CyberAlert -- 07/31/1997 -- Nets Finally Find Hearings Newsworthy

Nets Finally Find Hearings Newsworthy; CBS on Clinton's Harassing

1) Two of three Wednesday morning shows ignored fundraising but made time for multiple segments on Cosby's paternity test.

2) For second night in row all three networks ran full fundraising stories, but NBC didn't bother reporting how the Clinton team delayed admitting that Mr. Wu visited the White House ten times.

3) The CBS Evening News reported that Paula Jones' lawyers have subpoenaed another woman whom Bill Clinton supposedly harassed.

>>>> The MRC's new fax reports, Media Reality Check: A Daily Report on the Media's Coverage of the Campaign Finance Scandal Hearings, can now be read from the MRC home page or directly from: <<<<

1) An FBI agent's testimony about how Charlie Trie laundered foreign money that he delivered to the Democratic Party prompted stories on all the broadcast network evening shows Tuesday night, but by Wednesday morning two of three didn't consider it newsworthy. Neither ABC's Good Morning America, for the second day in a row, or This Morning on CBS mentioned a syllable about fundraising. July 30 marked the 15th morning that CBS failed to utter a word about the fundraising scandal: This Morning's last story aired way back on July 9.

-- Only NBC's Today featured a fundraising story, its first since last Friday. During the 7am news update NBC ran a story from Joe Johns re-capping the FBI agent's revelations from Tuesday.

-- GMA couldn't find time for fundraising, but made room in the 7am news update not only for the Jerusalem bombing and Michigan car crash that killed nine children, but also for items on JonBenet Ramsey and Andrew Cunanan. GMA devoted the first interview segment to Autumn Jackson's mother and her attorney followed by a talk with Bill Cosby's attorney. NBC raced all three across Manhattan to Rockefeller Center so they could appear in the same order and combination on Today during the 7:30am half hour. An interview with the Mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado about deadly flooding in her city finished off GMA's first half hour. The next half hour featured live coverage from Spencer Christian in Chincoteague, Virginia of the annual pony swim.

-- Cosby also dominated This Morning. With This Morning's mixed local/national format in the first hour, the show's top interviews of the day run in the 8am half hour. Wednesday featured three segments: Dr. Howard Torman on how paternity tests work, a Jane Robelot interview, with the head of the ABA paternity committee, on the legal implications of Cosby taking a paternity test, and third, a Window on America piece by Hattie Kauffman on how the Earth Conservation Corps is trying to bring the Bald Eagle back to Washington, DC.

CNN viewers got a taste of the hearings as CNN went live at 10:09am ET to the opening statement of Michael Cardozo, head of the Clinton Legal Defense Fund. At 10:26am CNN switched to Richard Jewell's statement to the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime, jumping back to the Senate hearing at 10:42. Less than ten minutes later CNN ceased its live coverage, running hourly updates from Candy Crowley or Brooks Jackson the rest of he day.

MSNBC did not offer any live coverage, just updates from the Hart Building from Joe Johns, but MSNBC did go live to Jewell for about 15 minutes.

2) Mounting evidence of illegal donations and obstructionist tactics by the White House may have hit critical mass on Wednesday for the networks: For the first time since the hearings began July 8, with July 30 stories the three broadcast networks had all aired full stories for two days in a row. Two themes emerged Wednesday: Senator Fred Thompson lashed out in anger at the White House for waiting until after Tuesday's hearing on Trie and Mr. Wu to release documents detailing Wu's White House visits; and Wednesday's hearings explored how Trie funneled funny money to Clinton's Legal Defense Fund.
ABC (as well as CNN) reported only on the Wu angle and NBC only on the defense fund. CBS hit both. Here's a network by network rundown made possible by some nighttime transcribing work by MRC intern Jessica Anderson:

-- On ABC's World News Tonight Diane Sawyer introduced the story:
"In Washington today, tempers flashed at the campaign finance hearings after the White House finally released documents about the Asian businessman known as Mr. Wu."
Linda Douglass elaborated: "One Administration official called it 'an amazing coincidence.' Just hours after the Senate committee investigating campaign finance held hearings focusing on a mysterious Chinese tycoon named Mr. Wu, the White House discovered records showing Mr. Wu visited the White House ten times. One time, he even had dinner with the President. The documents were turned over too late to help Senate investigators, who spent all day yesterday trying to figure out why Mr. Wu funneled tens of thousands of dollars in illegal foreign contributions into the Democratic Party. Today, the committee chairman charged the White House is playing games."
Senator Fred Thompson: "They have no credibility, as far as I'm concerned. They have not operated in good faith, and this is just the last, most classic, most public example of it."
Douglass then summarized Wu's access: "Mr. Wu is a citizen of Macau, the Portugese colony at the tip of China. He is an advisor to the Chinese government and speaks no English. Yet on February 16, 1995, he got to dine in the First Family's residence in the White House, along with 80 big donors. And last year Mr. Wu got two private tours of the White House. On one of them, he was accompanied by another powerful Chinese businessman, Wang Jun, head of one of China's biggest arms-trading companies.
Douglass concluded with the Clinton team's spin: "White House officials insisted tonight they're not hiding anything, and they claim they didn't know Mr. Wu was a priority for the committee. Besides, they say, they just discovered the records lying around in a box. Whatever the explanation, relations between the committee and the White House have hit a new low."

