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CyberAlert -- 03/03/2000 -- Hsia Shunned

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Hsia Shunned; "Gun Control Roaring Back"; Jay Nicer Than Dave?

1) Democratic fundraiser and Al Gore friend Maria Hsia was found guilty of funneling money through straw donors, but NBC and MSNBC ignored the verdict; ABC and CBS gave it only a few seconds.

2) Fresh shootings are bringing "gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country," insisted NBC anchor Brian Williams. Andrea Mitchell pointed out: "Among the states with the most lenient gun laws...George Bush's Texas and John McCain's Arizona." CBS's Dan Rather held the "gun lobby" accountable for the latest deaths.

3) Good Morning America commiserated with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy about the failure of Congress to pass more gun laws. NBC's Today gave Bill Clinton a live forum to push his gun agenda, but Katie Couric challenged him several times from the right.

4) A reporter suggested to Eric Holder that the Clinton team could pass gun control if they took "pictures of these kids who are killed every day" to Congress to show "exactly what's involved."

5) "John McCain and George W. Bush are practically trying to morph themselves into Ronald Reagan," observed ABC's Peter Jennings, because in California "riding the Reagan legacy can be powerful."

6) Al Sharpton got the first question at a Democratic debate. "What would the press do if there were a debate at Bob Jones University, and Bob Jones III...got the first question?" Fred Barnes answered: "They'd riot."

7) Did John McCain get softer treatment from Jay Leno than George Bush got from David Letterman? FNC compared the video.


1

A federal jury convicted Maria Hsia on Thursday on five counts related to the illegal funneling of over $100,000 to Democrats and the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. Recalling how she directed the infamous Buddhist temple money laundering event featuring Al Gore, CNN's Charles Bierbauer suggested that "may be an albatross on" Gore's "campaign neck." Well, if it does become one it won't be because of network TV news.

While CNN's The World Today ran a story and a half of Hsia and her ties to Gore and FNC's Fox Report gave it half a story, following a full one on Special Report with Brit Hume, ABC's World News Tonight allocated a piddling 19 seconds and the CBS Evening News devoted a mere 23 seconds to the story. But at least ABC and CBS noticed the verdict. Not a syllable about it appeared Thursday night on the NBC Nightly News or MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams.

Instead, NBC's newscast ran full stories pushing gun control, on flooding in Mozambique and explaining "phased retirement" in which workers toil part time and simultaneously get a pension and a paycheck. MSNBC's hour featured six minutes of the "God Squad," and full stories on the late night appearances by McCain and Bush and John Rocker's return. Plus, an eleven minute re-run of a Dateline story on how two murderers were inspired by hate Web sites.

Here's the totality of March 2 broadcast network coverage:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings took 19 seconds to tell viewers: "In Washington today, Maria Hsia, a key figure in the fundraising abuses in the 1996 Democratic campaign, has been found guilty of lying to prosecutors about more than $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Much of it came from the famous campaign event which Al Gore attended at a Buddhist temple in 1996."

-- CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather consumed 23 seconds in relaying: "A federal court jury in Washington today convicted Democratic Party fundraiser Maria Hsia on all five felony counts of funneling illegal donations to Democrats, including the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. Hsia is a long-time friend and political supporter of Al Gore. Asked for comment the Vice President said it was, and I quote, 'A sad day' for his friend and supporter."

2

Another shooting, another media effort to push gun control without regard to whether any of the proposed new regulations would have had any impact on preventing the latest tragedies. On Thursday morning and evening the broadcast networks promoted the cause high on the liberal agenda, though ABC's evening story approached balance. (See item #3 below for details about the morning shows.)

Picking up on how Clinton "blamed the current stalemate on heat from the NRA," CBS's Dan Rather blamed the NRA for three shootings, asserting "the heat being reflected back on the gun lobby now includes" three killers he cited. CBS reporter Jim Stewart highlighted the idea of banning handguns before lamenting that like after past shootings, there will be a close vote in Congress, "but there won't be any new gun control laws passed." CBS played a taped interview with Clinton in which Rather painted the NRA and gun owners as the impediment to rational action.

