CyberAlert -- October 6, 1996 -- Nasty Dole

Three items today:

1. On Thursday the Dole and Clinton campaigns released new TV ads. Guess which one NBC's Brian Williams labeled "nasty."

2. In front of cameras in the Senate press conference facility on Friday, Senator Orrin Hatch released the deposition of a former aide to Craig Livingstone. She said the FBI files were not obtained by mistake and that there are pages missing from the log tracking who looked at the files. Network coverage: Zilch.

3. The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt spews some mean-spirited venom, tagging a former Republican presidential candidate a "hatemonger" (and it's not Pat Buchanan), calls one current U.S. Senate candidate an "extremist" while saying another symbolizes "hate." Special bonus: he trashes Kenneth Starr.

1) On Friday night's (October 4) CBS Evening News, reporter Phil Jones explained what Dole has to do in the debate: "He's got to explain how his campaign centerpiece, the 15 percent tax cut, can be paid for without draconian cuts in social programs. He wants to talk about the character issue, but he can't get personal or look mean-spirited doing it."

Avoiding a media tag of being mean-spirited will be pretty tough. Just look at Thursday night's (October 3) The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC.

Williams announced: "We're going to take a look at the new political ads that are out tonight. There are two of them. We're going to begin with the latest ad from the Dole campaign which takes the campaign into a bit of nasty territory. Here it is now in its entirety."

And here's the "nasty" ad:

Dole ad narrator: "How to speak liberal."
Clinton video: "I can tell you this. I will not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for these programs."
Narrator: "That's liberal for I raised taxes right on the middle class. How to speak more liberal."
Clinton: "People in this room still mad at me for that budget
because you think I raised your taxes too much."
Narrator: "That's liberal for I raised taxes even on Social Security."
Clinton: "It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much too."
Narrator: "That's liberal for I raised your taxes and got caught."

Disjointed maybe, but nasty? Williams continued: "President Clinton is firing back with a new ad touting his achievements in office and once again tying Bob Dole to House Speaker Newt Gingrich."

MSNBC showed the non-nasty ad which is all in color, except for the video of Dole and Gingrich which is in black and white:

Clinton ad narrator over video of scenes matching the text: "Imagine. It's 11pm and you know where your kids are. At home. President Clinton supports curfews so children are home and safe. School uniforms to instill discipline. Ban cigarette ads aimed at our children. Require teenage mothers to stay in school or lose welfare.

[black and white video of Dole next to Gingrich]: Dole and Gingrich tried to slash school anti-drug programs. They'd take us back.

[video in color of Clinton strolling under trees]: President Clinton is looking forward. Helping parents to teach children responsibility, protecting our values."

2) The front page headline in the Saturday, October 5 Washington Times declared: "Livingstone Lied on 'Filegate,' Ex-Aide Implies." The Washington Post also made the news its lead story: "White House Contradicted on FBI Files: Ex-Aide Tells Panel Staff Knew of Checks on GOP Officials." The Los Angeles Times ran a story inside, but Saturday's New York Times had not a word.

Having watched all three broadcast network evening shows Friday night, this was news to me. ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News did not mention the development.(CNN's The World Today co-anchor Linden Soles did do a brief item on it with a soundbite from Hatch.) What did TV viewers miss?

Here's the opening of Post reporter George Lardner's story:

"A former executive assistant in the White House security office, contradicting accounts by her old boss and co-workers, told Senate investigators this week that 'everybody in the office knew' in the fall of 1993 that they were obtaining FBI files on 'people who were no longer working there.' "The aide, Mari Anderson, an ex-Clinton-Gore campaign worker, said they even joked about some prominent Republicans still listed as current White House pass holders."

Later in the story:

"Asked about a six-month gap in the security office log maintained to show who checked out files, Anderson said she was confident some pages were missing from the copy the White House provided the committee. She said she distinctly remembered making checkout notations in the loose-leaf log during that six month period, from March 29, 1994, to September 21, 1994."

Nixon only "accidently erased" 18 minutes.

So, did the front page treatment in both of Washington's newspapers prompt network interest? No. NBC's Today on Saturday didn't mention the news, but did find time to report that the maker of M&Ms is test marketing 18 new colors. Saturday night, ABC and CBS evening shows were bumped by college football in DC, but NBC Nightly News aired nothing.

Minutes later on CNN's Capital Gang National Review's Kate O'Beirne made the revelations her Outrage of the Week, observing: "It remains to be seen if this prompts the outrage from the people in the press is so richly deserves."

Not so far. Sunday morning Sam Donaldson at least did ask This Week with David Brinkley guest Leon Panetta a question about it.

UPDATE 1: Last week I reported that none of the broadcast networks reported the September 25 revelation of the six month gap in the log. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens has let me know that CNN's The World Today (10pm ET) did air a whole piece that night by Bob Franken.

UPDATE 2: Last week I also reported that the networks failed to note the FDIC report on how Hillary Clinton had deceived them. Well, Friday night, a week and a half after the report made The Washington Post's front page, it made NBC Nightly News, but only through the hook of a chance to disparage Kenneth Starr for speaking Friday at Regent University.

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported: "Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr was invited to appear by outspoken Clinton critic Pat Robertson and the audience was very conservative. The White House claims that's proof Starr is out to get Clinton for political reasons, but Starr says he'll stay the course."

Miklaszewski went on to summarize the status of Starr's inquiry into the First Lady. Miklaszewski described the FDIC report and aired the White House rebuttal.

3) On Saturday's Capital Gang (October 5) on CNN, Al Hunt, Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor, was full of hate.

-- "I think North Carolina is a test in the great divide in the Republican conservative movement. There's the politics of hope personified by Jack Kemp and there's the politics of hate personified by Jesse Helms."

-- On Louisiana where Democrat Landrieu faces Republican Jenkins: "In Louisiana, I think, Mary Landrieu is a bad candidate, but she's going to win for three reasons. Woody Jenkins is an extremist, Bill Clinton's going to carry Louisiana and Newt Gingrich has scared those African-Americans. There'll be a big black turnout."

-- His Outrage of the Week: "Kenneth Starr, the supposedly non-partisan independent counsel investigating the Clintons, was the featured speaker yesterday at a luncheon sponsored by right wing hatemonger Pat Robertson, *whose Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent Law School*. By pandering to Clinton-haters, Mr. Starr appears to be abandoning all pretenses of impartiality. He went into this job with a reputation as a fair-minded conservative. He now looks more like a political hit man desperately eager for a future Supreme Court appointment." [* There is a word missing, but that's what he said.]

And the media say conservatives are divisive.

-- Brent Baker