-- Dan Rather announced on the July 30 CBS Evening News:
"The investigation into dirty money and foreign cash in U.S. political campaigns moved both deeper and higher up today, into this country's political power circle. Still at the center of today's testimony, the wheeling and dealing by two men from Asia." Bob Schieffer noted the White House delay in document release and ran a soundbite from a "furious" Thompson. Then he picked up on what the Senators heard on Wednesday, a topic skipped by ABC:
"And today the committee heard how Trie, who brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable campaign contributions, brought in thousands more to the President's legal defense fund."

Following a q&a exchange with the Clinton Legal Defense Fund's Michael Cardozo, Schieffer explained the concern:
"Defense fund trustees were never sure just where the money came from, so they returned it. What interests Senators is that at the time Trie was delivering all this money, he was also writing to the President urging him not to provoke China by sending U.S. warships into the Taiwan Straits. The letter was taken seriously enough that the White House National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, drafted a reply, which the President signed."
ABC concluded with the White House view that they did nothing wrong, but Schieffer ended by highlighting Thompson's perspective that the Clinton team had obstructed: "So the committee wants more details, and quickly. Chairman Thompson says he is so fed up with White House foot-dragging, that he'll soon issue the committee's first subpoenas for White House documents."

-- The ABC and CBS stories ran just after the first ad break, but NBC Nightly News didn't squeeze in the piece prepared by Lisa Myers until more than 20 minutes into the show and didn't allocate enough time to tell NBC viewers about the Wu visits that the White House just admitted. The Myers story appeared after stories on the Jerusalem bombing, Medicare fraud, a big Michigan car crash, an "In Depth" on mysterious deaths at an Indianapolis hospital, and Richard Jewell's request for an independent investigation of how the FBI treated him.

Tom Brokaw intoned: "On The Money Trail tonight, imagine someone walking into your office and dumping almost a half million dollars, in cash, on your desk. Well, one man told Senate investigators today that's what happened to him. NBC's Lisa Myers has more on this mound of money story."
Lisa Myers began: "In March of last year, this man, Charlie Trie, a friend of the President, arrived at this Washington law firm and dumped $460,000 in checks and money orders on a table. It was the biggest contribution ever to the President's legal defense fund, and the man in charge knew it was trouble."
Myers explained how Cardozo realized there was trouble when the defense fund people saw the money orders were sequentially numbered and all featured similar handwriting. Myers added a detail Schieffer did not mention, that the money came from the Ching Hai Buddhist sect in Taiwan.

-- CNN's Prime News (8pm ET) Wednesday night featured a piece by Candy Crowley on Thompson's anger over the White House waiting until after the hearing to release relevant information and how Wu made ten White House visits.

Earlier, on CNN's Inside Politics, Brooks Jackson highlighted a bit of information that contradicted White House claims from last year that they didn't know about the foreign money and when they learned of it they took action to correct the problem. Reviewing Wu's ten White House visits, Jackson observed:
"Mr. Wu's most recent visit was October 21st of last year just days before the election and long after the Asian money scandal was front page news."

None of the evening shows relayed that nugget.

3) Wednesday's CBS Evening News surprisingly allocated time for a brief story on a charge from lawyers for Paula Jones that Bill Clinton harassed a White House employee. Bill Plante reported the CBS exclusive:
"CBS News has learned that Paula Corbin Jones's lawyer has subpoenaed, issued this subpoena, to a woman who once worked here in the White House, asking her to testify in just two weeks. Sources say that Jones's lawyers believe that the woman was approached in a sexual way by President Clinton, who made overtures to her, here in the White House, back in 1993. Paula Jones's attorney Joseph Cammarata would not discuss this subpoena with CBS News, but he has said in the past that he would try to establish a pattern of behavior upon the part of the President. Robert Bennett, the President's attorney, called the subpoena an effort to embarrass the President behind the scenes, and he notes that the woman in question knows nothing about the Paula Corbin Jones case. Other lawyers see this as an attempt to pressure Mr. Clinton to settle. But unless and until this case is settled, this is only the beginning of attempts by attorneys on both sides to damage the reputations and credibility of everyone involved. Dan."

CNN picked up on the charge and brought James Carville and Susan Carpenter-McMillan onto Larry King Live to argue about the charge and the Paula Jones case.

It sounds like the woman Cammarata has identified is the same one whose charge Newsweek was looking into, but had yet to report, according to the Drudge Report.

-- Brent Baker