CyberAlert -- 09/15/1997 -- Gore & China Connection Ignored; Trashing Mother Teresa

Gore & China Connection Ignored; Trashing Mother Teresa

  1. Two big disclosures Friday -- about Gore's more active than known fundraising and an allegation that a huge donor was an agent for China -- went unnoticed by all the networks.
  2. NBC's Lisa Myers tagged Bill Weld as "moderate" but described Jesse Helms with an extreme label: "ultraconservative."
  3. In the middle of Mother Teresa's funeral ABC highlighted how she spent time with "the sleaziest of the sleazy."
  4. Susan Molinari's first day: Gushing to an actress and making a liberal point. Not the conservative politician that liberals feared.

1) The biggest names so far testified last week at the fundraising hearings, but neither This Morning on CBS or NBC's Today uttered a word all week about any aspect of fundraising. Total time on Good Morning America: one 30-second item on Thursday.

Not even two Friday morning disclosures spurred the networks. Not in the morning or evening.

"Memo Appears to Reveal Gore in Active Role as Fundraiser: Statements Contradict Portrait Drawn by Aides," read a top of the fold front page headline in Friday's New York Times. Reporter Don Van Natta Jr. explained in his September 12 story:

"Vice President Al Gore's top aide wrote a memorandum of 'talking points' for Mr. Gore to use at a 1996 White House fundraising meeting to outline a strategy, which included telephone solicitations, for achieving the lofty financial goals of the Democratic Party."

"....The detail-laden, enthusiastic statements written for Mr. Gore appear to show him actively involved in not just the strategy but also the execution of an all-consuming fundraising effort. The statements contradict the portrait of a Vice President detached from the fine print of fundraising that his aides have drawn in recent weeks to try to distance him from the spreading Democratic scandal of the 1996 elections."

A front page Washington Post headline on Friday declared "Senate Panel is Briefed on China Probe Figure: Officials Say Evidence May Link L.A. Businessman to Election Plan." A page one Los Angeles Times headline announced: "Donor a China Agent, Panel Reportedly Told." LA Times Washington reporter Marc Lacey began his September 12 piece:

"Top U.S. legal and intelligence officials told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday that an executive of a Chinese-language newspaper in Southern California who has had close contact with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore attempted to influence U.S. elections on behalf of the Chinese government, sources said.

"Ted Sioeng, an Indonesian entrepreneur whose family owns the International Daily News in Monterey Park, as well as other businesses, has emerged as a key player in a covert scheme to expand China's influence in the U.S. political process, according to intelligence data. But the evidence remains in dispute and has not proven that Sioeng acted on behalf of Beijing, said a committee source.

"Investigators are looking at contributions by Sioeng's daughter, Jessica Elnitiarta, and family companies to both political parties -- including a $250,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee in 1996 and $50,000 to the National Policy Forum, a GOP-linked think tank, in 1995. The Senate committee received the information, first outlined by The Times in May, in a closed-door briefing by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, CIA Director George J. Tenet and National Security Agency Director Kenneth A. Minihan, according to committee sources."

"....Gore sat at the same table as Sioeng at the ill-fated Buddhist temple fund-raiser in Hacienda Heights in April 1996."

Coverage: Zilch on any of the morning shows the MRC analyst staff informed me and not a word Friday night on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. (With the three anchors in Calcutta, for the first time since Mother Teresa died she got more time than Princes Diana.) Last Tuesday, September 9, ABC's World News Tonight skipped Don Fowler's testimony to highlight how Senator Fred Thompson supposedly pulled back from his opening day claims about Chinese influence. On Friday, ABC refused to inform its viewers about the latest charges of Chinese involvement.

CNN's The World Today gave a few seconds to fundraising Friday night, sort of. Anchor Joie Chen told viewers: "Is anyone out there paying attention to the campaign finance controversy? Al Gore knows that the answer is yes. His approval rating is down. It is at 51 percent in a new CNN/Time magazine poll. That was opposed to 58 percent in April."

Hard to know how the non-newspaper reading public is learning anything negative about Gore when the networks are avoiding developments. Not even Friday's World Today mentioned either disclosure in Friday's papers.

2) The ABC and CBS stories Friday night on the "meeting" chaired by Senator Helms avoided any ideological labeling. But not NBC Nightly News. Introducing the story from Lisa Myers, in which she tagged Helms with an extreme label, anchor Brian Williams derided the Helms/Weld battle:

Williams: "In Washington today one of the most important committees of the world's greatest deliberative body, the U.S. Senate, looked more like high noon at the OK Corral, or a debate at a high school student council meeting. NBC's Lisa Myers tonight with the latest chapter in the story of Weld versus Helms."

Myers: "It was high political drama. Former Governor Bill Weld -- Harvard educated, patrician, moderate -- against a lion of the Old South, Jesse Helms, courtly and ultraconservative. Today, with Weld looking on, Helms made it clear it will be a cold day in Cancun before Weld becomes ambassador to Mexico..."

