CyberAlert -- 01/15/1998 -- Hillary & Starr Avoided

Hillary & Starr Avoided; Nets Skipped Judge's Sanction; CD Giveaway

1) ABC and FNC aired full stories on the probe of Herman while
CBS and NBC gave it just a few seconds. All the networks
allocated only a few seconds to Starr questioning Hillary Clinton.

2) A federal judge's sanction on the White House for lying about
the make-up of Mrs. Clinton's health care task force has yet to
get a single network story.

3) Peter Jennings gushed over the Georgia Governor's idea to give
classical music CDs to every baby. But who will buy the players?

Clarification: A couple of CyberAlert readers have written to
express concern that yesterday's CyberAlert summary could be
misinterpreted by some. The CyberAlert referred to "very
illuminating excerpts from a Vanity Fair profile of CNN President
Rick Kaplan, a man Ted Turner called 'the biggest goddamned Jew
I've ever seen.'" I was not endorsing this remark, which I later
referred to as "less than sensitive," but was simply using the
odd comment to pique interest in reading the CyberAlert. I later
ran the relevant article excerpt so readers could see the quote
in context, hoping that readers would realize they would have
heard about such a remark long ago if it had been uttered by a


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Wednesday night ABC's World News Tonight led with a full
report on the Justice Department investigation into Labor
Secretary Alexis Herman, but CBS and NBC gave the matter about 20
seconds. FNC's Fox News Report also ran a full story on Herman.
The three broadcast networks allocated only a few seconds to
Hillary Clinton being deposed about her knowledge of the FBI
files. Here's a show by show rundown for January 14:

-- Peter Jennings opened ABC's World News Tonight:

"We begin tonight with money and power and a question of
corruption in the Clinton administration. This is not chapter 37
of the campaign finance scandal. ABC News has learned that the
Justice Department is deep into an investigation of the
President's Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. Miss Herman is
accused of selling her influence for money when she was a senior
White House aide to the President during 1994, '95 and '96."

ABC reporter Brian Ross explained how Justice is examining a
charge made by a businessman from Africa "that he and Herman and
one of Herman's close friends, began a secret arrangement in 1994
to sell Herman's influence to clients needing help from the
government, allegedly giving Herman ten percent of any consulting

After Ross Jennings turned to Sam Donaldson for White House
reaction. Donaldson also offered a few seconds on Hillary being

-- The CBS Evening News was a bit more vague about Herman,
unable to offer any of the details tracked down by Ross. Dan
Rather took 20 seconds to explain:

"Orchestrated leaks in Washington tonight indicate that
former Clinton White House aide and now Labor Secretary Alexis
Herman is under investigation by the Justice Department. There
are unspecified accusations that she may have traded influence
for money during her tenure at the White House -- those are the
accusations. Tonight the President said he has full confidence in

The next story: a two minute plus report from Bob Schieffer
based upon another set of orchestrated leaks, but on a topic CBS
found more newsworthy. Rather's introduction: "There is fresh
evidence tonight indicating that despite what they've said all
along the tobacco industry did indeed try to target and market
cigarettes to the young...."

Later in the show Rather allocated 22 seconds to Hillary
Clinton's day, intoning in full:

"First Lady Hillary Clinton gave sworn testimony at the White
House today for Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. The
questioning lasted ten minutes. The subject: FBI background
files, requested by and given to the White House security office,
including some files on prominent Republicans. The First Lady
testified she knew nothing of the files or the employee who
requested them."

-- NBC Nightly News viewers heard this 19 second summary of
the Herman situation as read by Tom Brokaw:

"And from Washington tonight. The Justice Department is
extending its probe into President Clinton's Labor Secretary
Alexis Herman. At issue here -- allegations that she took money
from business interests in exchange for influence peddling in her
previous job as an assistant to the President. She has previously
denied those allegations."

Brokaw gave the First Lady even less time, using 17 seconds
to say:

"Now to the hot spots making news tonight. The private
residence in the White House where Whitewater prosecutor Ken
Starr spends ten minutes questioning the First Lady under oath.
He asked what she knows about White House staffers collecting
hundreds of FBI files on Republicans. Mrs. Clinton long has
denied knowing anything about that."

One name at the center of Starr's questioning, but not
uttered by ABC, CBS or NBC: Craig Livingstone. A piece on CNN's
Inside Politics reviewed the controversy over who hired him, but
I don't know if that story aired in prime time on The World
Today. The MRC has just acquired DirecTV so we can now see the
Fox News Channel and Wednesday night it did provide a contrast to
the broadcast networks: The 7pm ET hour of news called the Fox
News Report, FNC's only evening newscast, featured a full story
by David Shuster on the questioning of Hillary Clinton and
interest in her knowledge about who hired Craig Livingstone.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The minimal coverage the deposition generated on ABC,
CBS and NBC on Wednesday far exceeded the amount of time those
networks and CNN devoted to a federal judge's assessment that
White House officials lied about the membership of the health
plan panel headed by Hillary Clinton. In fact, the three
broadcast networks and CNN have yet to report anything on their
evening or morning shows about the December 18 decision. A
question on Meet the Press more than a week later stands as the
one flicker of light the networks have shown on this development.

