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CyberAlert -- 01/26/2001 -- CBS Tagged Offner "Policy Expert"

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CBS Tagged Offner "Policy Expert"; Critics Won't "Let Go" of Clinton; NBC Picked Up on Trashing of OEOB, FNC on Plane Theft

1) Without caveats ABC and NBC relayed how Alan Greenspan favored the idea of a tax cut, but CBS's Dan Rather emphasized how Greenspan "did not endorse the big Bush tax cut plan." A follow up story reminded viewers how "the tax cut was roundly criticized during the election campaign for catering to the rich."

2) The CBS Evening News ran a one-sided story relaying the claims of two critics brought forward by John Ashcroft's enemies. Bob Schieffer described Paul Offner as simply "a policy expert." FNC's Brian Wilson realized he's "a long time Democratic activist who served on the Hillary Clinton health care task force."

3) CBS finally ran a story on the pardon for Marc Rich, but painted Bill Clinton as the victim of over-zealous critics. "Critics of former President Clinton are going beyond the very end....Exiting the White House Bill Clinton left the door wide open for critics not ready to let go."

4) Geraldo Rivera boasted that "Denise Rich happens to be a real good friend of mine." He argued that criticism of Clinton's pardon is "hypocritical when you consider that the Reagan administration was dealing with the same Ayatollah government at exactly the same time" and President George H. W. Bush pardoned them.

5) Dan Rather and Charles Gibson used the fact that President Bush opposes price controls as evidence he's influenced by donations from Enron. Gibson to John McCain: "Is that an example of the kind of influence that money buys?" Gibson encouraged McCain's crusade, but NBC's Katie Couric actually challenged him on paycheck protection and how donations are protected by the First Amendment.

6) NBC focused on the trashing of the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, though Andrea Mitchell skated over the stripping of an Air Force 747 during Clinton's last trip, a subject highlighted by FNC's Brit Hume. Mitchell rationalized the vandalism as an "aftershock of the battle for Florida."

7) Actor Martin Sheen promised that Bill Clinton would not sanction "any taking of any government property particularly from that sacred place, the White House."

8) To illustrate the impending confirmation of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, CBS's The Early Show put up a photo of Senator Fred Thompson.


1
ABC, CBS and NBC led Thursday night with Alan Greenspan's favorable comments about a tax cut, but while ABC and NBC were not reticent in relaying his view, CBS's Dan Rather added caveats as CBS followed up with a story by John Roberts on how Bush's "tax cut was roundly criticized during the election campaign for catering to the rich."

-- Peter Jennings teased at the top of ABC's World News Tonight: "On World News Tonight the Chairman of the Federal Reserve says the economy has stopped growing and tax cuts are a good idea." He then opened the show: "Good evening, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, said today that the economy is not growing and because the government has a surplus cutting taxes is a good idea."

In the subsequent piece by Terry Moran viewers heard Greenspan tell a Senate committee: "Should current economic weakness spread beyond what now appears likely, having a tax cut in place may in fact do noticeable good."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's tease: "It's the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gives the green light to the President's plan to cut your taxes." Brokaw began the broadcast by stressing how Bush's tax cuts "have the backing of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Washington's most highly regarded money guru."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's tease added a qualifier:
"Greenspan says the economy's all but stalled and he now gives a qualified thumbs up to a tax cut." Rather started the program by emphasizing how Greenspan "did not endorse the big Bush tax cut plan." Rather announced:
"Good evening. A concerned but no panic assessment of the U.S. economy today from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Alan Greenspan said the once booming economy now has slowed to the point that it may have stopped growing. And for the first time, Greenspan gave his blessing to the idea of cutting taxes at least some to try to stimulate the economy. Greenspan did not endorse the big Bush tax cut plan, wouldn't even comment on it. But the White House is delighted Greenspan is giving even a qualified green light to any tax cut at all."

