CyberAlert -- 01/16/2002 -- Dobbs: Enron Gave to Dems Too
Dobbs: Enron Gave to Dems Too; Not Even a "Whiff" of Scandal; Clinton's Links to Tyson Downplayed; Suffering Al Qaeda Prisoners
1) After a CNN story highlighted Enron donations to Republicans, Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs prodded the reporter: "We do have a sense that Enron not only contributing to Republicans but mightily, as well, to Democrats, wherever it served the political purpose of the company, isn't that correct?"
3) NBC's Today on Tuesday highlighted how both Republicans and Democrats benefitted from Enron's largess as Katie Couric raised Robert Rubin's calls. Tim Russert, however, said the calls symbolize how money buys access.
5) "It is a mosquito infested place at night, there is no mosquito repellant being handed out," CNN's Bob Franken fretted Monday night about the conditions being endured by the Al Qaeda prisoners being held in "cages" on the Guantanamo Naval Base.
6) What Katie Couric considered the most important events from her years at Today, which she joined in 1991: "We can see Anita Hill testifying. All of a sudden we can talk about sexual harassment in a very real way. We can look at how gays in America are treated when we talk about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard."
9) A reminder. The MRC's "Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2001," will take place on Thursday night. We're "oversold," but can still squeeze in a few more. If you want to join us, you must order a ticket today.
Enron gave a lot to Democrats too, CNN's Lou Dobbs pointed out on Monday's Moneyline in gently reprimanding reporter Tim O'Brien after O'Brien's story only mentioned donations to Republicans.
(Several Web sites have picked up on this exchange, including one in Germany highlighted by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, as well as the Hotline.)
Dobbs opened his January 14 show with a report from O'Brien, who joined CNN's Washington bureau last year after ABC News, for which he had covered the Supreme Court, did not renew his contract.
Dobbs announced: "Good evening, everyone. Tonight the investigations into Enron's collapse have only begun, but the questions and the revelations are flying, from charges of insider trading to more possible links between Bush administration officials and Enron executives. Tim O'Brien reports from Washington now on some of the facts and some of the fiction."
on the August memo to Enron CEO Kenneth Lay warning of financial
irregularities and how Arthur Andersen admitted internal memos raise
questions about whether documents were destroyed. O'Brien then observed:
Anchoring from New York, Dobbs suggested: "Anybody's guess, Tim, as you put it, as to where it might lead. But we do have a sense that Enron not only contributing to Republicans but mightily, as well, to Democrats, wherever it served the political purpose of the company, isn't that correct?"
O'Brien agreed, but repeated Lewis's point about ideological symmetry between Republicans and business: "That is certainly true. More to Republicans than to Democrats, but certainly to both parties, and especially in Texas its home base. But it's not surprising, especially the contributions to the Republicans, which support causes that have always helped large industries and particularly the energy industry, and such issues as deregulation."
Dobbs then explained why he raised the point: "The one thing we don't want to ever be accused of here is, of course, participating in creating, if you will, in the court of public opinion, making it a hanging court. So many questions here that I think it's really incumbent on us to be careful. There is enough here to create huge questions, serious questions, perhaps criminal indictment, and I just want to make sure we are balanced in keeping it all in perspective, Tim. Thank you."
Humorously, the transcript of this story posted on the CNN Web site, which I corrected against the actual video of the show, misidentified CNN's own reporter Tim O'Brien, calling him "Ted" O'Brien.
Add Newsweek's Howard Fineman to the short list of media figures who don't see a Bush administration tied to Enron. "Not even a whiff of" a smoking gun, Fineman declared on Sunday's Today.
As noted in the January 14 CyberAlert, on the McLaughlin Group Lawrence O'Donnell declared: "It is a business scandal story. There is absolutely not even a whiff of political scandal in this thing so far. And it's really funny to watch the Washington press corps try to manufacture it."
On the January 13
Today, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, Bloom proposed to Newsweek's
chief political reporter: "Howard, first of all, no smoking gun
right, there's nothing that we can tell from these phone calls that these
White House and Bush administration
Fineman agreed: "Not even a whiff of smoke at this point, David. There were lots of calls. Ken Lay, the head of Enron, made a number of them to the Secretary of the Treasury, he called Don Evans, the Commerce Secretary..."
