CyberAlert -- October 28, 1996 -- Nussbaum Barely Noted

Five items today, Monday, October 28

1. Republican interest in drug dealer Jorge Cabrera and in money from Indonesia is motivated by "foreigner bashing." So says a reporter for NBC News.

2. A panel of federal judges on Friday asked the independent counsel to investigate whether Bernard Nussbaum lied about Hillary Clinton's knowledge of who hired Craig Livingstone. NBC's Tim Russert called is a "dead serious" development, but it hardly generated any network coverage.

3. NBC News declares Dole's latest policy issues, not personal or character comments, "divisive."

4. ABC analogizes GOP efforts to keep control of the House to an Al Capone style "protection racket."

5. Finally, when the election is about over, CBS decides to correct Clinton's Medicare "cuts" claim.

1) On Friday's Washington Week in Review on PBS (October 25), NBC's Gwen Ifill opined: "In a year when you talk about, corporations who give $25,00 chunks of money, why are people particularly outraged when people with last names like Cabrera and people from India and Korea and Indonesia and China all of a sudden get, there just seems to be a lot of foreigner bashing as a subtext in some of the criticism."

It took Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray to tell her the obvious: "It is against the law for non-residents, foreign companies, foreign governments to give money to political campaigns. Now what's happening here is the money seems to be legal residents, but some of them have admitted, I mean there was this one woman who we talked to who admitted it wasn't her money. Someone came and handed her $5,000, it was a money laundering system."

As for Cabrera, could it be that, well, he's now serving a 19-year sentence for smuggling 6,000 pounds of cocaine into the U.S?

2) On Friday a panel of judges authorized independent counsel Kenneth Starr to investigate whether former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum lied about his knowledge of Hillary Clinton's involvement in the FBI files matter.

On the October 28 Today Sunday morning, NBC's Tim Russert insisted: "This is dead serious. I mean the ethical problems of the Clinton Administration are now troubling even to the most partisan Democrats. The incident you're talking about is that the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno, requested that the special prosecutor look into whether or not Bernard Nussbaum, counsel to the President of the United States, lied about Hillary Clinton's role in Travelgate. This is dead serious stuff and I don't know how we can dismiss it nine days before an election."

So how much emphasis did the networks give this "dead serious" development? In Sunday's Washington Post Howard Kurtz reported that "it was not reported by the three network evening newscasts" Friday night.

That's not quite true, but it was hardly a major story. The CBS Evening News didn't mention the news. On ABC's World News Tonight anchor Forrest Sawyer read a brief item. And how did Russert's NBC, where he is Washington Bureau Chief, treat a story that he insists can't be dismissed nine days before election day? NBC Nightly News offered viewers only a brief item read by anchor Brian Williams.

In his Post piece, Kurtz quoted Russert's reaction to Dole's liberal bias charge: "I find it ironic that Dole is criticizing the media for not covering all the stories we broke. Whether it's the Indonesian gardener or the Buddhist monks, he should be crediting the LA Times, Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. I think his anger is misplaced."

Hmmm. Which media outlets didn't Russert credit? Any of the networks, not even his own.

3) Affirmative action and immigration have been winning issues for Republicans in California and by coincidence they are just the subjects that NBC's David Bloom has tagged "divisive."

After showing a clip of a Dole immigration ad, on the Saturday, October 26 NBC Nightly News, Bloom concluded: "But even many Republicans who believe Dole could have won here on a divisive issue like immigration, now say it's too late." The next night, Sunday, Bloom concluded his story from California: "Until now, Dole on the campaign stump, had largely shied away from divisive social issues like affirmative action for fear of alienating swing voters. Not anymore."

4) In the beginning of the show story Sunday for This Week with David Brinkley, ABC's John Cochran looked at how Republicans are now separating themselves from Dole, suggesting to voters that they need a check on a re-elected Clinton. He concluded with this bizarre analogy: "Going into the the homestretch, the campaign is taking on feint overtones of the old protection racket with Republicans increasingly sounding like the Capone gang, offering protection against Bugsy Clinton and his mob."

5) Finally, a little reality check for Clinton. Here's an excerpt from Friday's CBS Evening News story by Bill Plante:

Plante: "But while Mr. Clinton walks the high road on the stump. His advertising, all of which he personally approves, has been overwhelmingly negative. He courted young voters today with a message of hope. A new ad courts senior voters with a message of fear."

Clinton ad: "You've worked you whole life and hoped for a secure retirememt. That's why it's so wrong that Dole and Gingrich tried to slash Medicare $270 billion."

Plante: "Never mind that the President's own budget would have cut future Medicare spending almost as much."

Now that the election is in the bag for Clinton it's safe for the networks to scrutinize his claims.

-- Brent Baker