MediaWatch: March 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 3

Revolving Door: Clinton's Slumber Party

The names of several media executives were sprinkled among the 831 names made public of overnight White House guests in Clinton's first term: CNN founder Ted Turner, CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, and Rick Kaplan, a long-time ABC News executive recently in charge of specials in ABC's entertainment division. New-ly ensconced ABC News President David Westin is bringing Kaplan back to the news division.

Moonves maxed out to the Clinton-Gore campaign, contrubuting $1,000. He pitched in another $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee last year, Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz relayed February 27.

Kurtz noted that Kaplan was the Executive Producer of World News Tonight when he "stayed at the White House with his wife in the summer of 1993." So, is there anything wrong with accepting an invitation from Clinton, whom Kaplan calls a longtime "friend"? Not as long as you keep it secret, Kaplan suggested in the March 3 Electronic Media: "It's nobody's business." Kurtz summarized Kaplan's view: "Kaplan said his visit did not create an appearance problem because it was never made public until now. He said his ties to Clinton had no impact on his work." He assured Kurtz: "The idea that you could suddenly decide to gild the lily or twist the news, it's a non-starter."

Kaplan is more than just a one-night guest. While Executive Producer of Prime Time Live in 1992 he provided Clinton campaign strategy when the Gennifer Flowers story broke. "Clinton called Kaplan for advice," Los Angeles Times reporter Tom Rosenstiel recounted in his campaign book Strange Bedfellows. On the way to the airport, Clinton made another call to Kaplan and the "night ended for Kaplan at 4am, when Clinton called one last time." Two months later as Clinton's campaign floundered in New York, aides suggested an appearance on the Don Imus show. "The appearance was clinched," CNN producer Matthew Saal recalled in the January 1993 Washington Monthly, "when Rick Kaplan...called the radio show host to see if he could get the pair together. The answer was yes."

ABC Morning, Clinton Night

The March 3 U.S. News & World Report carried a story on Clinton's fundraising illustrated by a two-page photo of Clinton addressing a February 18 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in New York City. Attendees paid "either $10,000 in direct contributions or $25,000 in soft money," The Washington Timesreported. C-SPAN's Brian Lamb made an interesting discovery while looking closely at the photo: the name tag of one man read "Arthur Miller." He's Good Morning America's legal editor.

Disney's Democrat

Late February stories on discontent among Walt Disney Company stock holders revealed that a liberal Democratic politician sits on the board of the company which owns ABC: former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. The February 24 Wall Street Journal reported that "Disney paid Mr. Mitchell $50,000 for his consulting on international business matters in fiscal 1996. His Washington law firm was paid an additional $122,764." Mitchell, the only member of the board with overt political links, must fit in well. Disney shoveled $1,063,050 in soft money to Democrats in 1995-96, but just $296,450 to Republicans according to the Center for Responsive Politics.