The networks seem to be getting the message, with Monday and Tuesday night stories focusing on what Enron executives and Arthur Andersen auditors did, instead of on phone calls to Bush officials who took no action. (Nightline, however, on Tuesday night looked at the Bush team's links.) But maybe the network fall-off is more attributable to producers backing off as soon as they figured out that top Democrats also received money from Enron.
NBC's Today on Tuesday highlighted how both Republicans and Democrats benefitted from Enron's largess as Katie Couric raised Robert Rubin's calls with Tim Russert. He agreed that Democrats would be attacking Bush officials whether or not they took any action in response to phone calls.
Russert, however, portrayed a broken system in which the calls themselves symbolize how money buys access: "The calls are not illegal, but the concern in the Bush administration and in the political community and in the country is that if you give lots of money then you have lots of access. A normal businessman in the country wouldn't have been able to make these phone calls and get through."
Actually, I'd bet when the CEO of any top ten firm calls he would get through.
Geoffrey Dickens alerted me to this exchange on the January 15 Today.
Couric pointed out to Russert: "Now that we also learned that Mitch
Daniels, who's Director of the Office and Management and Budget, was also
called. Anything inappropriate about these calls, Tim, and why should we
Couric asked about
the financial scandal before pointing out: "You know Democrats and
Republicans have both received campaign contributions from-"
The text of a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes, which was distributed by fax on Wednesday morning titled, "News Media's Scandal Double-Standards. Shifting Standards: Tyson's Presidential Ties Downplayed, but Enron's Links to Bush on Center Stage."
The pull-out box
in the middle of the faxed page explained:
To access the
Adobe Acrobat PDF version, go to:
Now, the text of the January 16 Media Reality Check:
Who could ignore a story involving allegations of criminal wrongdoing against a huge company that's been a longtime supporter of the President? Well, journalists may be going nuts over George W. Bush and Enron, but the indignant network scandal machine barely twitched a few years ago when the company was Tyson Foods and the President was Bill Clinton.
Much of the media's Enron coverage has blended and blurred the large donations Bush's campaign received from company officials with the sad details of Enron workers whose pensions vanished with the company's bankruptcy, never stating what -- if anything -- Bush or his aides have done, or are suspected of having done, that was unethical. But during the Clinton years, the media compartmentalized individual allegations and questioned the motives of investigators who dared burden a President by forcing him to deal with hyped scandals.
Clinton's Tyson ties were known before he reached the White House. "Tyson Foods has provided free airplane rides for the governor and his wife, and its executives have helped him with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and industry fund-raising efforts that fueled Clinton's reelection campaigns and his race for President," the Washington Post's David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf chronicled in a March 22, 1992 front-page article. They quoted company chief Don Tyson: "You've got to support the governor."
Two years later, the networks learned that a Tyson's lawyer, James Blair, had helped Hillary Clinton scoop up nearly $100,000 in profits trading cattle futures during her husband's first year as governor. Sounded fishy, but the networks weren't very excited. During the six weeks after the story broke on March 18, 1994, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC had run just 18 stories on their evening newscasts -- fewer than Enron got during the past week alone.
Later in 1994, Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy was discovered to have received $35,000 in favors from Tyson. When Espy resigned on October 3, 1994, ABC's Peter Jennings mourned the departure of a "young man who seemed to represent so much promise." That was also the end of the story, at least as far as the three broadcast networks were concerned. While Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz convicted several lobbyists and extracted a $6 million guilty plea from Tyson, the networks aired only two stories from the time Espy left office until he was indicted 35 months later. The media could have scolded Clinton for the "appearance of impropriety" when they learned his wife pocketed $100,000 or when his Agriculture Secretary took improper gifts, but they didn't. (ABC's Nightline did devote an entire program to Espy's acquittal in 1998, however.)
Now the appearance standard is back. "Enron was a company with deep political connections to the Bush administration, and so there are political issues to be dealt with," Jennings stated on January 10. Three days later on Face the Nation, CBS's Bob Schieffer hoped the bad press would motivate the President to support campaign reform: "[If] it makes the White House look bad because all those Enron people who gave so much during the campaign are now calling to see if the White House can help them a little, well, here's another thought: Outlaw the big corporate contributions. That way it won't look like the companies are calling in a chip every time they call the White House." But what did Enron's chiefs get for their calls, Mr. Schieffer?
At its core, the "appearance" standard is a sloppy rule that allows the media to decide which scandals they'll promote and which they'll bury. Its selective application over the years reveals the depths of the media's scandal double-standards.
