MediaWatch: March 1993

Vol. Seven No. 3

Clinton Kiddie Clan

In the last 12 years, many in the media complained about manipulative White House photo opportunities. Yet, on February 20, ABC created one for Bill Clinton. Peter Jennings hosted a two-hour program from the White House which provided a forum for the President to take questions from children.

Some reporters saw this for what it was -- a 120-minute photo op. In the February 21 New York Times, reporter Michael Kelly wrote that "The children's questions, which were rehearsed in the White House by ABC News Friday night, included the cute (`Is Chelsea single?'), the soft (`Why did you want to become President?') and the politically pointed (`As a country, we are very biased towards homosexuals; what are you going to do to help America accept them?')."

Kelly questioned ABC about the White House rehearsals: "ABC News chose the children to `show a cross section of America' and to illustrate such specific issues as the environment and homelessness, said an ABC News spokesman, Arnot Walker. Mr. Walker said the network knew in advance the general nature of the questions that would be asked...but did not rehearse the questioners. He said the children used during a technical rehearsal at the White House...were different from those shown on the program."

But an ABC staffer told Kelly "The child who got the program's biggest laugh by asking Mr. Clinton if his daughter, Chelsea, were single, had first asked that question as a member of the rehearsal audience and had been invited to return and ask it."

On World News Saturday that night, reporter Tom Foreman raved: "As one parent put it: `There is no better way to make me change my opinion than to change the world for my child.' With nothing more than a listening ear, that is what Bill Clinton did."