NBC anchor Brian Williams insisted the latest shootings are bringing "gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country." Andrea Mitchell asked and answered: "Why won't Congress act? Critics say the NRA outspends gun control advocates fifty to one." Mitchell tied the story to the campaign, gratuitously asserting: "And among the states with the most lenient gun laws, gun control supporters say George Bush's Texas and John McCain's Arizona."

Thursday night, March 2, ABC, CBS and NBC all put gun control into their news agenda, but their coverage ranged from balanced on ABC to one-sided liberal advocacy on NBC with CBS somewhere in between:

-- ABC's World News Tonight followed the liberal agenda in running story on the status of gun control, but at least provided a comparatively balanced report with soundbites in favor of gun control by two-to-one. As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, John Cochran began:
"It has become a familiar pattern: tragedy by gunfire, followed by a presidential call for tougher gun controls, this time after the killing of a six-year-old Michigan girl."
President Clinton: "That child would be alive today if that gun had had a child trigger lock on it that the other six-year-old child could not have fired."
Cochran: "The gun lobby says the President ignores the fact that the boy was living in dangerous home full of illegal guns."
Wayne LaPierre: "The idea that the solution to this crack house is the federal government knocking on the door and delivering them a safety lock and saying that would have prevented it, I think is crazy."

Cochran then outlined how Clinton wants to make manufacturers provide trigger locks, ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips and impose background checks for purchases at gun shows, all proposals bottled up in Congress. Cochran continued:
"Today after a new round of tragedies, gun control advocates tried again."
Senator Diane Feinstein: "This is the real world. This is what's happening out there. How can we stand by and not do anything?"
Cochran offered an interesting take on why some Republicans favor gun control and then uniquely pointed out how Democrats really don't want to pass anything:
"But chances are slim for new gun laws. A few House Republicans do favor gun control because it is popular with women voters. But most Republicans do not want to do anything that might upset gun owners, and the National Rifle Association points out there are already 22,000 gun laws on the books around the country. And most Democrats do not want to do anything because they would rather accuse the Republicans of running a do-nothing Congress."
Cochran concluded: "At first glance it seems that gun control is held hostage to election year politics. It looks that way on the second and third glance, too."

-- CBS Evening News. With an on-screen graphic declaring "Armed America," Dan Rather opened the show:
"Good evening. President Clinton challenged the Republican-led Congress today to approve new laws aimed at reducing gun crimes. The President blamed the current stalemate on heat from the NRA. The heat being reflected back on the gun lobby now includes this: In Michigan a 19-year-old man was arraigned today for involuntary manslaughter. His gun was allegedly used by one first grader to kill another. Her funeral is tomorrow. The suspect is yesterday's suburban Pittsburgh shooting spree is being charged with two homicide counts and may also face hate crime charges. In Hiawatha Kansas last night a teenager shot and killed a deputy sheriff, then died in a shootout with police. CBS's Jim Stewart reports tonight on the push and the prospects for even modest new gun control laws."

Stewart began: "The dead aren't even buried yet in the nation's latest gun tragedies and already the same urgent cries are being heard in Washington. President Clinton today said he would call a congressional summit meeting at the White House next week to try to get some sort of gun control legislation passed while Republican leaders insist many on both sides see no need for any new laws at all."

Stewart played a clip of Congressman Henry Hyde saying laws don't stop gun violations and a soundbite of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre complaining that the Clinton administration won't enforce current laws. Stewart ran through Clinton's proposals before he took on Clinton from the left:
"But with gun sales and manufacturing on the decline and public opposition to guns on the rise, some analysts wonder if now isn't the time for even bolder measures."
Kristen Rand, Violence Policy Center: "The President is talking about trigger locks and so-called smart guns when what we really need to be talking about is regulating America's unregulated gun industry and banning handguns."

From Capitol Hill Stewart concluded by lamenting the uphill struggle for gun control: "Every time a co-worker goes crazy or someone shoots up a schoolyard they have that debate up here and every year the vote to tighten up gun control laws gets a little bit closer. And most experts believe that's what will happen again. It will be close but there won't be any new gun control laws passed this year either."

