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CyberAlert -- 02/26/2002 -- NBC: Clinton Helped Enron

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NBC: Clinton Helped Enron; Clinton Ties Buried By Papers; Thomas Raises Iran-Contra; NYT: "McCarthy Years...Similar to the Present"

1) "Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years," NBC's Lisa Myers declared Monday night in giving broadcast network air time to a subject largely avoided by the networks. She explained: "Lay played golf with the President, and Enron received $1.2 billion in government-backed loans for projects around the world." Neither ABC or CBS have uttered a word about the revelation of how the Clinton administration pushed loans to Enron.

2) "Clinton helped Enron finance projects abroad," announced the headline over a story on the front page of the February 21 Washington Times. But reports that day in the New York Times and Houston Chronicle buried the Clinton administration connection in the 4th and 16th paragraphs, and instead referred to "loans" from "government agencies" or to "government aid."

3) Helen Thomas demanded of Ari Fleischer: "Why would this administration choose a man for counter-terrorism who is so associated with the dark side of the Iran-Contra scandal, Admiral Poindexter?" When Fleischer said Poindexter has done a "very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military," Thomas shot back: "How can you say that when he told Colonel North to lie?"

4) A New York Times "Week in Review" piece asserted that "the McCarthy years in some ways were eerily similar to the present moment" and, after quoting John Ashcroft calling terrorists "evil," claimed: "It is not hard to see in Mr. Ashcroft's language traces of what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously described as 'the paranoid style in American politics.'" On FNC, Morton Kondracke suggested: "This piece belongs in The Nation...or some other...America-hating publication."

5) FNC's Brit Hume: "The Media Research Center, which is a conservative group but nonetheless does pretty sound analysis and accurate tabulation of what the broadcast networks have to say, also did an analysis on" coverage of Bush's "axis of evil."

6) Tonight on CBS's JAG: Some Taliban escape custody and a star of the show is asked to pilot a bombing run into Afghanistan.


1

Two weeks after NBC became the first broadcast network to point out the political parallels between Enron and Global Crossing, a reality ABC and CBS have yet to acknowledge, NBC on Monday night became the first broadcast network since a CBS story on January 18 to offer more than a passing reference to how the Clinton administration took great efforts to help the company. NBC's story does stand as the first broadcast one to highlight how the Clinton administration provided government loans to Enron.

"Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years," declared NBC News reporter Lisa Myers on the February 25 NBC Nightly News. She explained: "Lay played golf with the President, and Enron received $1.2 billion in government-backed loans for projects around the world. Documents obtained by NBC News show the Clinton administration billed three Enron projects in India and Turkey as success stories, personally pushed by the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. About that time, Enron made its first $100,000 contribution to the Democrats."

MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Monday night, anchored by Lester Holt, did not carry the Myers piece, but dedicated an amazing 19 minutes over two lengthy segments, yes 19 minutes on one show, to discussing the issue of priests molesting kids.

NBC's story aired four days after a February 21 front page Washington Times story detailed how "the Clinton administration provided more than $1 billion in subsidized loans to Enron Corp. projects overseas at a time when Enron was contributing nearly $2 million to Democratic causes. Clinton officials refused to finance only one out of 20 projects proposed by the energy company between 1993 and 2000 to build power plants, natural-gas pipelines and other big-ticket energy facilities around the world, according to the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the agencies that provided the subsidies." For the entire story by Patrice Hill: http://www.washtimes.com/business/20020221-74571848.htm

But that story failed to generate any coverage by the networks, not even on the CNN or FNC evening newscast programs which had raised the subject back in January, nor on CNN's Inside Politics. The February 21 American Morning on CNN offered one brief reference to how Ken Lay had offered a job to former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a revelation noted a few weeks earlier on CNN's Inside Politics and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume.

On February 21 the networks had to scramble to lead with the death of Danny Pearl, yet the next night all three broadcast network evening shows had an opportunity to delve into the Clinton team's role as each ran stories on how the GAO was proceeding with a lawsuit against the White House over Cheney's energy task force. ABC's Jackie Judd explored how "the Bush administration is fighting on many fronts to limit what Congress and the public can know about how government operates." CBS's Dan Rather intoned: "Congressional investigators filed suit against Vice President Richard Cheney, demanding a list of people consulted secretly..."

