CyberAlert -- 09/09/1997 -- Mother Teresa Trumped Again; CNN's Clinton FOB Says No to Scandal

Mother Teresa Trumped Again; CNN's Clinton FOB Says No to Scandal

Correction: The September 8 CyberAlert reported that of the Sunday morning talk shows only NBC's Meet the Press "brought anyone on to discuss Mother Teresa's legacy" and that "Fox News Sunday proved the most substantive, running lengthy segments on the Middle East and fundraising after a short opening talk with Brit Hume about Diana."
In fact, Fox News Sunday was even more substantive. It also ran a segment on Mother Teresa. Between the opening three minutes with Hume on Diana and the interview of Benjamin Netanyahu, host Tony Snow spent six minutes talking with Bishop Richard Curlin. That means FNS allocated twice as much time to Mother Teresa as Diana, unlike Meet the Press on which Tim Russert spent four times as much time on Diana as Mother Teresa -- 33 vs. eight minutes.
  1. Still more on Diana than Mother Teresa, but guess which one gets criticized? All the networks highlighted Paula Jones' lawyers.
  2. Rick Kaplan, Friend of Bill turned CNN President, ordered CNN reporters to lessen the use of the word "scandal" in Clinton stories.

1) Nine nights after her death and the third night after her funeral, Diana received more network time Monday night than did Mother Teresa just four days after she passed away. Monday also brought some passing references to Mother Teresa's abortion position as well as more criticism. Here's a rundown of the Monday, September 8 broadcast network evening shows.

  • ABC's World News Tonight led with two stories on the withdrawal request from the lawyers representing Paula Jones. ABC gave Diana the least time of the three networks, just three minutes, and later aired a 2:35 story on Mother Teresa.
  • NBC Nightly News led with the Haiti ferry accident, then went to Diana, spending five minutes on the crash investigation and the feud between Prince Charles and the Queen on funeral plans. NBC next aired a piece on David Bloom on how lawyers for Paula Jones had asked to be removed as her counsel.
A four minute "In Depth" explored Charles Spencer's background and why he is so angry at the tabloid press. The story noted that he served as a commentator during NBC's coverage of his sister's wedding and later spent time as a London correspondent for Today.
For the next to last story of the night NBC got around to Mother Teresa. In a 2:20 story, reporter George Lewis made a brief mention of her pro-life stand: "In announcing that Hillary Clinton would attend the funeral, a White House spokesman called her the natural choice to represent the United States. But Mother Teresa did not like the fact that Mrs. Clinton favors abortion rights."
Total time for Diana: nine minutes. For Mother Teresa, just over two.
Monday morning Today also raised Mother Teresa's abortion stand, but also provided time for a guest to relay the same criticism passed along by Peter Jennings last Friday (See the September 8 CyberAlert.)
MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange between Today co-host Matt Lauer and Ken Woodward, Newsweek's religion editor:
Lauer: "You talk about her being tough. The stories go that if she wanted something from someone, for example money to help her mission, she was very difficult to say no to."
Woodward: "Oh she was. And I mean she spoke at a Washington what do they call these things, these presidential prayer breakfasts. And she spoke truth to power, which is what Old Testament prophets did. She said any country that allows abortion the way that this country does commits violence and she said this to a President and a First Lady whose one consistent principle was choice."
Lauer: "And many people were critical of that. Other critics kind of chimed in because of the fact that she would take money and sometimes it appeared she had tunnel vision. She would help the individual in front of her without stopping and to look back at the larger picture that surrounded her in a particular country."
  • The CBS Evening News led with Haiti, then spent five minutes on Diana-related issues followed by 2:20 on Mother Teresa.
Dan Rather reported the withdrawal requests by attorneys for Paula Jones. Unlike both ABC and NBC, Rather failed to mention the news that Clinton's attorneys offered to pay Jones $700,000, which could be interpreted as an admission of some culpability. Instead, Rather emphasized White House denials:
"The lawyers for Paula Jones apparently wanted her to settle the case without necessarily a guaranteed presidential apology. President Clinton's lawyers repeated today that the President has no need to apologize because, he says, the charges are not true."
With Diana starting to quiet down CBS found time to return to an old tabloid story, giving two minutes to an update on the JonBenet Ramsey case.
(At the end of the last CyberAlert I wondered how much time the networks would allocate to Mother Teresa's funeral. Monday night both Peter Jennings and Dan Rather promised that their networks would provide live coverage of Saturday's funeral in India -- that will be around midnight Friday night/Saturday morning ET I think.

2) New CNN President Rick Kaplan's affinity for President Clinton may already be altering CNN coverage. The September 14 Washington Whispers section of U.S. News & World Report relayed that Kaplan "wasted little time cracking the whip" in his new post. U.S. News elaborated:

"When the former ABC executive held forth at his first early morning board meeting in Atlanta, insiders say, he delivered a scathing assessment of that morning's news program. While many credit him with 'energizing' the news operation, Kaplan raised a few eyebrows by telling CNN staffers to limit their use of the word scandal in reporting on Clinton's campaign fundraising woes."
U.S. News added: "A longtime Clinton friend, Kaplan has stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom. CNN had no comment."
Let's compare this latest development to Kaplan's earlier assurances. As noted in the August 7 CyberAlert, in the August 6 USA Today Peter Johnson relayed that Kaplan "sees no conflict between being a friend of the President's and running the country's top-rated cable news operation. 'I have 28 years of making news judgments behind me,' Kaplan said. 'And I'm not the first news executive to know a President.' He said he'd make news calls about Clinton coverage as a journalist, not a friend. 'If your job is to report, you report. Your business is your business.'"
Looks like Kaplan's business may be helping his political buddy out of a jam.
For more on Kaplan's ties to Clinton, see the August 7 CyberAlert or the August 1997 MediaWatch Revolving Door article. Go to:

-- Brent Baker