CBS then played a tape of Rather interviewing Bill Clinton. Rather's three questions:
"Is or is it not your contention Mr. President the basic problem has been the Republican-led Congress?"
"Everyone knows the National Rifle Association pours a lot of money into a lot of campaigns to beat just this kind of legislation that you have proposed, but is it or is it not reality that what you have are tens of millions of Americans who own guns and whatever their party affiliation, however they feel about you, are just adamant about not controlling guns any further and that's the real problem?"
"With, as you've mentioned, at least 200 million guns out there, what about the argument that says 'listen, there's really no chance that we're going to have meaningful gun control in this country unless you go out and get those guns back and that's simply not practical'?"

-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams trumpeted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The killing of the six-year-old by another first grader, yesterday's shootings spree in the state of Pennsylvania, it's all combining to bring gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country."

Reporter Andrea Mitchell complained: "Polls consistently show a strong majority of Americans want gun control, but for eight months legislation has been stuck in Congress going nowhere. After the latest tragedies, the President this morning on the Today program."
Bill Clinton: "I don't think most Americans have any idea what a strangle hold the NRA has had on this Congress."
Mitchell: "The White House wants Congress to close the gun show loophole that permits gun sales with no background check, impose mandatory child safety locks on triggers, make parents legally responsible if their children commit crimes with guns, forbid gun sales to anyone convicted of a juvenile crime, ban multi-round ammunition clips, but again today the Senate refused to take quick action despite threats from gun control advocates."
Senator Diane Feinstein: "You either vote our way, or we'll defeat you at the polls."
Mitchell: "Why won't Congress act? Critics say the NRA outspends gun control advocates fifty to one, and not just in Congress, but in every state legislature. Even after Columbine, Colorado's legislature refused to close the gun show loophole."
Joseph Sudbay, Handgun Control Inc: "You still have a lot of entrenched legislators who, for years and years and years, have never had to think about the gun issue. They've always done what the NRA wanted."

Mitchell tied the debate to the campaign, citing the two leading Republican candidates: "And among the states with the most lenient gun laws, gun control supporters say George Bush's Texas and John McCain's Arizona. McCain today."
John McCain: "I don't control our state laws because I am a United States Senator, and I know that our governor and our legislature are reviewing all of these situations."
Finally allowing the other side to speak, but not to make a substantive point. Mitchell warned: "As the campaign heats up, the gun lobby is ready."
Wayne LaPierre of NRA: "It's gonna be a hot issue because for some reason certain politicians have decided they want to eliminate firearms in America."
Mitchell concluded by fuming: "So no matter how many deaths few people expect a new federal gun law in an election year."

3

Just the opposite from Thursday evening, Thursday morning NBC offered the least imbalanced coverage while ABC delivered one-sided advocacy for gun control. Though NBC's Today gave Bill Clinton a forum to promote his gun control lobbying effort, dedicating all of the 7am half hour after the news update to a live interview with him, at least Katie Couric challenged him several times with anti-gun control arguments.

ABC's Good Morning America, in contrast, gave itself over to a gun control advocate, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, making her their only guest on the subject. Charles Gibson fretted: "What does it say about the United States Congress and your colleagues that you can't even pass childproof locks on the guns?"

-- Good Morning America, March 2. Previewing the 7am half hour, co-host Diane Sawyer anguished over how Congress won't pass more laws:
"And in the midst of all this, we decided that we would search for the voice which could best tell us why Congress takes so long, stalls so long on measures for the simplest safety devices to make guns childproof. And this morning we decide to pose that question to a woman who has lived violence from both sides, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose own husband died in a shooting rampage, and she'll give us her answer."

Setting up the subsequent interview, co-host Charles Gibson, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, promoted McCarthy:
"And we're going to turn, Diane, very briefly, to a lawmaker whose very presence in Congress is part of her crusade for gun control. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy launched her political after her husband was killed and her son was injured in a shooting rampage in a New York commuter train six years ago. And she has been at the center of gun control efforts in Washington since she got there and she joins us from Washington this morning. Congresswoman, good to have you with us as always. I know when incidents like that which occurred yesterday and which occurred on Tuesday occur, I suspect your phone starts ringing not only from people who want to talk about gun control bills, but from family members who want some explanation and what to say -- and we were just listening to Ms. [Joyce] Ambrose [one of the freed hostages in yesterday's shooting] say how she talked to her kids -- what do you say to people when they call your office?"