Naturally, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows have done zip. MRC analyst Brian Boyd informed me, for instance, that Thursday's CBS Early Show aired a segment on overweight pets and on Friday featured a reunion of actors from the Addams Family TV show.

(The Clinton angle got some slight mentions back when the networks still considered Enron to be a political scandal. "Enron's connections to the Bush administration, wide and deep," warned ABC's Peter Jennings on January 10. Only at the very end of a subsequent story did Linda Douglass acknowledge: "Ken Lay did play golf with then-President Clinton, and Enron has contributed to Democrats." The next night, CBS's John Roberts emphasized how the "The lion's share of the campaign cash has gone to Republicans, specifically George Bush. Since 1993, Enron and its employees funneled two and a quarter million into Mr. Bush's political career and party coffers." But, he briefly added, "Enron also played the other side of the political fence. Prior to George Bush's campaign, Enron Chairman Ken Lay contributed heavily to Bill Clinton's election, played golf with the former President, even received White House support for overseas Enron projects."

A week later, on the January 18 Special Report with Brit Hume, Wendell Goler basically outlined the same story NBC got to last night: "Even though Enron head Ken Lay has been Mr. Bush's most generous financial supporter, and nearly three dozen administration officials have held Enron stock, the Clinton administration appears to have provided a bigger bang for the much smaller bucks Enron executives have contributed to Democrats. The late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and his successors, Mickey Cantor and William Daley, all reportedly hosted Enron executives on trade junkets that led to projects in half a dozen countries, including the Indian power plant, and several billion dollars in government loans and risk insurance."

That same night, the CBS Evening News put its emphasis on Cheney, but also looked at the Clinton angle, though without mentioning the over $1 billion in multiple loans. Bill Plante noted on the January 18 CBS Evening News: "The administration disclosed today that Vice President Cheney stepped in last June to help Enron and its partners in a dispute with India. Because a U.S. government agency was on the hook for $360 million in guarantees on the Dabhol power project, the White House says Cheney wasn't trying to help Enron, but was looking out for taxpayers' interests."
Unlike ABC or NBC that night, however, Plante did observe: "The White House was quick to note that it wasn't the first administration concerned about the Dabhol power project." Press Secretary Ari Fleischer noted: "Former Secretary Ron Brown, former Secretary Mickey Kantor, former Secretary Bill Daley, all of the Clinton administration, also advocated for the project."
Plante added: "The Bush administration is under fire now but, in fact, Enron's White House connection goes back to the Clinton years. Enron's CEO Ken Lay joined a White House discussion of climate change in August 1997. The Clinton administration endorsed emissions trading, something Enron wanted. Enron board member Robert Belfer [sp?] attended this 1996 Clinton White House coffee and contributed $100,000 to the Democrats. Overall, Republicans got more money than Democrats, but no matter who was in power, Enron aggressively courted favors.")

The lack of fresh network coverage for the February 21 Washington Times piece which did advance the story and was based on documents released by a Senate committee, may lay in how the New York Times played it. See item #2 below for details.

Now let's come full circle to where I began, with the February 25 NBC Nightly News story. Tom Brokaw set it up: "Now the latest on the Enron collapse, and yet another tape has surfaced of former Enron Chairman Ken Lay, this time talking at length about his close ties to President Bush and his family. There's also new documentation of some of the help that Enron got from the Clinton administration and some very big deals overseas."

Lisa Myers explained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Today a new tape of an October 2000 Enron employee meeting. CEO Ken Lay reads a worker's question challenging the propriety of Enron's political efforts."
Kenneth Lay: "The next question: 'It seems that Enron is spending a lot of money and time to get Bush elected.' I thought I might be the right one to answer this."
Myers: "Lay is Bush's biggest campaign contributor ever."
Lay: "I believe in both his character and integrity as well as the policies he proposes."
Myers delved into the Clinton role: "But Lay points out that Enron also gives money to Democrats. Enron gave almost $6 million in campaign contributions, a dollar to Democrats for every three dollars to Republicans. In both cases, the money seemed to pay off. Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years. Lay played golf with the President, and Enron received $1.2 billion in government-backed loans for projects around the world. Documents obtained by NBC News show the Clinton administration billed three Enron projects in India and Turkey as success stories, personally pushed by the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. About that time, Enron made its first $100,000 contribution to the Democrats."
Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity: "There was a large amount of money passing to Democrats and to the Democratic Party from Enron, and at the same time, Enron was getting all kinds of access to the highest levels of the Clinton administration."
Myers elaborated: "Enron's power plant in India, in which NBC's parent company General Electric is a partner, is backed by government loans and now stands idle. Some question whether Enron will be able to repay that and other loans guaranteed by the government."
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA): "Ultimately, the taxpayers could be left holding the bag for these."
Myers concluded by returning to the Bush connections: "But Enron has had even greater clout under Bush. Vice President Cheney lobbied the Indian government on Enron's behalf and met privately with Lay on energy policy. That has produced a court battle to open records which critics believe will shed more light on the Enron connection."