Anthony Mason's story included a soundbite from Greenspan asserting: "It is far better in my judgment that the surpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases."

Before any viewers got too excited about the prospect of a tax cut, CBS made sure they realized the supposed skew to the rich of Bush's proposal. John Roberts began his follow up story by highlighting how Greenspan didn't sign on to size of Bush's plan, though Bush took it as a positive signal. Roberts then ran through some numbers, reporting that under Bush's plan a family of four making $30,000 would save $718, a family earning $50,000 would save $1,900 and one making $140,000 would get a "tax break" of $5,059.

Viewers then heard this campaign soundbite from Al Gore: "And almost half of it would go to the wealthiest one percent." Roberts endorsed the claim: "The tax cut was roundly criticized during the election campaign for catering to the rich. One analysis calculated the average give back for the top one percent of earners at $46,000 while another found a single mother of two with an income of $22,000 would get nothing back." Roberts failed to identify his source, but the on-screen graphic gave credit to Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-wing group.

Roberts then led into a clip from Senator Charles Schumer: "Democrats who advocate smaller targeted tax cuts today whipped out charts and graphs drawing battle lines over Bush's tax plan, fearing Greenspan's years of fiscal discipline may have just come to an end."

2

Thursday night the CBS Evening News publicized the liberal effort to block John Ashcroft by running a one-sided story relaying the claims of two critics brought forward by his enemies. Bob Schieffer described one, Paul Offner, as simply a "policy expert." On CNN's Inside Politics Jonathan Karl at least called him a Democrat, but only FNC's Brian Wilson, on Special Report with Brit Hume, alerted viewers to his real background: "Offner is a long-time Democratic activist who served on the Hillary Clinton health care task force and has written articles opposing welfare reform."

Dan Rather introduced the January 25 story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "There are developments tonight on another controversy facing the new President and Congress. Opponents of John Ashcroft are raising more questions about whether he can be trusted as Attorney General to fully enforce laws protecting civil rights. CBS's Bob Schieffer is tracking what, if any, impact this may have on Ashcroft's confirmation by the Senate."
Schieffer began: "James Hormel, who became America's first openly gay ambassador over the objection of then Senator Ashcroft, today joined a group of civil rights activists who oppose Ashcroft's nomination to be Attorney General. During confirmation hearings, Ashcroft had said he wasn't against Hormel because he was gay, but because." CBS then showed Ashcroft saying it was because of the totality of his record and recalling that he'd known Hormel since he had recruited him for law school.

Schieffer added: "During the confirmation hearings, Ashcroft assured Democrats he had never discriminated against gays when hiring staffers nor would he." Following a matching Ashcroft clip, Schieffer countered: "That, too, was questioned today, as first reported by the Washington Post, a policy expert named Paul Offner said when he applied for a job with then Missouri Governor John Ashcroft in 1985:"
Paul Offner: "He said to me, 'My first question, Mr. Offner, do you have the same sexual preference as most men?' And I said that I thought I did."
Schieffer: "Ashcroft denies the allegation, but Offner, now married, didn't get the job. That alone is hardly enough to keep Ashcroft from being confirmed, but it does show the intensity of the opposition and demonstrates again how these opponents are gonna fight this nomination till the very end."

Aided all along the way by CBS News.

3

Bill Clinton does wrong and on whom does CBS News put the burden? His critics! Four days after ABC's World News Tonight and three days later than NBC Nightly News, on Thursday night the CBS Evening News finally ran its first story about the pardon for Marc Rich. But check out how Dan Rather introduced it by portraying those concerned about it as the ones who are doing something unseemly:
"Critics of former President Clinton are going beyond the very end. They're raising new questions about one of the end of term pardons President Clinton granted. CBS's Jim Axelrod is looking into the case of fugitive financier Marc Rich and the circumstances that led to his pardon."

