CyberAlert -- 06/02/1999 -- "It Only Takes One" Missile; "NBC News Hosed Me" A Talk Show Host Asserted

"It Only Takes One" Missile; "NBC News Hosed Me" A Talk Show Host Asserted

1) ABC, CBS and NBC stuck to airline prices and health news on Tuesday night, but FNC outlined how China obtained "better bombs through espionage, better missiles through illicit commerce" and though the Chinese arsenal is small, "it only takes one" missile.

2) CNN's Howard Kurtz used a magazine's "Red Scare" cover to illustrate how another media outlet agreed the threat from China had been exaggerated, but actually the magazine found: "The Cox Report is out, and it is frightening."

3) In contrast to CNN, FNC Fox Newswatch found that "on television Chinagate has not been covered very much." And a FNC panelist admitted her error in using false numbers to undercut the MRC.

4) "NBC News hosed me," Boston talk radio host Howie Carr asserted in recalling how 28 of 32 callers took a pro-gun view but NBC aired a clip of just one favoring gun control. "Juanita Broaddrick notwithstanding, NBC stands for Nothing But Clinton."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The broadcast networks couldn't agree on a lead story for Tuesday night, but they all agreed to ignore China. NBC Nightly News hasn't touched China since last Tuesday, ABC's World News Tonight since last Wednesday and the CBS Evening News since last Thursday. The morning shows have all skipped it since the morning after the release of the Cox Report.

Tuesday night, June 1, FNC Fox Report did feature a lengthy review by Carl Cameron of China's espionage efforts. Cameron warned: "Chinese weapons have dramatically improved because of what has been obtained illegally and their sophistication has been enhanced by what the Clinton administration has allowed China to buy legally."
He explained how Loral and Hughes improved Chinese rockets used to launch satellites, cautioning: "That's a problem because the rockets China uses to launch satellites are effectively identical to the missiles they use to launch nuclear weapons. Better bombs through espionage, better missiles through illicit commerce."
After noting how Cox found China was using some of the 600 high performance computers, which the Clinton administration approved for export, for weapons design, Cameron reminded viewers of the political donations funneled from China, and specifically of the activities of John Huang: "He had secret security clearance when he worked at the Commerce Department and though he was not supposed to have anything to do with China, he regularly sent packages and faxes to China from an office in downtown Washington that he went out of his way to keep secret."
Huang, as well as Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie, Cameron noted, all lobbied for the relaxation of export controls and Clinton did transfer authority for export approval from the State Department to the more business-promoting Commerce Department.
Cameron concluded:
"The threat from China is a matter of debate. For now they're only testing nuclear weapons based on the most sophisticated stolen U.S. technology and the Chinese arsenal is far smaller than that of the United States, though nuclear weapons analysts point out it only takes one."

That's a far more sobering assessment than delivered last Thursday by CBS News reporter Eric Engberg who dismissively concluded his story on how the Cox Report overstated the threat:
"The Cox Report says China uncovered the secrets of seven U.S. nuclear warheads, but the intelligence evidence is unclear. It may be as low as four, two of which are obsolete. Amidst all the voices raised in alarm there is a bottom line: Unlike many of the things in the Cox Report there's no argument here. Number of strategic nuclear weapons? U.S.: six thousand, China: less than two dozen."

For more on Engberg's piece or to see it via RealPlayer, go to the May 28 CyberAlert:

Back to Tuesday, June 1, ABC's World News Tonight led with a possible end to the Kosovo war as the President of Finland is going to Belgrade. ABC also featured a look at rising airfares and how businesses in Detroit and Des Moines are making airline competition possible by guaranteeing business to two new start-up airlines, Pro Air in Detroit and Access Air in Des Moines.

The CBS Evening News began with Clinton's attack on video games. Later stories included a health alert for the drug used by Mark McGwire, how Merrill Lynch is finally getting around to going online, a profile of a lawyer who gets those falsely imprisoned out of prison by proving how prosecutors withheld evidence and the show ended with a story about how the casket John Kennedy traveled in from Dallas to Bethesda was later dumped into the Atlantic Ocean off Delaware.

