CyberAlert - October 31, 1996 - Financing Ignored

Four items today:

1. Here today, gone tomorrow. Tuesday night the three networks led with stories of Democratic fundraising. Wednesday night neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News mentioned anything about Democratic fundraising. Only NBC Nightly News ran a piece.

2. A tale of two campaigns. Third quarter GDP this year was below the rate in the same quarter in 1992. This year the networks gave a straight forward account, or offered a spin that favored Clinton. Announced one anchor: "The economy was slow, but steady going in the last quarter. Many economists were encouraged by that because it means inflation is under control." That's not the treatment George Bush got four years ago.

3. ABC's Charlie Gibson cited several Clinton scandals Tuesday morning and asked why the media aren't pressing Democrats: "If the Republicans had done this the press would be killing them. Why are they getting away with this?"

4. A talk show host and a former network news anchor in bed together, add a little nudity on ABC, and you get...

1) The current issue of Newsweek includes a story about John Huang and a Clinton ally in Taiwan involved in questionable fundraising in that island nation. Wednesday's Los Angeles Times moved the story further. It began:
"Mark Middleton, a little-known, 34-year-old ex-White House aide from Arkansas, was responsible for arranging a controversial encounter between President Clinton and Liu Tai-ying, the chief financial manager of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang Party, in September 1995, officials said Tuesday." The LA Times went on to report that Liu offered to donate $15 million to the Clinton campaign, which would be illegal.

NBC Nightly News began Wednesday night (October 30) with three stories in a row on the campaign. In the third, Andrea Mitchell examined the Taiwan angle to the DNC/John Huang fundraising activities. She relayed allegations that a Clinton ally was "shaking down" Taiwan businessmen.

ABC or CBS coverage Wednesdsay night of this or any part of the DNC fundraising/Huang saga: Zilch. ABC didn't even air a full campaign story. CBS did relay Dole's newest target, as Phil Jones reported:
"Clinton White House ethical controversies also remained high on Dole's agenda. He took a swipe at Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary's government travel, while reminding supporters what they could do with the money from his 15 percent tax cut."
Dole: "You ought to take a vacation instead of Hazel O'Leary flying around the world at your expense."

2) In late October 1992 a 3rd quarter GDP of 2.7 percent was announced. October 30 of this year the 3rd quarter number was released: Just 2.2 percent.

Wednesday night CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather announced the bad news: "The government is out with its final official report on economic growth before the election. And it indicates a dramatic slowdown. In the third quarter of the year the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of just 2.2 percent, that is less than half the growth rate of the second quarter. It didn't take long for the presidential candidates to put their own spins on today's economic numbers."

Phil Jones did a story with Dole's reaction, followed by Rita Braver, who began: "Mr. Clinton did not mention the sharp economic slowdown in the last quarter. Instead, he looked at the overall numbers for the year and claimed things are just getting better..."

Up next, Ray Brady identified the culprit: falling consumer spending. Brady noted: "There's one irony here. On election day 1992 the economy was starting to pick up, but voters hadn't felt it yet. Remember that expression, 'It's the economy stupid'? And George Bush went down to defeat. On election day 1996 the economy seems to be slowing, but not enough so that most voters will be feeling it."

Why hadn't voters in 1992 "felt it"? Could it be because the media kept putting the worst possible spin on 1992 economic news? Well, to find out I sojourned into the MRC tape library. Let's start with CBS. On October 27, 1992, the day of the GDP announcement, Dan Rather asserted:
"Just one week before the election and the Bush administration says the U.S. economy has turned the corner and started expanding again, but there is some doubt about the accuracy of the figures, and even if they are accurate, they may be too little too late to help President Bush because it was also announced today that consumer confidence in the economy continues to fall."

Reporter Susan Spencer reported in from the Bush campaign: "He crowed today at upbeat news of a third quarter growth rate of 2.7 percent, though some economists warned that may not hold."

Rather was right about the number being inaccurate, but not in the direction he thought. It was later revised upward to 3.9 percent for the 3rd quarter.

On September 4, 1992 anchor Connie Chung led the show: "Today's unemployment report from the government appears hopeful on the surface. It says the nation's unemployment rate is down slightly for the second month in a row. But the latest decline is a result of a summer jobs program for teenagers. That program is about to end, and as Ray Brady reports, the picture ahead is bleak."

Brady: "...Bare minutes after the announcement, the Federal Reserve moved to cut interest rates to speed the economy. But those strikes and layoffs at General Motors, and thousands of inner city kids soon to come off those summer job payrolls. Those could mean bad news for next month's figures. After hitting a high of 7.8 percent for June, then dipping a tenth of a point again last month, most economists now predict next month's jobless rate could hit 7.8 percent."