3) During live coverage of the funeral of Princess Diana the networks avoided airing any critical comments about her life and certainly did not bring on a commentator specifically to trash her. Mother Teresa did not get such reverential treatment from ABC News. The networks all relied on Indian Television for coverage, but since the Indians were not quite able to master the concept of live television, there were several periods without audio or video or without both. ABC filled time with six commentators. Amongst them, the world's chief Mother Teresa basher, Christopher Hitchens.

Friday night/Saturday morning at about 2am ET, in the middle of the funeral mass, anchor Peter Jennings asked the left-wing writer: "Do you think that history is going to judge her more harshly than we have in the week of her death?"

Hitchens provided this two-minute diatribe, which included attacks on Princess Diana that ABC didn't dare broadcast during her funeral:

"....I'm sure that the re-examination of Mother Teresa that began in the Bengali press this week will continue, as indeed the Church invites it to do in the consideration of sainthood. It will be recalled, for example, that when she got the Nobel Prize for peace, never having done anything for peace or claimed to have done anything for peace, that she said the greatest threat to peace in the world was abortion and she said that contraception was morally equivalent to the murder of abortion.
"It will be recalled as to how much time she spent with the richest of the rich and the sleaziest of the sleazy with people like the Duvalier family in Haiti whom she went to praise and from whom she received a medal and to whom she said they were lovers of the poor and not only that, even more blasphemously, that the poor loved them, the Duvaliers.
"It will be remembered that she took stolen money from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other Catholic fundamentalists who was giving her money that didn't belong to him and she wouldn't give it back when asked. That she spent her time with other people, of the idle rich, like Princess Diana to whom she gave congratulations on her divorce having campaigned against the right of divorce in Ireland, in Spain, in other countries where referenda were held on it but gave it as a right of indulgence to the rich and her rich friends like Princess Diana.
"Much of this will now have to be entered into the record and considered objectively and scrutinized because the church has invited us to consider whether or not this was sainthood. Very obviously, it seems to me, it was a political intervention an ideological intervention, an intervention within the church. After all, Mother Teresa also violently attacked the Second Vatican council and Pope John the Twenty-Third, at the time desperately against Vatican II, it was a conservative within the councils of the church, cloaked all this in a pseudo-humility that was actually very ostentatious, a kind of mock-modesty, and claimed an immunity from criticism which she's had, in fact, for far too long. That's the short answer to your question."
Jennings then acted sorry that he asked:
"I appreciate hearing your point of view here and as [Times of India Senior Editor] Bachi Karkaria said earlier in the broadcast it is a point of view which has been dealt with quite seriously in the Indian press and in the Western press as well in recent days. I was just going to make the point that I wasn't sure that this was the right occasion for us to continue having a debate about Mother Teresa. I may be wrong, but that's the decision for now."

Memo to Hitchens: Hey, the people of Calcutta seemed to like her.

Memo to Jennings: If this wasn't "the right occasion" then why'd you bring Hitchens on and then pose a set up question?

ABC signed off at 2:35am ET, 25 minutes earlier than either CBS or NBC, by getting "final thoughts" from all the commentators but Hitchens: Mother Teresa biographer Kathryn Spink, ABC's Bill Blakemore, Times of India Senior Editor Bachi Karkaria, Jesuit priest Vincent O'Keefe (who countered Hitchens), and Harvard Divinity School Dean Ron Thiemann.

Maybe during the future funeral for Jennings ABC can bring on a commentator to point out how he was an overpaid foreigner first hired for his looks, not ability, and that he was an embarrassingly bad speller who never made it through high school.

Susan4) In her debut Saturday new CBS co-host Susan Molinari disproved the fears of liberals upset that she would somehow ruin journalism and insert right-wing views into her CBS show.

(For examples of media outrage at her appointment in late May, see the Revolving Door column in the June MediaWatch:

On the new CBS show Saturday Morning on September 13 Molinari relayed only one political opinion, and it was definitely not conservative. Co-host Russ Mitchell read all the news stories on the hour and half hour, leaving the weather to Molinari. Mitchell also handled a talk with Dan Rather in Calcutta. Molinari was allowed to pose her first interview questions to Christine Lahti, star of Chicago Hope. Following a clip from the show of Lahti reacting to her father's death, Molinari asked:

"So how do you feel. The Emmy's are tomorrow night, you look like, with an award winning performance like that we just saw you give week after week. How do you feel coming up for the Emmy nominations, the show being nominated five times?"
Next, Molinari wondered: "So, let's go on to something that's really important then. Can you tell us what you're going to wear?"

After Mitchell finished a later news update with an item on how the Army will boost fitness standards for women, Molinari opined:

"We've got to go a long way til there's some fairness. Now, you know, the men are saying that the fitness standards aren't equal and that may be a legitimate complaint, but if we're going to get to equal fitness standards then I think we also have to say that women who qualify physically, mentally and emotionally should be allowed in the artillery, in the infantry, which they currently are not. Fair is fair across the board."

Not exactly standard issue conservative rhetoric.

-- Brent Baker