NBC Nightly News opened with a breakthrough in organ transplants -- the possibility of overcoming rejection by using genetically engineered cells to change cells so they accept the foreign body part. NBC's second story: a new anti-heart attack drug. The In Depth segment focused on rising airfares and the dangers of buying tickets via Internet sites.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Howard Kurtz's false scare about the "Red Scare"? As outlined in the June 1 CyberAlert, the May 29 CNN Reliable Sources assumed the Cox Report was overplayed by the media. Host Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post plugged the segment: "When we come back, the Chinese spy scandal. Has the press been spoon-fed by congressional investigators?" After the ad break, Kurtz introduced the segment while holding up the cover of a magazine, seemingly to illustrate his point about how another media outlet agreed with his take that the threat from China had been exaggerated by the report the media supposedly bought into: "We turn now to what one magazine, National Journal, calls 'The Red Scare.'"

Was National Journal's headline trying to convey a cynical assessment of Cox's report, implying that his conclusions were exaggerated? "Red Scare" is the kind of language used by anti-anti-communists to ridicule the concerns of conservatives. Well, that is the headline for the May 29 edition of National Journal, but when I received my copy in the mail I noticed that the magazine's point was the opposite of that implied. Under the headline "Red Scare" and a photo of a missile being launched, the magazine's cover states:

"Finally, the Cox Report is out, and it is frightening. Over 25 years, the People's Republic of China stole many of America's most precious nuclear secrets, and leapfrogged a generation in bomb know-how. What China got, why U.S. security failed, and how everything has changed -- from U.S.-China relations to the 2000 elections. A Special Report."

To read more about the Reliable Sources discussion, to see an image of Kurtz holding up the National Journal cover or to play a clip of Reliable Sources via RealPlayer, go to:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) FNC's opposite assessment and Jane Hall concedes her error. "So have the media been used to prolong, perhaps even hype the story?" asked Howard Kurtz on CNN's Reliable Sources first aired at 6:30pm ET on Saturday. On FNC's Fox Newswatch aired a half hour later viewers heard an opposing assessment as host Eric Burns asked his panel:
"We have agreed on this program, that at least on television, Chinagate has not been covered very much. Jane, might the release of the Cox Report be a turning point? Is this story going to get the kind of coverage that at least we here all think it should have gotten all along?"

Jane Hall, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and current American University professor, answered: "Well, you know, I don't think there's enough evidence that's the case. ABC led with it when it came out, but the other networks did not. You know on last week's program I said, I misstated the number of minutes this story has gotten. Since it broke, 62. One week when it was big in March it got 18 minutes and was the highest rated. But frankly, they haven't really devoted the time that you might expect to the story."

Indeed, Hall deserves credit for correcting her error, a rare event on television news. As reported in the May 25 CyberAlert, in contradicting the premise of a MRC-bought New York Times ad which listed many of the newspaper disclosures that the networks ignored, Hall asserted that the MRC's premise about how the story had been underplayed was off base. On the May 22 Fox Newswatch she insisted: "I just don't think it's valid. First of all, I called up a rival group that is non-partisan, the Tyndall Report, which counts the minutes. One week in March when this story broke it was on 62 minutes. It was the highest rated story of that week. It's true I think because it's not a visual story that it's not getting a ton of coverage but it has nothing to do with bias."

In fact, as Hall was alluding to in her correction, Tyndall counted 62 minutes of coverage on the weekday editions of the three broadcast network evening shows from the Spring of 1998 through early May 1999. The week of March 8-12, 1999, immediately after the New York Times revealed the espionage, generated 18 minutes of attention.

To see the MRC's ad, go to:


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) "For reports like this, Peacock ought to be shot" announced the headline over a May 30 Boston Herald column by Howie Carr about a biased story run last week on NBC Nightly News. "NBC News hosed me. Talk about the Fleecing of America, and it was NBC doing the shearing," Carr began his column which former MRC analyst Eric Darbe brought to my attention.

Carr was referring to a May 25 story on how Americans are turning against guns which, as the May 26 CyberAlert noted, ran before NBC's piece on the Cox Report. To illustrate how suburban women are turning against guns, NBC's Lisa Myers played a soundbite from a caller to Carr's WRKO radio talk show, but as Carr noted, 28 of 32 callers took the opposite point of view and so were ignored by NBC.