My theory on the lack of media interest in what the Clinton administration did to help Enron: The networks all pounced on Enron back on January 10 as a Bush administration scandal, but within a few days realized that Enron had also donated to many top Democrats. So, by January 15 the networks all dropped the political angle and, with the exception of using Enron as a reason for campaign finance reform, ever since have concentrated on it as a business scandal.

2

"Clinton helped Enron finance projects abroad," announced the headline over a story on the front page of the February 21 Washington Times. But stories that day in the New York Times and Houston Chronicle buried the Clinton administration connection, and instead referred to "loans" from "government agencies" or to "government aid."

The New York Times headline over the story in the business section: "Enron Received Many Loans From U.S. for Foreign Projects." The story by Richard Stevenson began:
"Two government agencies that promote American business interests abroad gave the Enron Corporation hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and other assistance over the last decade, the agencies and Congressional investigators said today.
"The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which helps American companies win business against foreign competitors in developing nations, gave Enron $544 million in loans for five projects, starting in 1993. It also provided $204 million in political risk insurance for 10 Enron projects, starting in 1992.
"The Export-Import Bank of the United States, a government agency that makes loans to foreign companies to help them buy goods and services from American companies, lent $675 million to companies affiliated with Enron, starting in 1993."

Not until the fourth paragraph did the New York Times mention the name Clinton: "Republicans said the figures showed that Enron had sought and received help from Washington long before President Bush took office and that the Clinton administration had enthusiastically helped Enron as the company undertook an ambitious global expansion in the 1990s."

For the entire story, those registered with the New York Times can go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/21/business/21ENRO.html

Contrast that with the lead of a January 10 story the New York Times showcased on its front page: "The White House disclosed today that Kenneth L. Lay, the chairman of the Enron Corporation and one of President Bush's biggest political contributors, telephoned two cabinet officers last fall, and one of them said Mr. Lay had sought government help with its dire financial condition."

As noted last week by Rush Limbaugh, the February 21 Houston Chronicle story didn't mention until the 16th paragraph the role of anyone working for President Clinton. "Government aid to Enron could haunt taxpayers," read the headline over the story by Washington, DC-based reporter David Ivanovich. It began:
"Enron Corp. was never shy about tapping the resources of the federal government to finance projects around the globe.
"And Uncle Sam was accommodating -- providing nearly $1.2 billion for Enron projects over the last decade.
"Now American taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $300 million, because of a failed, Enron-led foray into India's electric power market."

The "Clinton" name made its first appearance in the 16th paragraph: "Enron executives accompanied former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and the late Ron Brown on seven overseas trips during the Clinton administration and joined the Trade and Development Agency on 11 trade missions."

For the Houston Chronicle story in full:
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/special/enron/1264670

3

Helen Thomas reared her ugly liberal head again on Monday at the White House press briefing, demonstrating once again that she's more of a left-wing anti-conservative ranter than any kind of reasonable reporter.

The UPI veteran, who now writes a column for Hearst, demanded of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: "Why would this administration choose a man for counter-terrorism who is so associated with the dark side of the Iran-Contra scandal, Admiral Poindexter?" When Fleischer characterized Poindexter as an "outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military," Thomas shot back: "How can you say that when he told Colonel North to lie?"

