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CyberAlert -- 01/28/2002 -- Paranoia: Lindh Repressed Enron

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Paranoia: Lindh Repressed Enron; Campaign Finance "Reform" Hopes; Hillary Still Victimized by the VRWC; Ombudsman Concedes Bias

1) Paranoia relayed by the New York Times: "Though no network news executive openly suggested that the Bush administration had timed the Lindh hearing to coincide with the start of the Enron hearings, several executives said they would not be surprised if Bush officials had planned it that way" -- just so CNN, FNC and MSNBC would downplay Enron.

2) Dan Rather pleaded Friday night: "Could or could not the Enron fiasco finally result in some kind of real campaign finance reform?" NBC's Katie Couric hoped: "What does this portend for, for campaign finance reform? Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's back that makes people say, 'Enough is enough! This has got to happen!'"

3) President Bush's approval rating stands at what Tim Russert described as a "sky high" 82 percent, but on Thursday morning Today co-host Matt Lauer felt obligated to point out how "it's gone down six points" since November.

4) Headline over a Washington Post Magazine story on Hillary being victimized: "A supportive spouse, surprisingly accepting colleagues, and a mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her." Reporter John Harris featured variations of the term "liberal" just three times -- the first not until the 83rd paragraph. But he used the term "conservative" for her opponents twice as often, six times. Harris even allowed the Senator to define herself as a champion of "individual responsibility."

5) Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler acknowledged that a Post story, which contrasted Bush administration fealty to "religious conservatives" concerned about human embryo clones to how "at the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives," came across as "having been written from a point of view."

6) During last Wednesday night's NBC News special, The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing, Tom Brokaw seemed vexed by the idea that in the wake of Enron's collapse the Bush administration would still pursue allowing people to invest some of their Social Security money in stocks.

7) As he walked across the South Lawn to Marine One on Friday morning, President George W. Bush was carrying a copy of Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.

8) So much for NBC News respecting the family hour. Sunday night at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST/MST NBC aired, "In the bedroom and beyond, a Dateline special." NBC's announcer plugged a story: "She puts the sex in Sex and the City, steaming up TV screen across America. Can she do the same for your love life?" NBC showed the cover of a book titled, "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm."


1

Conjure up the Twilight Zone music as you read this item. In a Friday New York Times story, television reporter Bill Carter gave legitimacy to claims by network news executives that the Bush administration planned the first court appearance by John Walker Lindh to occur an hour before congressional hearings into Enron just so that Lindh would distract the cable news networks from the Enron story.

The evidence, which he attributed to network news executives? That in a scene in NBC's special, Inside the Real West Wing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had expressed "satisfaction that he had steered the network newscasts away from the White House's connection to Enron, at least for a day." As if that scene from January 17 in the January 23 show had disclosed some kind of insider secret. Of course the White House wants the news media to portray Enron as a business scandal and not a Bush administration scandal.

Carter began his January 25 story by lamenting: "Hearings into the collapse of the Enron Corporation opened on Capitol Hill yesterday, but the all-news cable television channels showed little interest, providing only intermittent coverage.
"Instead, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC devoted far more attention to the initial court appearance of John Walker Lindh, the American accused of acts of terrorism for serving with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Mr. Lindh appeared in court at about 9 a.m. in Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, where the Enron hearings were about to take place."

Now, cue up the Twilight Zone music for these next paragraphs from Carter brought to my attention by the MRC's Tim Jones:
"Though no network news executive openly suggested that the Bush administration had timed the Lindh hearing to coincide with the start of the Enron hearings, several executives said they would not be surprised if Bush officials had planned it that way. One executive noted that information on Mr. Lindh's appearance was 'a big mystery' until yesterday morning.
"Several executives, referring to what they called the administration's efforts to manage the Enron story, pointed to comments made by Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman, in an NBC program on the White House on Wednesday night. Mr. Fleischer was portrayed as expressing satisfaction that he had steered the network newscasts away from the White House's connection to Enron, at least for a day."
"'All right,' Mr. Fleischer said in the NBC report. 'Look what made it onto the air. The business scandal side of it. All the political stuff they're ignoring.'"

