Networks Emulate Clinton's Memory Loss

Equitable CEO's Testimony on Clinton Phone Calls, Battles Over White House Stonewalling Ignored

Richard Jenrette, ex-CEO of the Equitable Companies, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday that he received a phone call from President Clinton in October 1994 asking for a contribution, and he gave $50,000. (In February 1996, Vice President Gore called him, and he gave another $25,000.) While Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked why Jenrette was there, Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) noted his appearance underlined that Clinton still claims he has no memory of making phone calls. Jenrette responded at one point yesterday with the quip: "It's wonderful. At age 69 I'm the only one who can remember."

Senate committee lawyers also sparred intensely with White House lawyers over continuous stonewalling on the coffee videotapes, as well as evidence of Harold Ickes' intervention in the Chippewa Indian casino story, and other pieces of evidence that appear only after they could be useful in questioning witnesses. But CNN and MSNBC both ran no live hearings coverage, and the hearings were completely absent in both evening and morning newscasts.

The networks also have yet to acknowledge Monday's Los Angeles Times story that Arief Wiradinata, the "Indonesian gardener," contradicted the White House line and said his almost half-million dollars in DNC contributions came from an Indonesian national tied to the Lippo Group. That's three days and counting.

Evening news, October 29:

ABC's World News Tonight featured White House reporter John Donvan's note that Jiang Zemin protests "allied speakers from the far right [the Family Research Council's Gary Bauer] with Hollywood activism" [Richard Gere]. Donvan didn't have an extreme label for Jiang.

CBS Evening News did at least devote a 30-second anchor brief to Jenrette's story on October 20.

NBC Nightly News did focus on money and politics on Tuesday night, with a focus on Sen. Fred Thompson. Lisa Myers reported on a bill that would extend exclusive rights to the anti-allergy drug Claritin: "At stake: billions of dollars. First the special deal was pushed by Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the investigation into money and politics. But when reporters started asking questons, Thompson quickly backed off."

CNN's The World Today aired a 52-second anchor brief on the hearings, and noted they would offer live coverage of the Senate committee hearing testimony from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt today.

Morning shows, October 30:

None of the morning shows made any mention of Babbitt's testimony today over his department's denial of Chippewa Indians' request to build a casino in Hudson, Wisconsin after potentially competing tribes donated $300,000 to the DNC. ABC is the only of the three broadcast networks to even mention Babbitt is under a preliminary 30-day Justice Department investigation to see if an independent counsel is needed.

ABC's Good Morning America aired one anchor brief at 7:30 that Clinton asked Jiang yesterday about whether his government had donated to American politicians in the last election cycle, which Jiang denied.

On NBC, Today co-host Matt Lauer interviewed National Security Adviser Sandy Berger about China, but asked no questions about Berger's Senate testimony or the Asian fundraising connection.

CBS This Morning began its 8 am hour with three nanny-trial segments and one on the upstate New York AIDS scandal. Yesterday, they skipped a preview of the hearings, but aired a demonstration of how to knit sweaters from dog hair. - Tim Graham and Brent Baker