CyberAlert -- 08/01/1997 -- ABC Finds GOP Abuse and Follows McCurry's Wish on Jones

ABC Finds GOP Abuse and Follows McCurry's Wish on Jones

Starting Monday at 10am ET C-SPAN2 will replay the fundraising hearings each weekday during the weeks of August 4 and August 11.

  1. Total morning show fundraising stories on Thursday: Zero
  2. Neither NBC Nightly News or ABC's World News Tonight ran a piece Thursday night, but ABC did raise foreign money fundraising -- by a little-known Republican Congressman.
  3. CBS and NBC note the subpoena from Paula Jones for a White House staffer, but ABC followed Mike McCurry's wish and ignored the matter. Newsweek suppressed an incident in which their staffer inadvertantly pimped for Clinton.

1) Morning Calm. The White House release, hours after the committee visited the subject of Wu Lap Seng and Charlie Trie, of information the committee requested in May that listed Wu's White House visits prompted stories Wednesday night on ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News. But producers for the morning shows didn't find White House obstructionism or visits by the foreign citizen newsworthy on Thursday morning.

For the third day in a row on July 31 ABC's Good Morning America failed to mention fundraising. Same went for This Morning on CBS, the 16th straight weekday morning that CBS has not bothered mentioning fundraising.

NBC's Today, like Nightly News the previous night, did not raise the obstructionism, but Today also skipped telling viewers anything about what Lisa Myers had reported on Wednesday's Nightly News: Trie's funny money donations to Clinton's legal defense fund. But it wasn't like Today avoided politics. Thursday's Today featured a q&a session with Tim Russert conducted by Matt Lauer, but MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that they stuck to talking about the approval ratings for Clinton and Gingrich.

2) The current round of hearings held by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee wrapped up Thursday with testimony from a couple of investigators hired by the Clinton legal defense fund. One investigator said he heard that DNC fundraisers told an Oklahoma Indian tribe that a donation would ensure the return of their lands and the committee zoomed in on a never pursued offer from the investigator to the tribe to dig up dirt on Senator Don Nickles who opposed the land return.

Evening show coverage: Only the CBS Evening News ran a story, though ABC's World News Tonight found time for news of foreign fundraising by a Republican. Nightline also offered its second show on the hearings.

-- ABC's July 31 World News Tonight skipped the Senate probe, but anchor Aaron Brown relayed:

"California Congressman Jay Kim agreed to plead guilty today to charges that he accepted more than $230,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Kim admits receiving illegal corporate and foreign money, including $50,000 from a Taiwanese national. Kim says he will not resign."

-- NBC Nightly News ignored the hearings, so those who watch Today in the morning and Nightly News in the evening have yet to learn of how the White House delayed releasing the documents detailing Wu's White House visits or of how that obstructionism had led committee Chairman Fred Thompson to issue subpoenas for all pending documents.

(When the tribe's story first broke, it should be noted, only NBC Nightly News picked it up. As reported in the March 11 CyberAlert, only NBC mentioned the March 10 Washington Post story on how "the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indians of Oklahoma kicked in $107,000 to the Democratic National Committee and hoped the money would help result in favorable Clinton Administration action on the return of their tribal lands. It didn't happen." Noting how the DNC later asked for another $25,000 for inaugural activities, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski asserted: "Tribal leaders believe they're the victims of what they call a shakedown.")

Thursday's NBC Nightly News made time for a full story on baby talk, an In Depth report on the hidden danger of drivers with suspended licenses who keep driving, and how the Energy Dept gave free, water saving washing machines to every resident of a Kansas town with a water shortage.

-- It's clear that This Morning and CBS Evening News are run by different teams of producers. While This Morning never touches the hearings, on Thursday the CBS Evening News aired a fundraising story for the fourth straight day. Dan Rather announced:

"The U.S. Senate investigation into dirty money and foreign cash funneled into American political campaigns branched off in new directions today, most revolving around activities of fundraiser Charlie Trie. Congressional investigators say that, working with Trie, a Buddhist sect helped raise $800,000 for President Clinton's legal defense fund. And then today's testimony went from the strange to the downright bizarre, as CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer reports."

Schieffer began by explaining how investigator Terry Lenzner admitted he drew up proposal to investigate, for the Oklahoma Indian tribe, Senator Don Nickles and his wife his wife. As transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson, Schieffer continued:

"After the Indians gave the Democratic Party $100,000 in an unsuccessful effort to recover this land, a donation the party returned when it came to light, the Indians said a close friend of the President told them the best way to get the land was to hire Lenzner to dig up dirt on Nickles."

