Buddhist Nun Dustup Draws No TV Time

All Three Networks Skip Thompson's Vote of No Confidence in Justice Department's Integrity

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee met behind closed doors yesterday with Justice Department officials to discuss DOJ's opposition to granting immunity to four Buddhist nuns who took part in the Al Gore temple fundraiser. Sen. Fred Thompson emerged angry: "I do not have confidence any more in the Justice Department's ability to carry out a credible investigation." But the network blackout continues, with no morning or evening coverage in the last 24 hours.

Evening shows, July 22:

ABC's World News Tonight ignored the Senate, but featured the slander suit against actor Carroll O'Connor, a long piece on the Mormons, and a dentist who works on tigers and elephants. Last Friday, reporter Linda Douglass came on to dismiss the hearings: "After hours of testimony, a parade of charts and a blizzard of documents there has been no evidence so far of such a [Chinese] plot." After two days without an ABC story, Douglass ended wondering "if the public is paying attention to any of this."

NBC Nightly News ignored Thompson last night, but made time for an "In Depth" segment on security measures for the rich and famous, as well as a story on the popularity and safety of sport utility vehicles. On Tuesday night, reporter Lisa Myers filed an informative report on how Lippo boss James Riady and his wife gave $450,000 to elect Clinton in 1992, and how Lippo associates have given $1.4 million to Democrats in the last five years, often to state parties to escape detection.

CBS Evening News avoided Thompson, but Dan Rather insisted legal lobbying was worth as much attention as illegal contributions: "Other Chinese connections are being overlooked, downplayed, or covered up." Reporter Eric Engberg shouted his trademark "Time out! One of the Chinese government's influence schemes is also one of the most popular perks on Capitol Hill, and no one is investigating." Engberg said aides to Senators Specter and Glenn went to China on the Chinese government's tab, and concluded: "Congressmen express outrage over foreign attempts to influence U.S. elections, but see no problem in taking foreign money to satisfy their own wanderlust."

On CNN's The World Today, anchor Leon Harris introduced a thorough story by Candy Crowley by noting Thompson "lobbed verbal grenades" at Justice.

Morning shows, July 23:

ABC's Good Morning America aired nothing today, and in a long discussion yesterday with Cokie Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Bill Kristol, talked only about the get-Gingrich plot.

CBS This Morning ignored the hearings for the tenth weekday morning in a row.

NBC's Today did take on government corruption in an interview segment, only it was the city councilwoman in Oak Grove, Kentucky who announced she knew the local police covered up the existence of a brothel, because she'd once worked as a prostitute there. - Tim Graham & Brent Baker