Carter added: "Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said the suggestion that the timing of Mr. Lindh's hearing had anything to do with the Enron hearing was 'one of the most ridiculous suggestions I've heard yet.'"

Indeed, it's rather scary that "several" network news executives could be so paranoid -- and all over the relatively piddling number of people who actually watch one of the three cable news networks during the day, a time when their combined audience is smaller than the viewership of CBS's The Early Show, the least-watched broadcast network morning show.

And the 9am EST Lindh hearing was over by the time the Enron hearings had even started.

For the entire article, those registered with the New York Times can access it at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/business/25MEDI.html

2

CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Katie Couric on Friday used the Enron scandal as an excuse to push for campaign finance "reform," as if additional regulation of political speech would have avoided the current mess.

Rather plugged upcoming stories: "It's the Friday CBS Evening News and still ahead: Sentencing day for the man convicted of killing another hockey dad. Plus, Eye on America, could or could not the Enron fiasco finally result in some kind of real campaign finance reform?"

Introducing the subsequent story, Rather pleaded: "In tonight's Eye on America, CBS gives you an in-depth look at the sudden revival of congressional interest in legislation that's been killed more times than Dracula: Legislation for serious campaign finance reform. In the wake of the Enron fiasco, will Congress finally put its votes where its mouth is?"

Earlier Friday, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Today co-host Katie Couric conveyed her wishes to MSNBC/CNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews: "What does this portend for, for campaign finance reform? Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's back that makes people say, 'Enough is enough! This has got to happen! We don't care what those folks on Capitol Hill say?'"

3

President Bush's approval rating stands at what Tim Russert described as a "sky high" 82 percent in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but on Thursday morning Today co-host Matt Lauer emphasized how "it's gone down six points" since November.

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down this exchange between Russert and Lauer on the January 24 Today:

Lauer: "Let's get to this NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll. A lot to cover in it Tim. President Bush's job approval rating. What did we find out?"
Russert: "Sky high, Matt. It continues. Here it is on the board: 82 to 13. Even Democrats give George W. Bush a favorable rating. Republicans, Matt, are 99 to 1."
Lauer: "Am I nitpicking though if I go back to that graphic, Joe, if you can put that up again? You look from November 2001 until now it's gone down six points."
Russert: "Well I think Bush supporters will say yes we're in a downward spiral but the White House is very comfortable with these numbers. They do say privately, however Matt, they expect those numbers to go down to the low 60s, high 50s by the fall."

4

Hillary the victim. If it only weren't for all those awful conservatives irrationally opposing her noble ideals. "The Liberation of Hillary," celebrated the cover of Sunday's Washington Post Magazine for a story by former Post White House reporter John Harris, who is now on leave at the moderately liberal Brookings Institution to write a book about the Clinton presidency.

Inside, over a two-page bleed-out photo of Senator Clinton crouching down to pose for a photo with a little girl: "Hillary's Big Adventure." The subhead set up the story's premise of Hillary as the victim of the vast right-wing conspiracy: "A supportive spouse, surprisingly accepting colleagues, and a mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her."

In the 7,400-word story, Harris applied variations of the term "liberal" just three times -- the first not until the 83rd paragraph. But he employed the term "conservative" for her opponents twice as often, six times, the first instance coming 36 paragraphs into the 280-paragraph treatise.

And those liberal labels were hardly disparaging. Harris referred to "people who share her instinct for preachment and a therapeutic brand of liberalism that is vitally concerned with personal attitudes and routines." The second tag didn't even apply to her: "Clinton, representing a liberal state where she might reasonably be reelected for years to come..." The third generously explained: "While her positions do not always fit neatly into a liberal mold, she is plainly driven by a sense of mission about government's proper role that at times takes on a nearly religious hue."

Recounting what Senator Clinton must endure, Harris cited "the catcalls of surly firefighters and policemen at the VH1 relief concert in New York on October 20. They weren't booing Senator Clinton, who had been working nearly round the clock on disaster issues after September 11. They were booing Hillary: Down from the stage, lady! Who the hell do you think you are?"