Gibson offered up a mild challenge: "If the laws of Michigan had been fully enforced, that gun that the young boy picked up on Tuesday and took to school and shot that little girl, that gun wouldn't have been there for him to pick up. So do we need new laws or just work on the old ones?"

GMA held her through the 7:25am break, with Gibson posing this leading question as his only one in the 7:30am segment: "There have been so many shootings by children of other children in a series of schools that culminated in Columbine, that terrible tragedy there; then on Tuesday, a six-year-old boy kills another. What does it say about the United States Congress and your colleagues that you can't even pass childproof locks on the guns?"

-- NBC's Today. Interviewing President Clinton in the 7am half hour, co-host Katie Couric actually challenged his assumptions on several occasions. Here are the questions she posed, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:

"Let me ask you first of all when you heard the story of a six year old boy in Michigan, a first grader, bringing a gun to school and shooting to death his six-year-old classmate, what was your reaction?"
"When something like this happens politicians often jump on it as an excuse for more gun control but I know that Mr. President you're very proud of pointing out that gun deaths have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 30 years in this country. So should we view this more as a tragedy than a reason to call for more gun control?"
"Well why is it locked in committee? Why has it been stalemated and when would you like them to come to the White House?"
"Let me deal with some of those issues that you just raised Mr. President. What about registering guns? All Americans are required to register their cars why not require them to register guns?"
"When it comes to licensing, Mr. President, Wayne LaPierre who you know is the Executive Vice President of the NRA said, quote, 'Criminals aren't going to stand in line to get their photos taken. Their not going to stand in line, stand, rather for licenses.' You're walking way out on a limb."
"But meanwhile is it practically possible to check every gun owner in America to see if he or she is carrying a license?"
"Mr. President why haven't you publicly asked gun manufacturers to produce these so called smart guns, voluntarily?"

Couric went back and forth with Clinton for a bit over whether the Republican presidential candidates favor trigger locks. Her last substantive question: "An NRA spokesman actually told us last night that this isn't about making guns safer it's about prosecuting criminals and that your Justice Department hasn't done enough in that area."

-- CBS's The Early Show brought aboard Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. As noted by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, co-host Jane Clayson treated him as a hostile witness, demanding:

"In light of these two shootings this week, isn't there a point when you must admit that stricter gun control would help put an end to this violence?"
"So what do you suggest to do to keep guns out of the hands of six year olds?"
"Let me ask you quickly about the Brady Law which now requires background checks before you can buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer, but anyone without a background check can buy a gun at a gun show. Why should we make it so easy for criminals, especially, to obtain guns this way?"

4

The unknown lefty reporter. Waiting to appear on MSNBC just after 9:30am Thursday morning to discuss coverage of John McCain, the MRC's Tim Graham watched MSNBC's live coverage of a press briefing being held by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in which he commented on gun control. Before MSNBC cut away Graham noticed that they broadcast the first question from a reporter at the Justice Department table.

Actually, more than a question. The reporter, whose face was not shown and whose name was not displayed, offered some policy advice on how to scare Congress into passing gun control:
"Mr. Holder, these tragedies happening fairly regularly and every time they do, there's an impetus in this country to do something, to have some kind of common-sense gun control laws. But each time, as you know better than any of us, the power of the gun lobby on Capitol Hill frustrates whatever impetus you have, and that impetus is lost on Capitol Hill. Have you ever thought about changing your tactics, taking pictures of these kids who are killed every day, taking them up to Capitol Hill and showing the committee exactly what's involved here?"

Certainly a frustrated liberal.

5

On the presidential campaign front Thursday night, CBS held its coverage to a brief item by anchor Dan Rather on what the candidates did during the day followed by a forecast from Bob Schieffer about which states McCain and Bush are favored to win on Super Tuesday.

