CyberAlert -- 08/05/1997 -- CNN Jumps on Giuliani But Drops Willey

CNN Jumps on Giuliani But Drops Willey; Ray Brady's Bad Bias

With hearings over the MRC has ceased creating the daily fax reports on coverage of the hearings, but MRC Web manager Joe Alfonsi has put them on the MRC Web site. All nine issues of Media Reality Check: A Daily Report on the Media's Coverage of the Campaign Finance Scandal Hearings, can now be read at:

  1. CNN's Inside Politics, which gave just two minutes to Kathleen Willey, devoted half the show to Giuliani. Howard Kurtz complained the media are too quick to jump on Clinton and painted a grand conspiracy by Murdoch to explain why Giuliani's story was suppressed.
  2. NBC reported that unemployment fell and wages grew. But to CBS that's bad news.
  3. Letterman's "Top Ten Other Changes President Clinton Has Made at the White House" in addition to installing a hot tub.

1) The revelation that lawyers for Paula Jones had issued a subpoena for a former White House staffer supposedly harassed by President Clinton generated some coverage from CNN and The Washington Post. But nothing like the priority the two outlets put on the news that an upcoming Vanity Fair article charges that New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is having an affair with his Communications Director, Cristyne Lategano.

The new edition of another magazine, the August 11 Newsweek, offers several details on the incident involving Clinton in the Oval Office, but neither CNN or the Washington Post picked up on the disclosures on Monday though they moved on the AP wire Sunday night.

Thursday's (July 31) Inside Politics squeezed in as the last story of the show a two minute and twenty second report from Wolf Blitzer on the Jones subpoena request and the White House refusal to comment on it. Friday's Washington Post carried a story on page A15 on the subpoena and how lawyers for Kathleen Willey would oppose it.

Now, jump to Monday, August 4. The front page of the Post "Style" section featured a story by Howard Kurtz on how Vanity Fair was about to publish an article on Giuliani's supposed affair, "the story that every New York reporter believes but few have dared to hint at in print."

And CNN's Inside Politics, which gave just about two minutes to Clinton on July 31, devoted more than half the show -- 13 minutes -- to a story and two interview segments about Giuliani. One topic: How the media do too much on Clinton-related sex stories! Here's a rundown of the show. Up first, a look by Jonathan Karl at how the story played in New York and will impact the campaign.

Next, Judy Woodruff interviewed Jennet Conant, author of the Vanity Fair article. Woodruff noted that "you write in this article about efforts on the part of publishers in New York to keep this out of print."

Later in the show, Bernard Shaw got his turn and interviewed Howard Kurtz and Newsday columnist Leonard Levitt. Shaw asked: "Do either of you suspect that there might be in this instance a case of media ownership intimidation of reporters and editors?"

Kurtz didn't know, but that didn't stop him from offering the kind of speculation that he condemns when offered by talk show hosts:

"Bernie, I don't have any evidence of that but it is worth pointing out that the New York Post, which in its first edition today didn't carry a word of this Vanity Fair report but found room for another story on President Clinton and the latest sex allegation there, is owned by Rupert Murdoch who is the owner of the Fox Network which employs the Mayor's wife Donna Hanover as an anchor and also he has been allied politically with Rudy Giuliani and in fact sought his help to get the Fox News Channel on the cable systems up in New York."

Conspiracy theories anyone?

Newsday's Levitt agreed with Kurtz, insisting that "The publishers of those papers have cozy relationships with the Mayor and you can bet if Mayor Giuliani were a liberal Democrat that Mr. Murdoch would be all over this story."

Shaw jumped in: "Which leads to my next question. President Clinton's private life versus Mayor Giuliani's private life. Double standard on the part of the media?"

Levitt replied: "Absolutely, there's no question about that, certainly in terms of Mr. Murdoch. The Post is reporting every possible peccadillo with the President and is not aggressive on this business with the Mayor. Mr. Kurtz is absolutely right about that."

Kurtz added: "There have been so many stories about Bill Clinton's private life it's hard to get anybody's attention for it anymore..."

Especially CNN's or The Washington Post's. Amazing how reporters who cannot imagine any liberal bias manage to find conservative bias so easily in the New York Post. Kurtz complained that the New York Post "found room for another story on President Clinton and the latest sex allegation there." So did the Washington Times and USA Today which both ran summaries of Newsweek's story. But neither CNN's Inside Politics or the Washington Post on Monday mentioned a word about the revelations in the Newsweek story by Michael Isikoff, the story promoted as coming soon by the Drudge Report for the last couple of weeks.

Kathleen Willey was a fundraiser for Clinton married to a prominent Richmond lawyer. She became a White House volunteer, but when her husband was accused of embezzlement she went to Clinton to ask about a paying position. Isikoff revealed that "Linda Tripp, then an executive assistant in the White House counsel's office, recalls bumping into Willey in the West Wing after Willey had allegedly left the Oval Office. Willey was 'disheveled. Her face was red and her lipstick was off. She was flustered, happy and joyful,' Tripp told Newsweek....According to Tripp, Willey said the President had taken her from the Oval Office to his private office, a small adjoining hideaway, and kissed and fondled her. She was not in any way 'appalled,' Tripp told Newsweek."