Harris sympathized: "Her husband said he too perceives an assault with no visible end. Of the many complicated bonds these two share, one is a mutual sense of besiegement. 'As long as they're rewarded for attacking people personally, they'll do it,' he said. 'They raise money off of demonizing us, and now her. It's a very deliberate strategy.'"

Harris did, however, acknowledge: "There is a reason why conservatives are skeptical that the carefully modulated centrist agenda on which she campaigned for senator is the genuine item. For while she invokes bipartisanship constantly, she becomes demonstrably more passionate when she is talking about the role of government as leveler, protector and moral agent." Harris asserted: "Yes, Hillary Clinton is more personable than you might think. No, she is not the closet socialist of right-wing fantasy. But hers are the politics of prescription -- a world of problems that right-thinking people like her and Irwin Redlener are ready to solve -- that make her as restless for battle as her foes."

Yet Harris soon described her ideology in charitable term: "This lifelong Methodist is at ease with both the rituals and language of the Christian calling. Do not underestimate her sense of duty, say people close to her, in understanding her tolerance during hard patches of her marriage. Do not underestimate the sense of mission she brings to her public life."

Harris allowed the liberal Senator who advocates policies which absolve people of responsibility to define herself as a champion of individual responsibility: "What does equipoise mean for a senator? 'I grew up in a very Republican home -- child of 1950s and '60s suburbs,' she said. 'I have a rock-solid belief in individual responsibility and hard work. But I also believe in community. I reject the idea that there is no such thing as society' -- a precept she said also comes 'from my religious faith and upbringing.'"

An excerpt from the beginning of the January 27 story:

The news conference had just begun when Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, slipped quietly into the press gallery and joined a bipartisan cluster of colleagues on the podium. The most celebrated and incendiary member of the United States Senate was eager to speak about a new bill aimed against bioterrorism. But she would wait her turn.

It was rather a long wait. First came the bill's sponsor, Ted Kennedy, a man whose name once evoked dynastic possibilities not unlike those that Hillary Clinton's carries now. She nodded affirmatively every couple of moments while Kennedy spoke, then leaned over to give a pat on the arm and whisper in his ear when he took his seat. Then came others who hold rank over a newly elected senator: Chris Dodd, Susan Collins, Barbara Mikulski, Mike DeWine, Evan Bayh, John Edwards. They all made their points as Clinton pursed her lips and nodded her head with exaggerated emphasis -- yes, yes, good point, how wise. A typical day on Capitol Hill affords her literally dozens of occasions to project soulful approval.

Finally, speaker number eight, came Clinton. And the person who has inspired more argument, more admiration and animus, than any other woman of her generation spoke about...."food safety provisions." Not enough has been done, she said, "and I think we are now taking some important steps to address that." There were ostentatious references to the adopted state she represents -- "greater security at facilities like Plum Island off the coast of Long Island....I was up in Rochester and Syracuse, and I mostly talked with doctors, nurses, front-line responders" -- and she was done.

The appearance was parochial and prosaic in ways that her devotees find poetic: Hillary Clinton has earned the luxury of being boring. Or, more precisely, pretending to be. A woman whose past is shrouded in unanswered questions and whose future is cloaked in unrevealed possibilities will remain interesting for a long time to come.

Her life now is spent in the Senate club, palling around with Democrats and working with surprising collegiality with the same Republicans who once reviled her and tried to evict her husband from office. She gives the speeches she wants to, no longer bowing to the West Wing political advisers who, when her husband was president, fretted that her presence was too hot. She power-walks around Capitol Hill from hearing to floor speech to news conference to reception, putting in 12- to 14-hour days, often with a cell phone planted to her ear. The New York reporters who follow her ask more often than not about financial aid for New York City, or even the federal Animal Disease Center on Plum Island, rather than about her marriage or her hair or her legal controversies. She constantly pays deference to Senate elders, saying she knows she's just one of a hundred. She chirps a singsongy "How are you?" to the tourists who regularly do double takes or stretch out their hands when they spot a celebrity, making plain that she is hardly just one of a hundred.

It is her husband, the former president, who still seems searching for the right role on the right stage. She, by contrast, is right where she wants to be.