The exchange in full between Fleischer and Thomas, which led the February 25 White House press briefing:

Thomas: "Ari, why would this administration choose a man for counter-terrorism who is so associated with the dark side of the Iran-Contra scandal, Admiral Poindexter?"
Fleischer: "When you say, choose him for counter-terrorism, can you be more specific?"
Thomas: "He's in the Pentagon, he's been appointed head of DARPA, which is a counter-terrorist office, developing plans, demonstrations with information."
Fleischer: "I'm not aware of any appointment. Let me just say about Admiral Poindexter, Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American and an outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military."
Thomas: "How can you say that, when he told Colonel North to lie?"
Fleischer: "Helen, I think your views on Iran-Contra are well-known, but the President does believe that Admiral Poindexter served-"
Thomas: "It isn't my view, this is the prosecutor for the United States."
Fleischer: "I understand. The President thinks that Admiral Poindexter has served our nation very well."
Thomas: "Really?"
Fleischer: "That's the President's thoughts."
Thomas: "Do you know his record?"
Fleischer, trying to move on to CNN's Major Garrett: "I'm sure you will inform me. Major."
Thomas, talking over Garrett: "I don't have to, all you got to do is look it up."

I got this transcript from the whitehouse.gov site and corrected it against the actual videotape we recorded. The official version made Thomas sound a bit better by, for instance, substituting "have" for "got" in her last sentence. For daily briefing transcripts:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/briefings/

In fact, as the AP reported on February 14, Poindexter does have a slot at the Pentagon: "Retired Adm. John Poindexter, who was President Reagan's national security adviser during the Iran-Contra affair, is directing a new Pentagon office that will focus on new kinds of military threats, including terrorist organizations.
"Poindexter became head of the Information Awareness Office last month.
"The office is one of two created recently by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which finances research into new military technology. The office was created following the Sept. 11 attacks."

Iran-Contra should hardly make Poindexter unqualified. If anything, such personal experience with Muslim regimes and terrorists should make him best suited for the position.

4

On FNC Morton Kondracke of Roll Call condemned a Sunday New York Times "Week in Review" piece which began: "As President Bush toured Asia last week, some world leaders worried publicly that the war on terrorism was starting to look suspiciously like the last great American campaign -- against Communism." As if that's a bad thing?

Times reporter Robert Worth lamented: "The first victims of anti-Communist hysteria were immigrants, and hundreds of immigrants have been detained since Sept. 11, many with little apparent cause beyond the fact that they were Middle Eastern men." Worth warned: "The McCarthy years in some ways were eerily similar to the present moment."

After quoting Attorney General John Ashcroft as saying, "a calculated, malignant, devastating evil has arisen in our world. Civilization cannot afford to ignore the wrongs that have been done," Worth asserted: "It is not hard to see in Mr. Ashcroft's language traces of what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously described as 'the paranoid style in American politics.'"

During the roundtable on Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume, Kondracke opined: "The editors of the Week in Review section ought to be ashamed of themselves. This piece belongs in the Nation or the Progressive or some other, you know, America-hating publication. I mean the idea, just the whole premise of the piece was that communism was okay and that to have an American campaign against communism was somehow bad."

Kondracke later added: "He says that world leaders are worried that we're doing again we're doing toward terrorists what we did toward communist. Well good, they should be glad about that."

An excerpt from the February 24 piece, headlined "A Nation Defined by Its Enemies," by Robert Worth:

....America's discovery of an enemy who is not merely an enemy, but "evil," has impeccable historical credentials. In a long history of responding to real and perceived threats, it seems clear that this large, heterogenous country defines itself in part through its nemeses.

The language Mr. Bush and others have used to describe Al Qaeda terrorists sometimes sounds as though it could have been written by Cotton Mather. Ever since the Puritans arrived in New England, civic and political leaders have often issued the same warning: sinister conspirators are spreading invisibly through the land, a cabal of evil and dangerous men who are bent on subverting this shining city on a hill. As Attorney General John Ashcroft put it recently: "A calculated, malignant, devastating evil has arisen in our world. Civilization cannot afford to ignore the wrongs that have been done."

This is by no means to suggest that the terrorists who struck on Sept. 11, or who kidnapped and murdered the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, aren't evil, or that it is not necessary to say so. But when the nation's enemies are used as highly emotional political symbols, it becomes easy to lose touch with the reality of their acts and motives -- and thus fail to better understand how to defeat or influence them. It is not hard to see in Mr. Ashcroft's language traces of what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously described as "the paranoid style in American politics."...

While all nations regard their causes as just, and all demonize their enemies, the combination of American might and its longstanding self-image as uniquely virtuous irritates even its allies. Europeans, for example, have largely tended to use more pragmatic language and embrace realpolitik in foreign policy matters....