Willey's husband committed suicide around the same time. Clinton lawyer Bon Bennett "says that Clinton may have consoled her around the time of her husband's death, but it is 'preposterous' to suggest that Clinton might have made a sexual advance." But Isikoff discovered a problem with that spin: "According to police reports, Ed Willey's body was not found until the day after the alleged encounter."

Monday night on CNBC's Hardball in a discussion about Giuliani, Tucker Carlson of the Weekly Standard pointed out: "There's no evidence he's having an affair with her. The core of this does not exist. That Vanity Fair article, as far as I can tell, offers no concrete 'I saw them in the sack together' kind of evidence."

Howard Kurtz shot back: "Where is that standard, Tucker, being applied, for example, to the President of the United States who every three minutes somebody is coming forth and saying he was sleeping with..." [drowned out]

Every three minutes? Boy, there must be a lot of allegations the media are covering up! But the larger point is that the media hardly jumped on Paula Jones' case and ABC News has yet to utter a word about the Willey situation.

2) How is the economy performing? What you think may depend on which network newscast you watched Friday night. The unemployment rate for July fell from 5 to 4.8 percent in July, prompting an upbeat review from NBC. But CBS ominously warned of impending doom.

Here's an excerpt from the August 1 NBC Nightly News story by reporter Mike Jensen, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson:

"Today's numbers mean there's a job for almost everyone who wants one, all over the country. In Texas, where the drilling rigs are humming and the high-tech labs are hiring. In Florida, where there are more jobs than applicants."

Asha Bangalore, Chicago economist: "If you can read, write, and show up on time, you have a job today."

Jensen: "In Houston, Tom Baer is paying new hires, like Richard Stevens, $600 a week."

Baer, Ground Hog Drilling: "I think the biggest deterrent to my expanding is finding the people that I need to be able to operate the equipment."

Jensen: "Across town, Apache, an energy company, is offering a bounty to people who find them scientists."

Dan Schaeffer, Apache Corporation: "Two thousand dollars for finding a good geophysicist, who stays with us six months."

Jensen: "Not only were today's job numbers spectacular, but three other new indicators were very strong: a surge in consumer confidence, a jump in factory production, and an increase in the average paycheck, the biggest in three months...."

The CBS Evening News portrayed that wage growth as very "bad" news:

Dan Rather: "In news about the U.S. economy, the government reported today that unemployment has fallen below five percent to the lowest level in a quarter century. This is indeed encouraging news, but as with most stories, one should allow for light and shade. CBS News economics correspondent Ray Brady gives us some about this story. Ray."

Ray Brady: "Dan, we've gotten so used to good news that some folks are likening our economy to Goldilocks's porridge: not to hot, not to cold, but just right....

"But look at today's figures more closely. The good news? Sure, stores are hiring, helping to add a whopping 316,000 jobs last month. The bad news? Hourly wages aren't keeping up. Last year wages rose 3.8 cents a month. This year, up just 2.9 cents a month. What's happening? With the booming economy, a million new workers have flooded the job market. Mostly they're very young, like Alexi Amador, 18 years old and happy to sell jeans for $6.50 an hour. Also on the job, older workers, once retired but now restless....

"And there's more good news-bad news today: Factory orders are way up, good news, and Americans are still spending money, but that's leading to fears that our economy, like Goldilocks's porridge, may be getting too hot, bringing with it the danger of inflation. Dan."

Always count on Ray Brady to emphasize the shady side of any economic story. Brady's had a long history of always coming at stories negatively even if it means he contradicts himself. A few years ago MediaWatch documented a great illustration:

On October 12, 1989, home prices were down. That's great news for the buyers, but not for the sellers, so Brady focused on the sellers: "In the past, the American dream of owning your own home always had a sequel -- live in it, then sell it at a huge profit....So another dream has faded."

On March 16, 1990, home prices were rising, so the conclusion switched to the buyers: "So they keep looking. Thousands of young couples like the Wares, looking for that first house, looking for what used to be called the American Dream."

3) Inspired by the addition of a hot tub on White House grounds for Bill Clinton, the "Top Ten Other Changes President Clinton Has Made at the White House," from the August 1 Late Show with David Letterman. Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants Inc.

10. Alarm outside bedroom sounds when Hillary is approaching

9. Pillars on front porch replaced by Golden Arches

8. On front lawn, enormous marble statue of Clinton with his pants around his ankles

7. White House tour now clothing optional

6. New state of the art gym in case Tubby ever gets off his fat ass

5. Sound-proofing to block noise of George Washington spinning in his grave

4. New passcode: One knock for hookers, two knocks for pizza

3. All furniture now stuffed with shredded Whitewater documents

2. New sign: "If this Oval Office is rockin', don't come knockin'"

1. Hot and cold running gravy

With all the fundraising coverage to track over the past few weeks I never sent the last two editions of Notable Quotables and we're doing another at the end of this week. So I hope to find a quiet day soon on which to send those. In the meantime, the recent NQs can be read at:

-- Brent Baker