Senator Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma: "I think clearly the tribe, or your group, or the Democratic officials were trying to dig up something and use that for either extortion or bribery or intimidation, I'll just tell you it won't work."

Schieffer: "In the end, Lenzner said the Indians decided not to hire him, so he didn't investigate Nickles. The committee now plans at least a two-week summer break before resuming its investigation, but clearly this phase couldn't have ended on a weirder note. Bob Schieffer, CBS News, at the Capitol."

A weird note World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News viewers never heard a word about.

-- Thursday night Nightline aired its second show on the hearings. Linda Douglass reviewed the testimony, emphasizing how slowly the hearings had begun. Then host Cokie Roberts interviewed Fred Thompson. She focused on style and spent as much time pushing her personal crusade for "campaign finance reform" as exploring the wrongdoing uncovered so far.

Sample questions from Roberts to Thompson:

-- "Is part of the problem in terms of us grasping it, or the public getting ahold on it, that some of the people telling the story are not very compelling people?"

-- After Thompson rejected her premise that everybody does it and countered that the Democrats in 1996 committed unprecedented violations, Roberts pushed campaign reform: "One of the questions then is will you be able to get all that out in a way that people finally say 'Enough, change the law,' or are you being sabotaged every step of the way both by Democrats and by members of your own party on that?"

On the July 10 Nightline Forrest Sawyer also pressed Senator John Glenn from the left on "reform." See the July 14 CyberAlert. Sawyer opened that edition by arguing:

"Look at the latest ABC News poll: Do you favor campaign finance reform? Sixty-two percent said yes. Do you think it's likely to happen? Sixty-seven percent said no. In the meantime, President Clinton's approval rating is as high as it's ever been, 64 percent, which means, Senator Thompson, so far America is either not listening or not believing. Maybe bad news for the Republicans and good news for the Democrats. But for those hoping for real campaign finance reform, it's all disappointing."

3) Reporters asking about how lawyers for Paula Jones issued a subpoena for a White House staffer, supposedly sexually harassed in 1993 by Bill Clinton in the White House, angered Press Secretary Mike McCurry. On Thursday's Inside Politics CNN's Wolf Blitzer recounted that day's press briefing session:

"It got rather testy in the White House Thursday when reporters asked about the latest potential bombshell in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton."

Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary: "You're not going to use me at this podium to further stories that your news organizations have to decide on their own whether or not they want to pursue."

ABC met McCurry's hopes. World News Tonight ignored the development on Thursday night of a story first broken by a network on Wednesday's CBS Evening News (See July 31 CyberAlert). None of the morning shows on Thursday uttered a word about the step. The July 31 NBC Nightly News did include a brief item emphasizing the non-cooperation by the woman. Tom Brokaw intoned:

"Warriors for Paula Jones served a subpoena on a former White House aide, who they believe may have been the target of an improper sexual advance by the President. But lawyers for Kathleen Willy, who worked in the White House counsel's office, say their client is outraged about being pulled into this case and said she has no knowledge or information of any relevance to the Paula Jones case."

Dan Rather offered a similar update to their July 30 story.

All of this reminds me of an item I'd forgotten to pass along from the July Washingtonian magazine. From the magazine's "Capital Comment" section a story headlined "Don't Get Between Bill and a Babe" on how "a Newsweek contract photographer has learned a little of what it must be like to work for Bill Clinton." The monthly offered an illuminating illustration:

"Larry Downing, who was shooting for the White House Correspondents' Association at its annual dinner, had an unexpected run-in with the President.

"During the event, Clinton was talking to an attractive woman across the roped-off buffer area. Photographers work in that area, between the dais and the main ballroom.

"Downing was wearing one of those lapel pins the Secret Service hands out to give freer access. Clinton pointed at Downing and asked him to get a business card from the woman.

"'Yes, sir,' Downing said. The President seemed to assume that Downing worked for him because of the pin and because Downing looked familiar from covering the White House for Newsweek.

"Photographers who saw the incident said Downing took the card from the woman and, because the Secret Service doesn't want anyone handing anything directly to the President, showed it to a nearby agent -- who looked at it and handed it back to Downing to give to Clinton.

"A look of anger crossed Clinton's face. He snapped to Downing: 'You don't have to ask for permission when I tell you to do something. This is my life, and nobody's going to tell me what to do.'"

Somehow this incident never made it into Newsweek.

-- Brent Baker