Axelrod began by stressing how Clinton's critics won't let him go: "Exiting the White House Bill Clinton left the door wide open for critics not ready to let go. Among his last acts, he pardoned billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, a man who never stood trial is now cleared for crimes that could have meant 300 years in prison."

Axelrod did proceed to outline the case and how Rich's ex-wife had donated more than $1 million to Democrats. And while he let Rich's lawyer, ex-Clintonista Jack Quinn, defend the pardon, he also played a soundbite of Tom Daschle calling it "inappropriate." Political scientist James Thurber observed: "For a man who wants to change his legacy, this didn't help very much."

Thursday night ABC aired its second story of the week on the pardon as Jackie Judd also picked up on what NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported the night before, that Rich's ex-wife Denise had given Hillary furniture just before the Senate rules on gifts kicked in. Judd stressed public outrage over the pardon:
"Gone, but not nearly forgotten. Five days out of office and the former President, as well as his wife, still have the capacity to irritate."
Male caller to radio talk show: "The Clintons have no capacity for either shame or embarrassment."
Second male caller: "I tell you what, this is an outrage Howie. I've never seen something like this."
Howie Carr, WRKO Radio in Boston host: "Does Clinton have any friends who aren't crooked?"

Good question.

Judd outlined the case and noted how "even some members of the Clinton's own party object." Viewers then heard Senator Charles Schumer charge: "Pardoning a fugitive from justice is wrong."

4

Geraldo Rivera boasted Wednesday night that "Denise Rich happens to be a real good friend of mine, for nearly a decade."

He maintained on CNBC's Rivera Live that criticism of Clinton's pardon is "hypocritical when you consider that the Reagan administration was dealing with the same Ayatollah government at exactly the same time that Mr. Rich was. Now can you spell Iran-Contra? And do you remember the pardons issued for the people involved in that illegal action?"

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down Rivera's January 24 diatribe: "I'm gonna give you my commentary right now ladies and gentleman. First about Denise. Denise is one of the most sincere, innocent, she's an innocent person. She's not a cynical politician. She's very open. She's almost naive. She's very, very generous. Without revealing the substantive details of the, of the several private conversations that I had with Denise today about this I can tell you she's...obviously she wanted, she would want the father, the grandfather of her children her grandchildren allowed back in the country. The fact that Marc Rich was unable to be with their daughter Gabrielle, as she was dying from cancer back in 1996 was a painful wound for the family. I knew her then, I saw them go through it.
"Now supporters of Denise and of the President's pardon of her ex-husband also point out as Mark Geragos just did that these were basically income tax violations that would not even be treated as crimes under today's laws and that the moral outrage that many feel, even many Democrats over his dealing with the Iranians, because that's what it was an oil deal with the Iranians, has to be I think considered hypocritical when you consider that the Reagan administration was dealing with the same Ayatollah government at exactly the same time that Mr. Rich was. Now can you spell Iran-Contra? And do you remember the pardons issued for the people involved in that illegal action? Including the pardon that George H. Bush gave to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger?"

What an asinine analogy. Weinberger and others were conducting government business and were not making a personal profit while the hostages were being held captive.

5

The fact that President Bush doesn't favor socialistic price controls demonstrates how he's been influenced by campaign donations from an energy company. So went the simplistic reasoning of Dan Rather and Charles Gibson as both picked up on a press release from a group backing McCain's free speech regulation bill, aka "campaign finance reform."

Rather announced on Thursday's CBS Evening News: "Two political watchdog groups say a long time corporate contributor to President Bush is reaping huge profits off the current energy shortages, especially with the new President's outright rejection of any price controls. Houston-based Enron corporation is North America's largest electricity wholesaler and owner of natural gas pipelines. It gave almost $114,000 at least to the Bush presidential campaign and $550,000 total, at least, to help bankroll the GOP national convention and the inauguration. Enron's chief executive is on the Bush Energy transition team. The company says President Bush is quote 'for states' rights and deregulation. He doesn't need anyone to suggest that to him,' unquote."

