MediaWatch: May 17, 1999

Vol. Thirteen No. 10


$300,000 Delay

Johnny Chung testified May 11 before the House Government Reform Committee, recounting how the General who heads Chinese military intelligence gave him $300,000 to donate in 1996 to help President Clinton’s re-election efforts. But the CBS Evening News didn’t find it newsworthy and ignored his appearance that night. The next day none of the morning shows aired a word about Chung.

ABC’s World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News did relay Chung’s story on May 11, but that meant it took them over five weeks to get around to it since the Los Angeles Times first disclosed the $300,000 story back on April 4.

In her story on Chung’s testimony, ABC’s Linda Douglass failed to note that he recounted how the Chinese General threatened his life if he talked about the money, but she ended by passing along Chung’s plug for campaign finance reform: "Chung blamed the flood of illegal contributions in the last presidential campaign on a political system that is addicted to money. And he told the House members, ‘I did not create the system, you did.’"

Feminist Honor Roll
100 Years of Great Liberal Women should have been the title of the April 30 Barbara Walters special on ABC, A Celebration: 100 Years of Great Women. Based upon a list compiled by Ladies Home Journal, the 90-minute show focused on the triumphs of liberal women, with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda the most frequently heard talking heads, ignoring any facts which might detract from their glory.

Two of the most flagrant examples came during the segments on Fonda and Hillary Clinton. Walters began, "But one woman on the list does seem to have it all, Jane Fonda. She has the career, the children and marriage, though she’s had more than one." After tracing Fonda’s movie career from Barbarella to her Oscar-winning performance in Klute, Walters continued, "In the ‘90s, Fonda has stopped acting and now spends much of her time on her favorite cause, preventing teenage pregnancy." No mention of Fonda’s anti-American, pro-communist activities during the Vietnam War, including her infamous trip to North Vietnam to denounce U.S. soldiers.

Then came Hillary the victim, with an uncritical look at the First Lady. "And what of today’s First Lady? Hillary Rodham Clinton. From the start, she has been more of a politician than a political wife....But early on, as we remember, she got in trouble for speaking her mind." Not to mention some other things. After glowing comments from Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and columnist Ann Landers, Walters reported, "No First Lady has been more investigated or scrutinized." As if it were for no other reason than speaking her mind, and all those probes into her role in Whitewater, Travelgate, or Filegate were simply unfounded.

Libs Love Liddy
Elizabeth Dole knows how to earn media admiration: go left and bash a conservative group. On ABC’s World News Tonight on May 9 John Cochran played a clip of Dole declaring: "I don’t think you need an AK-47 to defend your family. And I do believe in the ban on assault weapons. I also favor safety locks, yes safety locks on guns to protect our children."

Cochran approvingly noted: "She gets the occasional boo, but more often she gets applause and in the wake of the Columbine school tragedy Dole’s aides believe her stand on gun control will resonate to voters." Cochran then set her up: "Do you think it’s time to stop being scared of the gun lobby?" She replied: "I do not think they should dictate to our party."

Cochran explained the strategy: "Until now Dole has looked soft, uncertain on many issues. And then there was the gender problem. She is popular with women, but polls show men have doubts about her. But now, by taking on the gun lobby, she hopes men will decide maybe she is also tough enough to take on Slobodan Milosevic."

After that stretch Cochran did wonder if "it really takes so much courage to go toe-to-toe with the gun lobby" when polls show public disapproval for the NRA, but he never questioned the validity of her prescription.