So Much Scandal News, So Little Time

Three Evening Shows Touch on Different Angles, But CBS This Morning Puts Its Head Back in the Sand

With so many balls in the air - the coffee videotapes mystery, Senate hearings with Harold Ickes, House hearings with a convicted husband-wife fundraising team asking for immunity to testify, guilty Teamster scandal figure Martin Davis meeting Clinton at the White House - each network only touched on a few angles, and CBS This Morning did nothing. CNN provided live coverage throughout the day, but MSNBC skipped out after two hours in the morning.

Evening news, October 8:

1009a.gif (5381 bytes) Only ABC's World News Tonight led with fundraising. First, Linda Douglass reported on the White House's delay in producing the coffee videotapes, and also reported a White House memo describing attendees of an Oval Office coffee as $100,000 contributors: "But an ABC News analysis shows no $100,000 contributions from those donors until after the coffee. The question: Did the President or anyone else ask for money in the Oval Office?" White House reporter John Donvan then relayed White House aides' spin that the President was "ill-served" by delaying lawyers.

After five other stories, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather referred to the "latest Republican attacks over the White House coffee videotapes." White House reporter Scott Pelley noted Justice Department sources said "no smoking gun" had been found, but concluded: "Privately the White House staff is deeply frustrated that the fundraising fog continues to obscure nearly everything the President does." CBS was the only Big Three network to cover the opening of House hearings. Rather said "House Republicans opened a new line of attack," and Bob Schieffer announced Chairman Dan Burton began by "leveling one of the wildest charges yet." Fundraisers Gene and Nora Lum asked for immunity to testify that "they offered to set up a foreign contribution to Clinton's 1992 campaign if Mr. Clinton would offer written praise of a man running for office in another country."

NBC Nightly News led with the Army sex scandal, but Lisa Myers filed the toughest network report on Ickes' testimony, and the only coverage of the Teamsters-DNC connection: "Harold Ickes said from the outset that he had a pretty feeble memory. His testimony today proved him right." After a collage of Ickes' memory lapses, Myers continued: "Ickes did remember that he never broke any laws. And he was certain that he knew nothing about the illegal money-laundering scheme involving the Teamsters Union...In all, Ickes said some version of 'I don't recall' about forty times."

CNN's The World Today carried stories on the coffee tapes and the Senate hearings, and a brief on the House.

Morning shows, October 9:

ABC's Good Morning America aired full reports by White House reporter Ann Compton at the top of both hours focusing on Ickes and the Oval Office coffee story.

On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer interviewed Tim Russert, who said Ickes' dozens of declarations of memory loss were "not very" damaging to his credibility, "because people expected that." Lauer ended by asking: "What are the chances we get any real reform in fundraising because of these hearings?"

Instead of D.C. news, CBS This Morning aired a report on Japanese men groping women on crowded subway trains. - Tim Graham and Brent Baker