Most of the time, anyway. If, say, 90 percent of her hours and psychic space is taken up by being "Senator Clinton," her words and deeds taken at face value, in the remaining 10 percent she is still "Hillary" -- with everything that means.

It means the National Enquirer cover in September, "HILLARY CHEATS ON BILL; How ex-Prez found out," or the rival Globe from March: "CLINTONS TO DIVORCE: INSIDE THE BITTER BUST-UP." It means the catcalls of surly firefighters and policemen at the VH1 relief concert in New York on October 20. They weren't booing Senator Clinton, who had been working nearly round the clock on disaster issues after September 11. They were booing Hillary: Down from the stage, lady! Who the hell do you think you are?

Slowly, and incompletely, she has answered that question more clearly over the course of the last year in the Senate than she did in the previous eight in the White House. Her greater comfort springs from greater confidence, which in turn springs, according to many people close to her, from a potent psychological source: liberation.

Thanks to a generous majority of Empire State voters, her influence no longer comes from her marriage. "She's gone from a completely derivative role to nonderivative role," says a former White House staff member who is close to her. "In Washington, 'first lady' has never really been taken that seriously. 'Senator' has. She's not trying to construct something from nothing."

Clinton does not put it quite like that, and is careful not to disparage the first lady's role. But, in an interview, she came close to endorsing the thesis. "Those years in the White House for me were extraordinary experiences; I'm really grateful for it. But the role itself is more of a vicarious responsibility in that you are, like everyone in the White House, there because of one person, the president. Everybody else is there at his sufferance," she said. "And this job I have now -- I'm representing the people of New York, but there's a lot more opportunity to express my own opinions, to work through what I would do and how I would do it."

One particular constituent, like her a newcomer to the state, is not only approving but vastly relieved. "To the extent she speaks for herself, and is directly accountable to the people of New York, it's got to be liberating for her," said Bill Clinton, during an interview for this article. After the turbulence of their White House tour, he surely has many reasons to feel relief at her contentedness now, but he reaches far back in their history to explain. In 1974, as he was getting ready to propose to her, he said, he was reluctant to ask her to move to Arkansas because she'd have to give up on elective politics herself. He thought then that she'd be good at it -- and, as it has turned out, "she's just as good as I thought she'd be."

Favorable reviews are coming from quarters far less inclined to charity. Last month the conservative New York Post, whose roastings of Hillary are a local specialty, summarized her first year with the headline: "Hill on the Hill: So Far, So Good." The article included a quote from Larry Craig of Idaho, one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans, who acknowledged he hardly ever agrees with Clinton but added: "She's had a successful year. It appears that she knows her job and does it well."

Still, she does not believe her opponents have laid down their weapons, nor is she laying down her own. Perhaps, an interviewer ventured, now that her influence flows from voters rather than her husband, the political forces she described in the opening days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal as a "vast right-wing conspiracy" may be ready for a truce.

"I don't know that it's a truce," she answered, with force. "It doesn't ever seem to end. If a couple days go by and they haven't heard anything they can talk about, they make something up. It never ends."

Pressed for examples, she declined. Perhaps she was talking about the criticism she got on talk radio and conservative Web sites for yawning and whispering to a colleague during President Bush's address to Congress after the September 11 attacks? "You know, a capital offense," she said, scoffing at the episode, which aides attributed to fatigue. "It's kind of a perverse form of flattery. That's how I kind of think about it, honestly."....

END of Excerpt

To read the entire piece by Harris:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21643-2002Jan22.html

5

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler on Sunday acknowledged that a January 17 Post story, which contrasted Bush administration fealty to "religious conservatives" concerned about human embryo clones to how "at the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others," came across as "having been written from a point of view" and raised the issue of "a real or perceived bias."

