CyberAlert -- 04/29/1998 -- Judging Gingrich

Judging Gingrich; Scumbag vs. Nazi; Jennings' Denouncements Upset NY Post

1) Newt Gingrich's comments about Clintonites abusing the political system were either ignored or condemned. NBC's Today tagged them as "harsh." CNN emphasized how Gingrich had ruined his "warm and fuzzy" image by going for the "political jugular."

2) The ABC and NBC morning shows jumped on Dan Burton's "scumbag" comment but where were they when a liberal said Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz reminded him of "a Nazi"?

3) The Senate's IRS hearings: a cheap Republican political ploy?

4) Sam Donaldson argued against education IRAs, declaring of public schools: "We should pour money into those rotten schools."

5) A CNN VP's response to the last CyberAlert: Rick Kaplan "did not say he regretted airing" the video of Clinton hugging Lewinsky.

6) Peter Jennings "made an ass of himself." The New York Post picked up on his comments about starvation in the U.S. and looking at the homeless, suggesting he's a "limousine moron."

Amplification: The last CyberAlert failed to identify Tony Blankley. He's the former Press Secretary to Newt Gingrich who now writes for George magazine and appears regularly on CNN's Late Edition.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)The networks either condemned or ignored Newt Gingrich's Monday night speech to GOPAC in which he pointed out how the administration is covering up and urged President Clinton to respect the political system by ensuring his operative cease undermining Ken Starr. Only FNC played it as a straight news story, treating the substance of his comments as newsworthy in themselves.

-- Tuesday morning (April 28) during the 8am news update on Today NBC's Ann Curry, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, characterized Gingrich as "harsh." She announced: "House Speaker Newt Gingrich had harsh words last night about President Clinton. Speaking to GOPAC, the political action group he once led, Gingrich called the last two-and-a half years the most systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice and coverup in U.S. history."

-- In the evening the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET ignored Gingrich's strong statements highlighting presidential wrongdoing, but his comments led CNN's Inside Politics. CNN considered Gingrich's temperament and image more relevant than what he said. Co-anchor Bernard Shaw began:

"Thanks for joining us. Perhaps Newt Gingrich is demonstrating one of his 'lessons learned the hard way.' Just when your book tour has made you look almost warm and fuzzy, stop and go for the political jugular. As our Bob Franken reports, the House Speaker has done just that, offering his strongest words yet about the investigation of President Clinton."

Franken elaborated: "He may be cultivating the image of the new mellow Newt, but House Speaker Newt Gingrich can still throw out the partisan red meat. Witness his GOPAC speech last night where he trashed the White House for its attacks on Independent Counsel Ken Starr..."

-- ABC's World News Tonight also emphasized polemical style instead of exploring the substance. Peter Jennings intoned:

"Sam Donaldson's with us this evening to report on what appears to be a serious attack on the President's character by the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Sam, he was pretty outspoken."

Donaldson did note that Clinton had criticized Gingrich last week, but didn't relay what was said. After a soundbite from the GOPAC speech and a clip of Clinton declining to respond, Donaldson concluded by arguing that the attacks are getting in the way of real substantive work:

"All this may just be so much political shadow boxing but the danger in such high decibel name calling is that it will make it difficult to reach agreement on important legislation now stuck on Capitol Hill."

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report provided quite a contrast, actually relaying Gingrich's comments without condemning its tone or analyzing how it reinforces his negative image. FNC's Carl Cameron began: "House Speaker Newt Gingrich, fed up Monday night, blasted White House spin doctors and challenged the President to call off the attacks on Independent Counsel Ken Starr."

Following a clip of Gingrich, Cameron added: "Gingrich and the GOP are also declaring war on what they call an orchestrated White House and Democratic attempt to thwart the investigation of Clinton campaign fundraising abuse."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)While on the subject of harsh Republican rhetoric, conservative Congressman Dan Burton calling President Clinton a "scumbag" generated a lot more network coverage than a liberal Congressman analogizing an Independent Counsel to a Nazi. MRC news analyst Eric Darbe noticed the contrast and wrote up a Newsbite about it for the upcoming issue of MediaWatch:

When Congressman Dan Burton called President Clinton a "scumbag," both ABC and NBC reported on his controversial comment and the reaction of Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman to it. On the other hand, when Democrat Tom Lantos compared Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz forgetting to mention that he is a Republican to Kurt Waldheim who "conveniently forgot several years when he was a Nazi," not one of the broadcast networks touched it. Smaltz is handling the Espy probe.

On April 23 Today's Ann Curry introduced a Gwen Ifill story on Burton's comments: "On Capitol Hill the Congressman who heads the House committee investigating campaign financing is in trouble. This after some remarks he made about President Clinton." Ifill continued: "It's not the most dignified why to describe a fellow lawmaker." ABC's Asha Blake introduced a Good Morning America story on the comment the same morning: "...a controversy has erupted over some unusually caustic comments made by a top Republican about President Clinton....Ann, things appear to be getting personal." Ann Compton reported: "Such personal name calling is forbidden on the floor of the House, where the President's defenders called Burton words outrageous and vile."