On the NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers provided a story on how Bush is pushing his education plan in order to show a contrast with McCain while McCain is angry at a Bush radio ad in New York on how McCain opposed funding breast cancer research. She confirmed that McCain's Web site lists two research centers as pork barrel recipients he opposed, but she countered that he voted for major breast cancer research funding bills. Myers ended by showing an ad, which attacks McCain's environmental record, from a "mysterious new group" named Republicans for Clean Air.

Anne Thompson got about a minute to look at how McCain's aides admit he's gotten off message as he's received a backlash from his attacks on the Religious Right.

ABC's World News Tonight ignored the day's events and marveled at the hold Ronald Reagan still has on Californians. Peter Jennings announced: "It is sad, in a way, that former President Reagan is so ill that he can't enjoy all the flattery that he's getting from this year's Republican candidates. John McCain and George W. Bush are practically trying to morph themselves into Ronald Reagan, too, because they know, as California does, that in that state, riding the Reagan legacy can be powerful stuff."

Jim Wooten showed how McCain and Bush are both claiming Reagan's legacy, concluding: "Bush enjoys broad popularity among Latinos and Asians. And his firm grip on Republicans who see more of Ronald Reagan in him than in Senator McCain puts California well within the grasp of Governor Bush. For the moment here, the Gipper still counts for something."

6

The media did not react with outrage at how Bill Bradley and Al Gore, in responding to a question from Jeff Greenfield at Wednesday's Democratic debate, defended the character of Al Sharpton. But on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on the Fox News Channel, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes pointed out the media's bias when it comes to condemning racial extremists linked to each party. (See the March 2 CyberAlert for Greenfield's question and excerpts of how Gore and Bradley responded.)

Barnes wondered: "What would the press do if there were a debate at Bob Jones University, and Bob Jones III, the President of Bob Jones, got the first question."
Host Brit Hume interjected: "Which is what happened in the debate in Harlem." (See the February 22 CyberAlert.)
Barnes suggested: "What happened in the Democratic debate, with Al Sharpton getting the first question. I mean, what would the press do? They'd riot, is what they'd do. They wouldn't stand for that. They would pillory any Republican that went there, and they'd never let him forget it, that's for sure."

Commenting on Gore's defense of Sharpton at this week's debate, Barnes argued: "When Al Gore talks about redemption, it's fine to give redemption. This guy hasn't asked for redemption. He hasn't apologized. He hasn't said he was sorry. He hasn't apologized to that, those police in upstate New York who he knowingly accused of raping a woman, knowing that they didn't do it, in the Tawana Brawley case. He hasn't apologized for any of that stuff."

7

Did McCain receive softer treatment from Jay Leno on Wednesday night than Bush got from David Letterman? At the end of Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume FNC showed a video contrasting how each were treated the night before by the two hosts. "There have been charges the media have been soft on McCain and tough on Bush," Hume observed, challenging viewers: "See if you think that's true when it comes to the late night TV hosts."

Judge for yourself. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post, in RealPlayer format, the video of clips from both shows compiled by FNC. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

In Thursday's CyberAlert I described Bush's Late Show appearance as "painful" to watch. New York Times critic Caryn James came to the same conclusion. "Bush Muffs Letterman's Late-Night Opportunity," read the headline over her March 2 review.

Letterman's staff realized it didn't go well and like me attributed some of the problem to Bush appearing via satellite. In the Thursday edition of The Wahoo Gazette on the Late Show Web page, a daily chronicle about Letterman's show, Michael Z. McIntee admonished:
"Before you finalize your thoughts about George W., realize it is not an easy task to be interviewed via the satellite. I think with the other news shows that use a satellite, there is a monitor for the interviewee to watch as he is being interviewed. This simplifies things. George W. didn't have one. Also, with a satellite I think there is sometimes a split second delay between what Dave says and when George W. hears it. I think that occurred here last night. It seemed so, at least. Plus, with a satellite, the interviewee does not have the visual cues to know when it's his turn to talk and therefore often speaks when the interviewer is not done. It makes for a messy interview...."

Indeed. -- Brent Baker


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