Rather's source, as listed on screen: Center for Public Integrity.

Thursday morning ABC's Charles Gibson highlighted the same example in an interview with John McCain to promote his new regulatory scheme, but the claim was even too much for McCain, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed.

Gibson never challenged McCain on the merits. He began by inquiring about how his meeting on Wednesday with Bush went and then set up McCain: "But these are all carefully constructed and inter-related parts, and the parts of your bill that he opposes, you have said in the past, are giant loopholes. Any different now?"

Gibson painted Bush's position as an impediment that must be overcome: "But, I guess, really what I'm asking is do you work, does the President work with you, or do you, in effect, have to work around the President to get this done?"

Getting to the issue raised later in the day by Rather, Gibson used Enron as an example of corruption: "People say, 'You know, this is all so abstract. Show me specific cases where money badly influences politics.' Let me just give you an example: the Enron Corporation in Houston, one of the largest contributors to the Bush campaign and inauguration. That company has made an enormous amount of money from the California power crisis, and President Bush opposes price controls on energy in California, as does the Enron Corporation. Is that an example of the kind of influence that money buys?"

Not even McCain could buy such a simplistic analysis which assumed Bush is only against price controls because a supporter is: "No, I don't think so because I think that President Bush has said clearly for many years his views about regulation as a deregulator. I think a far more graphic example is that the wife of a fugitive from justice can give a million dollars, and by the way, $7,000 in furniture to the Clintons -- by the way, avoiding, technically, the gift ban for United States senators because Mrs. Clinton hasn't, wasn't sworn in yet -- and all of a sudden the guy gets a pardon. No one, no one can understand why Mr. Rich would get a -- a fugitive from justice -- would get a pardon. That's the kind of example, I think, that's probably more compelling."
Gibson: "You don't buy the former President's argument that he granted that pardon on the merits. You think Mr. Rich bought it?"

NBC's Katie Couric, unlike Gibson, actually challenged some of McCain's premises, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed. Couric did favor him with this question: "You do sense that the President is truly committed to campaign finance reform in some form and is not simply trying to placate a fly in the ointment, i.e., you?"

But Couric soon raised some criticisms of his bill: "Senator McCain lets address two areas where the two of you beg to differ. One is something called paycheck protection. And that would require unions to obtain permission from members before making political contributions. I know that's seen as a deal break for Democrats but to the lay person it seems perfectly reasonable. What's wrong with that?"

Couric's next inquiry: "You also know as the President supports the concepts of, the concept rather, of individuals being permitted to give as much as they want to political parties as long as it's reported. And furthermore he claims that, that is protected under, under the First Amendment. What's wrong with that argument?"

For more on the media's usual pattern of fawning over McCain and his bill, check out a new piece on National Review Online by the MRC's Tim Graham, "McCain, Glorious Pain: The media's holed up in the 'Straight Talk Express.'" Go to:
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment012501g.shtml

6

Of the broadcast networks, on Thursday night only NBC focused on the trashing of the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) next to the White House where presidential staffers toil, though Andrea Mitchell skated over the stripping of an Air Force 747 during Clinton's trip to New York on Saturday, a subject highlighted by FNC's Brit Hume. Mitchell rationalized the vandalism as being caused by the "aftershock of the battle for Florida, low level staff still angry over the way the election was decided."