The original Post story was the subject of a January 17 Media Reality Check from the MRC: "Afghanistan's Murderous Taliban = U.S.A.'s 'Religious Conservatives.' Post Reporter Bends over Backwards to Slam Conservatives." Go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020121.asp#7

In his January 27 column about reader responses during the week, Getler revealed:
"Most of my mail and calls this week came from a dozen or so readers angered by a Jan. 17 Federal Page article on the president's new Bioethics Council by science reporter Rick Weiss. Among the comments were that they viewed it as 'highly objectionable' editorializing and 'a form of demagoguery by The Post.' Readers raised several points, but the one that no one missed was this comparison: 'In November, researchers announced that they had made the first human embryo clones, giving immediacy to warnings by religious conservatives and others that science is no longer serving the nation's moral will. At the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others.'
"Rick Weiss is an excellent and authoritative science reporter, but I'm with the readers on this one. The article comes across as having been written from a point of view, and nothing can distract readers more from the work of reporters with real expertise than a real or perceived bias in the telling of their stories."

I'd call it a "real" bias.

For Getler's column in full:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40819-2002Jan25.html

6

During last Wednesday night's NBC News special, The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing, Tom Brokaw seemed vexed by the idea that in the wake of Enron's collapse the Bush administration would still pursue allowing people to invest some of their Social Security money in stocks.

Over video of a meeting in Karl Rove's office taped the previous Thursday, January 17, during NBC's day at the White House, Brokaw observed: "Senior aide Karl Rove was forced to sell his Enron shares at a loss last year to comply with ethics regulations. Even though thousands lost their life savings in Enron stock and 401(k) accounts, this administration is pressing ahead to allow all Americans to buy stock as part of their Social Security accounts."
Brokaw asked Rove: "So you're going to continue to pursue that?"
Rove stood steady: "You bet, absolutely. This is a fundamental reform that is important to the country long term."

7

As you may have already seen highlighted by the DrudgeReport and Tony Snow on FNC's Special Report or elsewhere, on Friday morning at about 10:40am EST, as he walked across the South Lawn to Marine One for transport to Air Force One for a trip to Portland, Maine, President Bush was carrying a copy of Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.

The Fox News Channel showed Bush with the book live on Friday morning, an event missed by CNN. A few minutes later, FNC media reporter Eric Burns pointed out Bush's reading choice. (I didn't get a chance to check MSNBC.) The MRC's Mez Djouadi has posted, on the MRC's home page, a still shot from FNC. But it's too small to allow you to make out the book.

The Yahoo News page, however, features big and clear photos from both the AP and Reuters.

For the AP photo:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/020125/168/10oa7.html

AP's caption: "President Bush waves as he walks out of the White House in Washington, headed for Portland, Maine, where he is focusing on border and harbor security, Friday, Jan. 25, 2002. Slung beneath Bush's right arm as he walked to Marine One is the book, 'Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News,' by former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg, which accuses television news executives of tilting liberal in how they report the news. (AP Photo/J.Scott Applewhite)"

Oops, AP changed the title from "Distort" to "Distorts." The word "media" is plural.

For the Reuters photo:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/020125/170/10o2j.html

The Reuters caption: "U.S. President George W. Bush leaves the White House January 25, 2002 on his way to Andrews Air Force Base for a trip to Portland, Maine. Bush is carrying a book titled 'Bias,' by former CBS employee Bernard Goldberg, which is one person's view of a claimed liberal bias in the news media. REUTERS/Win McNamee."

Adding a little distance there, "a claimed liberal bias."

8

So much for NBC News having any more respect for any concept of a family hour than the NBC entertainment honchos.

Dateline NBC airs three times a week: Tuesdays at 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST; Fridays at 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST and Sundays at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST/MST.

Guess which time slot NBC News decided to use for its show with this theme: "In the bedroom and beyond, a Dateline special."

The earliest one, of course, not the late as possible 10pm/9pm Tuesday time slot.

In the top of the show preview at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST/MST on Sunday night, January 27, viewers saw a scene from HBO's Sex and the City of a bare-chested firefighter dancing on stage as actress Kim Catrall cooed: "Hello 911? I'm on fire!" The Dateline NBC announcer helpfully explained: "She puts the sex in Sex and the City, steaming up TV screen across America. Can she do the same for your love life? Now she's written a book on sex and it's not for women only."

On screen NBC showed the cover of her new book titled, "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm."

The announcer promised that viewers would learn from Catrell "the secrets of seduction."

More like NBC's effort to seduce an audience away from CBS's 60 Minutes. -- Brent Baker


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