One month later, the rate fell from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. Let's go to the October 2, 1992 CBS Evening News. Ray Brady skipped over his mistake and offered a new reason to dismiss the good news: "Those unemployment lines did become a bit shorter last month, but economists say that's largely because many Americans simply stopped looking for work, so they're no longer counted as unemployed....The fact is, 17 months after the recovery started, the economy is stuck in neutral, partly because business is running scared. It's not expanding like in a recovery, but it is cutting back like in a recession."

In between the two unemployment reports, on the September 15, 1992 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather began the broadcast: "Seven weeks now until election day and new figures out today indicate the economy is flat. The government officially reported today that retail sales plunged half a percent last month, biggest drop in five months, hardest hit appliances and automobiles. Another sign of a sluggish economy: consumer prices rose just three-tenths of a percent."

CBS was not the only culprit. Look at ABC and NBC.

ABC's World News Tonight

October 30, 1996:
Peter Jennings: "In politics today, the economy as viewed from two sides. The government reports today that the economy slowed down over the summer. The Gross Domestic Product, which measures all economic activity, was up 2.2 percent, but that is less than half the 4.7 percent growth in the second quarter. President Clinton who was campaigning in Michigan noted that many economists say a cooling off is necessary to keep inflation down and therefore, he thinks, the numbers were good news. Senator Dole on the other hand was in Tennessee earlier today, along with Mrs. Dole. He says the numbers are cause for concern. He went on to say if Mr. Clinton is re-elected there could be a recession."

October 27, 1992
Peter Jennings: "The [2.7 percent GDP] is more than economists had projected, but in many cases, less than meets the eye."
Bob Jamieson: "The increase in economic growth was driven by a surge in consumer spending. The best news came from spending for big appliances and furniture, which rose by nearly nine percent. But many economists say the report is not proof the economy is taking a sharp turn for the better."
The next day, October 28, 1992, Jennings warned: "The President may complain about the news media, but the economic growth figures which he is so pleased about are not that definitive, according to a great many independent economic analysts."

NBC Nightly News:

October 30, 1996:
Tom Brokaw: "We're now down to five full days before the election and the President is mostly protecting his lead while Bob Dole is looking for any last minute opening. And today again he tried the national economy. The economy was slow, but steady going in the last quarter. Many economists were encouraged by that because it means inflation is under control and interest rates will stay low. But, Bob Dole has another vision. So, we begin tonight with NBC's David Bloom."
Bloom told how "Bob Dole predicted today that Bill Clinton's re-election would plunge the nation into another recession." Jim Miklaszewski then gave Clinton's more upbeat spin.
October 27, 1992 Nightly News:
Tom Brokaw: "The President tonight finally has an economic number that he can brag about, but at the same time consumers were checking in today and they're yet to be persuaded that this economy is turning around. The good number is the Gross Domestic Product, that's the rate of economic growth July through September. It hit 2.7 percent, that's well above what most economists predicted. But in this unusual economy, that's not enough, not with another report out today showing a sharp drop in consumer confidence."

All this matches the Center for Media and Public Affairs finding that "in September 1992, 98 percent of all sources on the evening news criticized the state of the economy."

3) Discussing the campaign with Cokie Roberts and Bill Kristol on Tuesday's Good Morning America, Charlie Gibson acknowledged media bias:
"Let me get to a second thing. Bob Dole is running around the country saying, 'Where is the outrage?' Where is it? We now have the Democratic Party hiding this guy John Huang until after the election, who was out raising money. You've got rafts of big contributors all listing the same address, which is the Democratic National headquarters. Newsweek says you have the ambassador to Taiwan out there soliciting huge gifts from people, businessmen in Taiwan and you have Buddhist monks and nuns who have taken vows of poverty giving big amounts of money to the Democratic Party, and nobody seems to notice this. Somebody said the other day if the Republicans had done this the press would be killing them. Why are they getting away with this?"

As noted above, Wednesday's World News Tonight didn't mention any of the topics raised by Gibson.

4) So what are former CBS News anchor Connie Chung and husband Maury Povich up to? See for yourself, as USA Today's October 30 "People" section reported Povich's tale of the bedroom:
"Sharon Lawrence 'did me one of the great favors of all time,' the talk show host said on Tuesday's Fox After Breakfast. 'I've never met the woman, but the other night on the episode of NYPD Blue...her semi-nude shot. Connie and I were in bed and the shot comes on. I got very lucky. I really did. Thank you, Sharon Lawrence, until my dying day. One of the great nights of all time."

Wonder what happens when Maury orders up one of those pay-per-view cable movies?

- Brent Baker