CyberAlert -- 11/25/1997 -- Turner Hires a Liberal

Turner Hires a Liberal; Whitewater Check Not Checked

1) CBS Evening News relayed the White House attack on the Arlington "smear," but the networks still ignored the story before the denial.

2) Turner picked a liberal Democrat, who pushed Clinton left on the environment, to head the foundation he created to give away $1 billion.

3) ABC, CBS and CNN have yet to air an evening story on the discovery of the Whitewater check payable to Bill Clinton.

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cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The November 24 CyberAlert reported that one 18 second item on Friday's Good Morning America was the totality of broadcast network attention to the Arlington Cemetery allegation "through Friday night." In fact, as MRC analyst Clay Waters informed me on Monday, the CBS Evening News carried a short item Friday night. I just fast-forwarded through it since CBS did not put up a graphic for it. Between a story on skinheads in Denver and video of a malfunctioning satellite, Dan Rather took 17 seconds to announce:
"There's been considerable publicity lately about accusations that President Clinton quote, 'perhaps provided burial space at Arlington National Cemetery to major campaign donors,' unquote. Spokesmen for President Clinton flatly and unequivocally denied this today to CBS News and they called it 'a deliberate political smear,' unquote."

The point remains though, as outlined in the last CyberAlert, that in the 48 hour news cycle for the allegation, from release of the Insight article on Wednesday afternoon through Army Secretary Togo West's effective defusing of it Friday afternoon, with one small exception, the broadcast networks did not publicize the charge. From Wednesday's evening shows through Friday's morning shows the one 18 second GMA item was the only broadcast network coverage. Just something to keep in mind if you hear complaints about how the "mainstream" media spread a false charge unleashed by a right-wing outlet. See the November 21 CyberAlert on how Mike McCurry denounced the mainstream press.

Even after Togo West's Friday afternoon press conference the story didn't generate much network interest. Friday night neither ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News mentioned the subject. (And my fast-forwarding did not fail me as MRC analysts Gene Eliasen and Geoffrey Dickens have confirmed the lack of ABC and NBC coverage.) The flap did get a bit of attention on some of the weekend shows: a short segment on CBS's Saturday Morning, a brief discussion amongst Robert Novak, William Safire and Tim Russert on Meet the Press, a topic raised on the Fox News Sunday roundtable; plus the three items cited in the last CyberAlert: Margaret Carlson's Outrage of the Week on CNN's Capital Gang, a roundtable topic on CNN's Late Edition and the end of show comment from Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts on ABC's This Week.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Last week Ted Turner chose a liberal Democrat to run the foundation he created to oversee distribution of his $1 billion gift to the United Nations. By the end of December Tim Wirth, now Undersecretary of State, will assume the position of President of Turner's just-created United Nations Foundation. Before joining the Clinton team Wirth had served as a Congressman and Senator from Colorado, earning a very liberal reputation.

At the State Department Wirth has been in charge of the administration's environmental efforts, including plans for next month's Kyoto summit. His departure, the Los Angeles Times reported on November 20, is "leaving his colleagues angry and confused." The Times explained: "Wirth had been widely seen as likely to head the U.S. delegation to the global warming talks in Kyoto, Japan, which begin Dec. 1. His departure, hastily disclosed by Turner, clearly dismayed other Clinton administration aides and sent them scurrying to find another candidate to lead the U.S. team."

Wirth told the LA Times that "he still expects 'to be an enthusiastic member' of the U.S. delegation. 'I don't see what going to Turner has to do with being on this team,' Wirth said. But other administration officials questioned whether Wirth would have a role in Kyoto."

The same day The Washington Times noted how Wirth had pushed the administration from the left and tried to shut down any conservative opposition:
"Wirth became a lightning rod for conservative opposition to the global warming treaty in Congress because of his moves calling on the United States and other industrialized nations to adopt legally binding reductions in carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gasses while exempting developing countries from such cuts...
"More recently, Wirth prompted criticism by privately asking congressional delegates to the UN-sponsored negotiations not to criticize the administration's position in Kyoto."

Not much of a believer in "diversity."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) ABC, CBS and CNN have yet to tell their evening show viewers anything about the discovery of the Whitewater check in the trunk of an abandoned car. The 1982 Madison check for $27,000 payable to Bill Clinton contradicts his assertion that he never borrowed any money from the S&L.

When the story broke back on November 6 CNN's Inside Politics carried a story and that morning NBC's Today aired a 17-second item. The next week, on November 10, NBC Nightly News featured the only evening show story yet on the discovery. (See the November 12 CyberAlert.)

Here's how the other networks have handled the topic:

ABC: Nothing on the discovery on either Good Morning America or World News Tonight, reported MRC analyst Gene Eliasen.
CNN: Though Inside Politics has run two stories, MRC analyst Clay Waters has observed that through last week the story had never made it onto The World Today.
CBS: Zilch on the Evening News or This Morning. But, more than a week later, the November 15 CBS News Saturday Morning gave the revelation a few seconds. Every week during the last half hour of the two-hour show CBS News radio reporter Mark Knoller gives hosts Susan Molinari and Russ Mitchell a rundown on the week at the White House. MRC analyst Steve Kaminski took down his 33 seconds on the Whitewater discovery, the totality of CBS News coverage so far:
"...The President also finds himself under assault from other directions. Get this: out of the blue, workers at a junkyard in Arkansas recently cracked open the trunk of an old Mercury Marquis and found an uncashed check for more than $27,000 made out to Bill Clinton. His former partner in Whitewater, convicted felon James McDougal, says the check is evidence that the President committed perjury when he gave testimony that he never got a loan from McDougal's bank. The President's lawyer says the check has all the credibility of a newly discovered Elvis autobiography...."

To put the prominence CBS News gave the story in some perspective, the Saturday morning CBS show gets lower ratings than cartoons on the WB network, a network without an affiliate in many major markets.

Finally, CNN has let go of another on-air personality: Susan Rook, host of TalkBack Live. As noted by John Carmody in the November 24 Washington Post, she's the sixth on-air anchor or reporter dropped by new CNN President Rick Kaplan. Last week CNN announced the departure of Kitty Pilgrim, Kathleen Kennedy, Linden Soles, Jeff Levine and Mark Feldstein.

-- Brent Baker