The networks may not have found the judge's sanction
newsworthy, but major newspapers did. The December 19 Washington
Post and New York Times carried stories inside. The Post
headline: "Government Ordered to Pay Sanctions for Dishonesty
About Health Care Task Force." The headline across the front page
of the Washington Times: "White House To Pay for Health Care
Lies." The subhead: "Judge Slams Hillary's Aides, Orders
Reimbursement." Washington Times reporter Paul Bedard explained:

"The White House and lawyers defending First Lady Hillary
Rodham Clinton lied in an effort to keep internal working papers
used to develop President Clinton's universal health care plan in
1993 secret, a federal judge said Thursday.

"Using blunt language in a written order, U.S. District Judge
Royce C. Lamberth also accused administration officials at 'the
highest levels of government' of engaging in a 'cover-up' and
pressuring the Justice Department to defend its 'dishonest'
actions. 'It is clear that the decisions here were made at the
highest levels of government and the government itself is -- and
should be -- accountable when its officials run amok,' Judge
Lamberth wrote.
"'It seems that some government officials never learn that
the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct,' he added,
ordering the government to pay legal fees of $285,864 to the
doctors trade group that sued the White House in February 1993 to
open up the First Lady's health care planning meetings to the
"The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the
group that brought the initial suit...filed suit to open up
closed meetings of Mrs. Clinton's Health Care Task Force. They
maintained the First Lady was violating the Federal Advisory
Committee Act, which requires that any federal advisory panel
that includes a nongovernment worker must always meet in the
"The association said Mrs. Clinton was not an employee of
the government, but an appeals court determined that Mrs.
Clinton was a de facto federal employee and thus allowed her
group to meet privately. The doctors group then tried to open up
secret meetings of Mrs. Clinton's larger 'working group,' which
numbered between 600 and 1,000, but Judge Lamberth temporarily
blocked that plan when Clinton health care adviser Ira
Magaziner said the panel included 'only federal government
"But Mr. Magaziner's March 3, 1993, statement was 'actually
false,' said the judge, who expressed anger that the White House
and Justice Department never moved to correct the fabrication...."

Why should they have cared? With no network coverage who
knows they lied? Nine days after Lamberth's ruling House Ways and
Means Chairman Bill Archer demanded that taxpayers not be forced
to pick up the tab for the fine. But his December 27 letter, like
Lamberth's December 18 ruling, failed to generate any news show
coverage, MRC analysts Eric Darbe, Clay Waters, Gene Eliasen,
Geoffrey Dickens and Steve Kaminski reported. Even CNN's Inside
Politics skipped both developments.

The one exception to the network blackout came on the
December 28 Meet the Press. In his 13th question, NBC moderator
Tim Russert asked Senior Adviser to the President Rahm Emanuel:

"A federal judge has stated that Ira Magaziner, a senior
adviser to President Clinton, misled the court, lied to the
court. He has fined the Administration $285,000 because of this
misinformation. One, will the President fire Mr. Magaziner, and
two, will he force Mr. Magaziner to pay the penalty rather than
having taxpayers' money pay a fine for a government official

As the MRC's Tim Graham observed in the January 7 MRC Media
Reality Check fax report, Russert failed to use his powers as
Washington Bureau Chief and VP of NBC News to place the story on
Today or Nightly News.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) You can't be too young to deserve a government handout
in the world envisioned by ABC anchor Peter Jennings. And when a
Governor proposed a bizarre plan to create a new program to let
every baby in his state hear classical music, Jennings devoted
ABC air time to lobbying on behalf of the liberal social
engineering paid by taxpayers. At the end of Wednesday's World News
Tonight (January 14), Jennings cheerfully proclaimed:

"Finally from us this evening, the Governor who gets it.
We've known for a long time that the Governor of Georgia, Zell
Miller, is committed to a better education for kids."

Viewers saw a clip of Miller addressing the legislature as he
held a cassette tape player up to the microphone. Explained
Jennings: "This was part of his budget message to the Georgia
legislature this week. The Governor was playing a bit of
Beethoven there by way of convincing legislatures to pay for a
music CD for every Georgia baby so that babies could hear
classical music from the very beginning."

After a soundbite of Miller saying "to be played often in
that Georgia baby's presence," Jennings gushed: "He is so right
and every study confirms it."
In another soundbite Miller asserted that listening to
classical music helps spacial learning that underlines math,
engineering and chess. Jennings agreed: "Give a child music and
you get a better, brighter child."

Assuming Miller and Jennings are correct about the music's
benefits, is this really the proper role of a government --
passing out CDs -- and isn't that the question journalist should

But there's also the practical side. Let's see: A CD costs
$12 in a store, before any discount the state might get for a
bulk purchase. But how will parents play the CD without a CD
player? They run closer to $80 for a low end model. Babies can't
use headphones, so that means speakers. So, this year its CDs,
then next year players and in 2000 Georgians will have to buy
speakers. But, we can't have any inequality in access to the
music -- rich babies shouldn't hear better sound quality than
poor babies. I have a solution to such disparate impact, a solution
that would allow Jennings to get ahead of the curve by endorsing
now: subsidies for acoustic crib tiles in appropriate baby colors.

-- Brent Baker

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