Last December 10 during a House hearing Lantos scolded Smaltz for glossing over his Republican past: "You remind me of the late and unlamented Secretary General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, who also had a lapse in memory. He conveniently forgot several years when he was a Nazi."

All three major broadcast networks ignored Lantos' comments.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)The three broadcast network evening shows all led on April 28 with the Senate hearings on IRS abuses followed by pieces on how the good economy has supposedly bought Social Security another three years so the transfer program won't collapse until 2032.

Two network correspondents reported how the DNC put out a press release claiming the Republican Senators were using the hearings for political gain, but while one bought it another countered it. On the NBC Nightly News reporter Gwen Ifill asserted:

"But is all this IRS bashing just politics? Democrats say yes, distributing this four-page fundraising letter sent by Republican leader Trent Lott vowing to 'end the IRS as we know it.'"

Over on the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer added some information that put the matter in a different light: "The Democratic National Committee tried to brush off the hearings as just a Republican ploy to build support in an election year, but several of the Democrats at the hearings seemed to take the charges seriously."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)More money is the answer to everything it seems for Sam Donaldson. On Sunday's This Week he argued against the conservative bill to create tax-free education savings accounts to help parents afford to escape public schools. At one point in the discussion, as transcribed by MRC analyst Gene Eliasen, Cokie Roberts noted how parochial schools are very popular: "In the Catholic schools in the District of Columbia the majority of the students aren't Catholic because these are poor families that are trying to get their kids out of rotten public schools."

Donaldson jumped in: "Well, we should maintain the rotten public schools better then. We should pour money into those rotten schools and make them better."

George Will did point out that the District's public schools are already among highest in per student expenditures.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Steve Haworth, VP for public relations at CNN, has taken issue with the April 27 CyberAlert item on CNN President Rick Kaplan. We relayed that the May George magazine reported that

"Kaplan recently admitted it was a 'big mistake' to have aired exclusive footage of the now infamous hug between Clinton and a beret-headed Monica Lewinsky. 'Clinton probably gave 79 other hugs on that line,' says a contrite Kaplan, adding that Al Gore 'also gave God knows how many hugs -- not that anyone would care.'"

Haworth explained in an e-mail message that he gave permission to cite: "You're usually better than this -- Rick Kaplan did not say he regretted airing the exclusive video CNN obtained of President Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky. It was the first video discovered of the two together and was, therefore, newsworthy. What Rick did say was that, in retrospect, we probably aired the video too much -- making it the story and not what the special counsel was reported to be investigating. He also said we probably should have aired more than the snippet we aired, so viewers could have a better understanding of the context of those few seconds."

I should have known better than to trust a magazine run by a Kennedy.


cyberno6.gif (1081 bytes)Plucking quotes from the Peter Jennings interview detailed in the April 24 CyberAlert, the April 27 New York Post featured his liberal comments, about U.S. poverty and the evils of moving the homeless, in a cutting editorial. You may have heard Rush Limbaugh read from it on Monday's show. Here's how it played in New York, where Peter Jennings probably saw it, as made available on the New York Post's Web site:

Peter Jennings, Superbrain

Early Friday morning on CBS, one of the nation's most respected newsmen made an ass of himself. It wasn't just that ABC anchorman Peter Jennings praised Jane Fonda for her recent idiocy about people starving to death in the great state of Georgia; he actually complained that Rudy Giuliani's policies have brought an end to the city's homeless shanty town.

Liberal media bias?


Appearing on CBS's "Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" on April 24, Jennings described the kind of poverty he has seen abroad and then went into this spiel: "I was thinking about what Jane Fonda said the other night about North Georgia and how she thought

North Georgia was not unlike parts of the developing world and some politicians in Georgia jumped all over her."

Snyder: "When was she in North Georgia? Well yes she lives in Atlanta."

Jennings: "She lives in Atlanta. And the truth of the matter is there are parts of America which are just as bad as some of the worst parts in the rest of the world and that's desperately sad."

Oh? How about Rwanda? North Korea? Does Jennings really believe this, or is he just preening?

He might really believe it. After all, here's what he said about Giuliani's effort to get the homeless off the streets of New York City, but that has hardly pleased Jennings. "There are none of those little shanty towns anymore, they've all been pushed away. Some people may think that's a good thing but I always thought it was sad that we hide the homeless because, because it's a fact of life and I also think it's incumbent upon the rest of us to recognize the homeless and see the homeless and look the homeless in the eye because there's no lower status in life than to be without a place to live."

It's nice to know that, as Jennings frantically tries to hide his bald spot with shoe polish (see Tom Rosenstiel's book, "Strange Bedfellows," for the details), he's busy worrying that other people aren't looking the homeless in the eye.

We've heard of limousine liberals before. But limousine morons?

Wow. New York City is a tough place. -- Brent Baker

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