It is an outlook rooted in two distinctive American traditions, said Eric Foner, a historian at Columbia University. The country's religious roots and its continuing high level of religious faith make Americans more likely to see enemies not just as opponents but as evil. Linked to that is the belief that America is the world's last best hope of liberty, so that those who oppose America become the enemies of freedom.

In the 1770's, colonial pamphleteers described King George III of England as a vicious tyrant who was secretly spreading Catholicism in the land, said Edmund S. Morgan, a professor emeritus of history at Yale University. But by the late 1790's, America had turned on the French, their former allies against the British, and were calling them underground papists too, "devil-like creatures and the most abominable wicked people," according to one newspaper account....

And of course, the 1950's brought the renewed Communist menace, "a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man," in the words of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The McCarthy years in some ways were eerily similar to the present moment. For example, Samuel Stouffer, a Harvard sociologist doing research on attitudes toward Communism in the early 1950's, found a generalized anxiety that the country was under attack by unseen enemies bent on global domination....

There are of course crucial differences between Al Qaeda and the Soviets, who represented a much broader military and political threat but did not practice terrorism against American civilians. And the added vigilance of recent months may well have prevented other attacks.

But it remains true that like the terrorists today, and the Catholics in the 19th century, Communists were often conceived as moral monsters whose deviousness and unwavering dedication to their faith made them capable of almost anything. Whittaker Chambers, who saw in Communism "the concentrated evil of our time," wrote in his classic cold war memoir, "Witness": "Their power, whose nature baffles the rest of the world, because in large measure the rest of the world has lost that power, is the power to hold convictions and act on them. It is the same power that moves mountains; it is also an unfailing power to move men."

In one sense, the discovery of a new source of "concentrated evil" comes as something of a relief, said John Gaddis, a professor of political science at Yale University who has been discussing the cold war parallel with his students since Sept. 11. "All of a sudden there's something worse than American hegemony out there," he said. "That throws a new light on complaints about American unilateralism, and makes it easier for us to act internationally."...

END of Excerpt

I can't take any more.

On that last point, let's hope it allows the U.S. to act alone. If we had followed the advice of the leftists Worth so admires the U.S. hockey team would have played against the USSR team at the Olympics last Friday.

There's a lot more anti-U.S. liberal raving in the article and it's worth registering with the New York Times to read it all so you can appreciate the moral relativism in Europe and academia which sees the United States as the threat to civilization and mocks efforts to beat communism or terrorism as just a justification for an "enemy" needed to fuel our hegemony.

For the entire piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/24/weekinreview/24WORT.html

5

A citation on FNC of the MRC's study issued last week about ABC, CBS and NBC coverage of Bush's "axis of evil" concept. On Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume, after noting the New York Times article detailed in item #4 above, Hume observed during the roundtable:
"The Media Research Center, which is a conservative group but nonetheless does pretty sound analysis and accurate tabulation of what the broadcast networks have to say, also did an analysis on this issue and it came out how?"
Morton Kondracke: "89 percent of-"
Hume: "This is network evening news -- ABC, CBS, NBC."
Kondracke: "89 percent of the talking heads who commented on this subject thought that is was 'bad.'"
Hume: "'Axis of evil' phrase."
Kondracke: "That is was disruptive and, you know, shocking and all the rest of it."

To read the February 21 Media Reality Check, "Condemning Bush, Not Interested In Evil; MRC Study: Five Times More Coverage of Bush's Rhetoric Than Iran, Iraq or North Korean Policies," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2002/Fax20020221.asp

To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2002/pdf/fax0221.pdf

6

A mission in Afghanistan on tonight's JAG: Judge Advocate General, a CBS drama about the exploits of Navy lawyers. The plot for the February 26 episode, as recited on the show's Web page:
"Harm and Mac are sent to the U.S.S. Seahawk to brief JAG officers on the new Rules of Engagement following the escape of Taliban fighters as a result of a JAG officer's hesitation to determine if the target was legitimate. While Harm is aboard the ship, the captain asks him to fly the bombing mission into Afghanistan. However, Harm's excitement changes to concern when his plane sustains critical damage from enemy fire."

JAG airs at 8pm EST/PST, 7pm CST/MST. The CBS Web page for the show:
http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jag/

Not sure how realistic it is for a Navy lawyer to hop into a jet to fly a bombing mission, but I'm sure it makes for good TV. -- Brent Baker


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