The May 26 CyberAlert recounted what Myers reported: "Since the massacre at Columbine High School the gun control debate has shifted dramatically and become almost impossible to escape. A usually friendly talk show host takes on a supporter of the gun lobby."
Rosie O'Donnell on her show last week : "I don't think it's in the Constitution to have assault weapons in the year 2000."
Tom Selleck on same show: "I didn't come on your show to have a debate. I came on your show to plug a movie."
Myers: "Even some gun owners are having second thoughts. Recently actress Sharon Stone turned over her shotgun and three handguns to police, saying 'our children are in danger. I choose to surrender my right to bear arms.' Pollsters say public opinion has shifted dramatically, that large majorities now favor moderate restrictions on guns."
Linda DiVall, GOP pollster: "I think where the ground is shifting is primarily in suburban America and with those people who have not owned guns."
Myers: "Suburban women in particular have changed their minds. One who owns guns called a Boston radio show."
Caller to a radio talk show: "I think this is entirely reasonable and neither my husband nor I are impacted in any bad way from this."

To watch the Myers piece via RealPlayer, go to:

Now to a reprint of Carr's entertaining review of how he was "hosed" by NBC News, picking up after the first sentence listed above:

Yeah, I should have known better. But hell, it wasn't CNN -- the Clinton News Network. And Bryant Gumbel has crossed the street. But the sad reality is that, Juanita Broaddrick notwithstanding, NBC stands for Nothing But Clinton.

And when it was all over, Tom Brokaw didn't even say, "You'd better put some ice on that."

Here's what happened. At the Peacock's behest Tuesday, I devoted the first hour of my radio show to that most tired of topics, gun control.

They were looking, they said, for a soundbite of someone saying he'd changed his or her (preferably female) mind on gun control since Littleton.

So I took 32 calls, at least 28 of which were anti-gun control. Most of the callers said, yeah, they'd changed their minds, specifically, in that they'd gotten a lot more PO'd about being scapegoated by fools like Spike Lee, not to mention the usual Clinton apologists who, when they're not denouncing the NRA as a threat to Western civilization, are cheering the use of cluster bombs against civilians in the Balkans and bellowing "McCarthyism" at anyone who mentions the illegal Chinese cash that was being funneled into Clinton's coffers.

To recap -- 28 of my 32 callers did not say the Politically Correct thing NBC was looking for, but four did.

Can you guess which quote Lisa Myers -- or her producer -- used in her package that evening on NBC Nightly News?

Now I understand that when you allow a camera crew into your life, you run certain risks. And yes, when I was in local TV news, I sent people out and I told them what sound bites I needed. But if the sentiment is running 7-1 against the conventional wisdom, don't you need to at least mention that fact in your story?

In retrospect, I should have suspected a setup when NBC called about gun control on the day the Cox Report came out.

My first instinct was to tell them to find some other chump. I've been down this road before. They don't get what they want, so you get left on the cutting-room floor. One time, after Oklahoma City, they came in and backlit the studio so I looked as demented as Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio. But after 15 minutes in which nobody quoted from Mein Kampf, they got discouraged and left.

So, I figured, I can handle NBC.

Boy, was I naive.

The first tip-off came when the crew stayed the whole hour. Obviously, they'd left a hole in Myers' piece for a five-second sound bite that would conform to the spin they'd already decided on, facts be damned.

After a "hard" news piece it was time for Lisa Myers' sidebar. Deep thinkers Rosie O'Donnell and Sharon Stone flickered across the screen. Then a GOP pollster, citing no polls, mentioned the changes in "suburban America."

Myers: "Suburban women in particular have changed their minds. One who owns guns called a Boston radio show."

How does Lisa Myers know this woman is from the suburbs? I never asked the caller, and she never told me.

"I think," said the caller, "this is entirely reasonable and neither my husband nor I are impacted in any bad way from this."

Oh well, it's over now. And I did learn a lesson. Nowadays NBC is no different from those tabloid TV shows.

I still have to do business with these guys at some level. Although, come to think of it, I haven't been on MSNBC in two months. Not since the night I reminded Brian Williams of the old Abraham Lincoln brigades of pinko American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Maybe, I said, if all of the Beautiful People in Hollywood, Wall Street and Martha's Vineyard believe so fervently in bombing Serbian hospitals and refugee convoys, they ought to enlist to fight in Kosovo.

They could call themselves the Bill Clinton Brigade.

Brian Williams laughed nervously, I vanished, and it's been sayo-bleeping-nara ever since.

Payback is a bitch. But I already knew that.

END Reprint

You can read this column online at:

Carr's columns are posted three days a week at:

Lesson: Never trust the media, especially when they are just looking for a quote or soundbite to fill a slot. They can even fool an experienced and media-savvy guy like Carr. -- Brent Baker


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