Mitchell began her January 25 NBC Nightly News story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "A moment in history, heavy with constitutional significance, hardly a time for college pranks or outright vandalism, but that's exactly what Bush White House officials say happened when the Clinton team left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20."
Mitchell explained: "Publicly, Bush officials are downplaying the damage at the Old Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, calling some of it silly, like a message on an answering machine that says 'This is Al Gore's office. Due to a constitutional crisis, I'll be out for the next four years.' But sources tell NBC News some of it is serious: phone lines cut, drawers filled with glue, door locks jimmied so that arriving Bush staff got locked inside their new offices, obscene messages left behind on copying machine paper."
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor: "I think that if there was anything bordering on vandalism here we all ought to very, very concerned, and we should not tolerate it."
Mitchell rationalized the vandalism: "How could this happen? Some former Clinton officials explain it's the aftershock of the battle for Florida, low level staff still angry over the way the election was decided."
Joe Lockhart: "Someone's idea of fun is obscuring what was a very good transition, a very cooperative transition."
Mitchell: "But destroying government property is illegal."
C. Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel: "If it does slow down the incoming administration from actually getting work done and being able to communicate, then it probably ought to be seriously investigated."
Mitchell: "One of the easier fixes, an Ohio office supply company [Office Max] is donating 500 'W's to replace the 'W's taken off White House keyboards by departing Clinton aides. And the Air Force will replace Air Force One glasses and four hand towels, apparently pilfered by passengers traveling with the Clintons on their last ride home. Clinton officials recall that when they took over the White House from George Bush's father, computers hard drives were missing, but nothing on the scale of what the Bush White House calls an unfair parting shot from the Clinton team."

I believe removing hard drives is a standard procedure followed by civil services staffer to preserve records, as they are all turned over to the National Archives, and so is not vandalism.

Picking up on an item by John McCaslin in his "Inside Politics" column for the Washington Times, FNC's Brit Hume recounted how the thefts from what had been called Air Force One were more extensive than Mitchell portrayed. Hume informed Special Report with Brit Hume viewers how the Air Force 747 Clinton took to JFK on Saturday "was stripped bare, the plane's porcelain china and silverware and salt and pepper shakers, blankets and pillow cases, nearly all items bearing the presidential seal, were taken by Clinton staffers who went along for the ride. The Washington Times quoted a military steward as saying that even a supply of toothpaste was stolen from a compartment under a sink."

And that box of Colgate didn't have a presidential seal, McCaslin noted.

7

Clinton staffer trashed presidential staff offices and stole from Air Force One, but actor Martin Sheen, who plays the President on NBC's The West Wing, promised that Clinton would not sanction "any taking of any government property particularly from that sacred place, the White House."

The assurance came in response to a question from MSNBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday night, not about theft but about illicit gifts. MRC analyst Paul Smith caught the exchange on the January 24 News with Brian Williams:

Williams: "Let me ask you since you were close to this outgoing Clinton White House about the way the Clintons left town. There is a development we've reported on this evening that they accepted gifts and a lot of them in a system not unlike a marital registry for gifts, for household items, china, flatware, silverware, dining room tables, televisions and dvd players. And the pardons of course, 140 of them on his last day in office including to one who has been a fugitive from the law for a matter of decades."
Sheen replied: "Well, look, you know, I, this is news to me. I haven't had a chance to hear about this from any other source except you and I'm not going to comment on that. You know, this guy, he earned far more than we gave him. You know, I don't know how much the president of the United States is paid but he earned far more than his salary. I doubt that he, you know, he sanctioned any taking of any government property particularly from that sacred place, the White House. He revered the place from my point of view and you know, I don't know what else to say about this."

Following a Clintonian parsing of words, he's not wrong since neither Air Force One or the OEOB are "the White House," though the OEOB is part of the "White House complex."

8

Only one Thompson in the CBS photo library? On Wednesday's The Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, CBS confused Senator Fred Thompson with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, the former Governor of Wisconsin.

During the 7:18am news update, Julie Chen reported: "The full Senate is expected to approve another four members of Mr. Bush's cabinet today: Eileen Chao as Labor Secretary, Norm Mineta at Commerce, Christie Todd Whitman for the EPA and Tommy Thompson for Health and Human Services."

As she was talking, viewers saw four photos simultaneously with their last names beneath each: "Chao," "Mineta," "Whitman," and "Thompson."

Only the Thompson photo was of Senator Fred Thompson. -- Brent Baker


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