live coverage of the Hill-Thomas hearings?

-- Joseph and Susan Trento claimed that the late Ambassador Louis Fields suggested George Bush might have had an affair with State Department aide Jennifer Fitzgerald. Despite a dead source, CNN was the first to ask Bush about the charge. Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips asked the President about it in prime time (8/11/92). ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning interviewed the Trentos the next day.

-- Unnamed accusers of Newt Gingrich claimed he came to first wife Jackie's hospital bed to discuss divorce terms. Without naming a source more specific than "a friend at the time," Dateline NBC's Tom Brokaw (11/13/94), CBS's Connie Chung (1/4/95), and CNN's Judy Woodruff (12/17/95) all forwarded the story.

-- The last time a network canceled a high-profile guest: After intense pressure, NBC's Today show canceled former Ted Kennedy aide Richard Burke in the fall of 1992 over the claims in his book, The Senator, that Kennedy used drugs and had sex with underage women.

Why the selective concern for fairness?


Keeping in mind media reaction to the Aldrich book and how reporters were reluctant to make filegate a big story, Chicago Tribune reporter Elaine Povich thinks the media go after Clinton in order to overcome a perception of bias. Povich was the author of the famous Freedom Forum study which found 89 percent voted for Clinton. Asked about that at a June 14 Radio-Television News Directors event, she responded:
"Most reporters who covered Bill Clinton were of his generation, identified with him, had a lot of the same experiences, were about his age, and they were harder on him. It's the coach's son. You're just so worried that you're going to give him favorable treatment that it goes the other way."


The Povich quote appears in the July 1 Notable Quotables that you should receive soon is you haven't already. But, here's a quote we couldn't squeeze in, from Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas on the June 8 Inside Washington, a quote identified by MRC analyst Steve Kaminski:
"I hope it's totally hypocritical and insincere, but it does have a way of driving policy ultimately, and you could get a real tax cut, which would be the worst thing we could do."

All for now. I am on vacation, so I haven't seen Bryant Gumbel for several days, but the bias never stops. -- Brent Baker