CyberAlert - November 13, 1996 - Huang on ABC

Five items today:

1. The Commerce Department launched a new investigation of John Huang's conduct, but only ABC reported it.

2. An ABC reporter noted that the Republicans suffered attacks on their Medicare proposal, but seconds earlier he charged that they wanted to "cut" Medicare.

3. MSNBC's Brian Williams tossed softball questions to White House aide George Stephanopoulos.

4. The Washington Post corrected one error, but still has a winner cited as an example of an NRA-backed loser..

5. God sent Diane Sawyer a pillow to sleep upon - another woman's "sumptuous bosom."

1) On ABC's World News Tonight Tuesday night November 12 reporter Jackie Judd did a piece on a new investigation of John Huang. Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News mentioned a word about the subject. Judd began: "ABC News has learned it was a review of John Huang's outgoing phone records that triggered the investigation by the Commerce Department's Inspector General...."

What the records show is not known, Judd relayed, "but congressional investigators looking into Huang's tenure at the department want to know if he raised money for the Democratic Party during that time and whether he violated an agreement to cut off all business dealings with his former employer, the Indonesian conglomerate, the Lippo Group."

2) On Good Morning America on Tuesday reporter Bob Zelnick examined prospects for Republican cooperation with the White House. About mid-way through his story Zelnick noted that "having sustained attacks over Medicare throughout the campaign, the GOP is in no hurry to share with Mr. Clinton the burden of reform."

Zelnick should know. As noticed by MRC analyst Gene Eliasen, Zelnick had begun his story by himself falsely characterizing the Republican Medicare proposal: "Bob Dole's disappointing campaign and Newt Gingrich's unpopularity make the Republicans a party without a head. The GOP House freshmen of two years ago underestimated public resistance to cuts in programs like Medicare...."

3) The night after the election last week, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, the anchor conducted a live interview with Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos. Instead of challenging the Clinton operative, Williams set him up with some nice softballs. Here are three of the November 6 questions:

- "George, did the media last night and today make too much of this magic 50 percent margin for the President, or was it internally a big deal?"

- "George, recently in a New Yorker profile that I think most would argue was very favorable about you, not only did you mention potential plans to leave, you said, I'm paraphrasing, 'it was time to grow up,' leading some of your detractors to say 'what in goodness name was the senior counselor to the President doing having not grown up, but being senior counselor to the President.' If you can dispassionately critique your own performance over the past four years, I'd like you to do so."

- "It was said of the welfare bill when it came up from the Hill at the time that the choice for the White House was, and this was a cynical view, either veto it as extreme or sign it and fix it. Can you fix it?"

4) Yesterday's CyberAlert reported that a November 10 Washington Post editorial incorrectly argued that many NRA-backed candidates, such as Colorado's Wayne Allard, lost. Tuesday's Post ran this correction: "In the Colorado election to replace retiring Sen. Hank Brown, Rep. Wayne Allard was the winner last Tuesday. In an editorial Sunday we listed him incorrectly as having lost."

A nice start, but as MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham pointed out to me the Post had also listed "Vince Snowbarger, Kansas," as "among the other NRA favorites who lost." In fact, Snowbarger won his House seat race 50 percent to 45 percent for his Democratic opponent.

Maybe next time the Post should fact-check the Handgun Control Inc. press release before running it as an editorial.

5) Appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman Monday night ABC Prime Time Live co-host Diane Sawyer recounted an experience on a recent plane flight:

Diane Sawyer: "The other day, this is your worst nightmare. It happened to me on the plane. I am sitting there, and I'd been traveling and traveling and I'm in who knows what time zone, there is no time zone for which I am in. And sitting next to me is this woman who has this sumptuous bosom, there's just no other way to put it. And something must have sublimely set in, grandmother reveries, or something like that, and the next thing you know thirty minutes later I wake up and my nose is right in the cleavage. We are not talking just leaning against, I'm just buried in there, my little nose. It's true, it's a true story. And one eye opened and you think 'where am I?' And then the other eye opens and you look up and there she is, and she's absolutely benign, like God sent me a pillow. It was beautiful, it was beautiful."

David Letterman: "Had there been complimentary wine on the flight? Was there a delay and everybody got an extra cocktail, is that what happened?"

Sawyer: "It was just temptation, like you and Morley Safer, you know how it is."

It would be impossible to make this stuff up.

- Brent Baker