END Reprint of Media Reality Check
CNN's Bob Franken fretted Monday night about how the Al Qaeda prisoners being held in "cages" on the Guantanamo Naval Base, are suffering because "it is a mosquito infested place at night, there is no mosquito repellant being handed out."
On the January 14 NewsNight, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed, Franken recounted the arrival of new detainees: "They went to their new home which is this eight foot by six foot by eight foot high, well, it's a cage, they [the military] don't like to call it a cage, but it is a cage. It is a mosquito infested place at night, there is no mosquito repellant being handed out. But the place is supposed to be sprayed by [sic] mosquitoes. It is a pretty dismal existence and nobody knows exactly how long these people will be there or what they're going to do with them."
through a liberal prism of oppressed people. During Monday's Today show
50th anniversary special retrospective broadcast, MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens caught how co-host Katie Couric recalled what she considered the
most important moments from her years at Today, which she joined in 1991:
James Taranto's "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com has been highlighting examples of media outlets focusing on homelessness now that a Republican occupies the White House. On Tuesday, he picked up on an e-mail message from MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey, which Greg Pierce reprinted in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column on Monday.
An excerpt from Pierce's January 14 column:
"Homelessness -- one of the media's favorite tools to portray the alleged downside of Ronald Reagan's '80s prosperity -- was a more serious national problem during Bill Clinton's 1990s," the Media Research Center's Elizabeth J. Swasey writes.
"Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless admitted as much on [Wednesday] night's 'Hannity and Colmes' on the Fox News Channel: 'Definitely, we saw more homelessness in the 1990s than we did in the 1980s.'
"But we saw far less homelessness on TV sets during the Clinton years. The MRC did the math: During the first Bush administration, morning and evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN ran an average of 53 stories on homelessness annually, compared to less than 17 per year during the Clinton administration," the writer said.
"The soon-to-be No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Bernard Goldberg's 'Bias,' devotes an entire chapter to the media's indulgence in advocacy journalism on this topic. In it, Goldberg cited a 1999 column by the Providence Journal's Philip Terzian, formerly of the Carter administration, that showed the New York Times ran 50 stories on homelessness in 1988, including five on page one, but in 1998 ran only 10 -- not one on page one.
"The expanding homeless population was out of sight during the Clinton years but just three short weeks after George W. Bush assumed office, ABC won the race to be the first network to rediscover the homeless: On Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001, 'World News Tonight' Sunday anchor Carole Simpson intoned: 'Homelessness, which is estimated to affect from 2 and a half to 3 and a half million people, is again on the rise.'
END of Excerpt
For a full
transcript of that ABC story which ran just weeks after Bush was
inaugurated, as well as to view it via RealPlayer, refer back to the
February 12, 2001 CyberAlert:
daily "Inside Politics" column:
From the January 15 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by Larry King's new $7 million per year for four years deal with CNN, the "Top Ten Things People Scream at the Television Screen While Watching Larry King Live." Copyright 2002 by World Wide Pants, Inc.
10. "Larry doesn't look a day over
It's tomorrow night. A reminder to those planning to attend the MRC's "Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2001." It will take place Thursday, January 17 in the Atrium Ballroom of the Reagan International Trade Center, at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, DC. Reception at 6pm, dinner and roast at 7pm. Dress is business attire.
The MRC's Bonnie Langborgh set up a page with maps of the area, a diagram of the building and information about parking, the nearest Metro stop and ground transportation to DC from the local airports: http://www.mrc.org/bookstore/moreinfo.html
For a good map of
the area around the building, check out:
And a few tickets are still, barely, available. We've had to add tables to accommodate the expected crowd, but since there will inevitably be some last-minute cancellations and no-shows, we can probably squeeze in a few more people.
If you've procrastinated and now realize you don't want to miss out on an amusing evening making fun of the media, call the MRC's Sue Engle TODAY, that's Wednesday, and she'll take your order. It's $150 per seat. You must call on WEDNESDAY. Call (703) 683-9733 and ask for Sue at extension 163. She'll probably be around into the early evening.
This is your LAST CHANCE. For the 1999 Dishonors we packed 500 seats in a hotel room. This year we found a larger room and planned for 750 seats. We now expect more than 790 attendees. If you want to join us, call Sue immediately.
I look forward to meeting all the CyberAlert readers who will be in attendance. -- Brent Baker
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