CyberAlert -- 03/05/1997 -- More on Fat Than Funds

1. Monday night NBC covers two big fundraising developments, but the other networks fail to follow up.

2. Tuesday night ABC was more interested in fat people in New Orleans than in Hillary's newly discovered database role.

3. Tom Brokaw asserts that welfare reform will "exacerbate the feeling...that there is a growing schism between the haves and the have nots."

4. A "McCarthyite witch-hunt" is how Al Hunt described Senator Richard Shelby's request to view Anthony Lake's FBI files.

1) After being the laggard network on the Clinton fundraising scandal front, in the past couple of days NBC has broken or been the only network to cover stories that the other networks both failed to initially report or follow-up on.

On Monday's NBC Nightly News (March 3), Jim Miklaszewski filed a full story on how the "FBI and congressional investigators want to know if the Democrats broke the law last year by laundering campaign contributions." After describing how John Huang had lunch with Rawlein Soberano, head of a Virginia-based Asian American business group, Miklaszewski relayed that in an interview with Washington DC's WRC-TV, "Soberano said Huang asked him to funnel $300,000 through his association, which would then keep $45,000 for their efforts."

Miklaszewski made sure viewers understood the implication: "It's called money laundering, and it's illegal."

(But to put NBC's story in perspective, the allegation first appeared in a front page February 20 Washington Post story. At the time, none of the networks reported the revelation. In NBC's case, better late than never.)

Up next on the March 3 Nightly News, NBC broke the news that newly released documents contradicted Hillary Clinton's claims that she had nothing to do with the White House database. Tom Brokaw explained:

"The computer database the White House uses to keep track of political supporters. When we first learned about it Hillary Clinton denied that she was behind it or that it was ever used for political purposes. Well, NBC's Lisa Myers says new evidence is calling those claims into question."

Lisa Myers began her story: "Despite the First Lady's claim that she knew little, documents obtained by NBC News tell a different story -- that Hillary Clinton was repeatedly briefed on the system and its political value. Congressional investigators say this June 1994 memo shows the White House database was to be technologically compatible with both the Democratic party and the Clinton campaign so that information could be made available for political purposes and that Mrs. Clinton signed off on it. 'This sounds promising, please advice,' she wrote..."

The Hillary/database story made the front pages of the March 4 Washington Times and Los Angles Times. The story ran inside Tuesday's Washington Post and New York Times. But that widespread play didn't exactly generate a tremendous amount of network coverage. Not even on NBC: While Tuesday's Today covered Gore's situation, neither Soberano or the database were mentioned.

CNN's The World Today didn't tell viewers anything about the database news either Monday or Tuesday night. ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday morning aired a story on it and the roundtable of Bill Kristol, George Stephanopoulos and Cokie Roberts discussed its implications, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen observed. But by Tuesday night ABC had forgotten all about it. See the next item.

2) On ABC's World News Tonight on Tuesday (March 4) anchor Peter Jennings devoted 26 seconds to how a House subcommittee had issued subpoenas for documents from John Huang involving his China contacts. A couple of minutes later, however, Jennings spent more time, 29 seconds, summarizing a nutritional survey which ranked cities by the average weight of residents. New Orleans, we learned, has the highest percentage of overweight adults, Denver the lowest.

The CBS Evening News aired a piece on more calls for a special prosecutor, but CBS, CNN and ABC didn't utter a word about the database Tuesday night. Nor did they have anything about two other stories highlighted on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News.

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski explained that independent counsel Kenneth Starr has subpoenaed the White House for documents about Asian/Lippo Group connections and China. Miklaszewski told Brokaw:

"Web Hubbell was hired by the Lippo Group for anywhere between $150,000 to $250,000 and it's suspected by investigators in Ken Starr's office that that was hush money. And that's what Ken Starr apparently wants to find out and put the squeeze on Web Hubbell."

Next, NBC reporter Pete Williams looked at how House hearings are exploring the possible misuse of the Citizenship USA program the INS instituted to clear a backlog of citizenship applications. Tuesday's Washington Post ran a front page story headlined: "INS Accused of Giving In To Politics: White House Pressure Tied to Citizen Push." But only NBC picked up the story. Williams explained:

"Newly disclosed documents show some in the Clinton White House tried to pressure immigration officials to speed it up, hoping to get more immigrants naturalized by election day, apparently on the assumption that such a push could create new Democratic voters..."

After reporting that the White House wanted to send a letter from Clinton to all new citizens, Williams observed that "The citizenship program has come under fire for moving too fast, overlooking the criminal past of some immigrants..."

Indeed, both the February 25 Los Angles Times and New York Times carried front page stories on the criminal angle. As detailed in the February 27 CyberAlert, the LA Times revealed: "Admitting a breakdown of citizenship procedures, the Justice Department conceded Monday that 180,000 immigrants were naturalized during the last two years without undergoing the full criminal background checks required by law....House Republicans immediately labeled the review as 'alarming' confirmation of allegations that the Clinton administration improperly expedited citizenship applications in a politically motivated effort to bolster Democratic ranks..."

ABC, CBS, NBC evening shows as well as CNN's The World Today: No coverage then. And we're still waiting for ABC, CBS and CNN.

To put ABC's lack of coverage of stories highlighted by NBC in some perspective, remember that NBC (and CBS for that matter) have yet to tell their viewers about news that ABC put on the February 27 World News Tonight: 1) the "quid pro quo between participation" in a fundraiser "and the administration's future position on bankruptcy law issues." 2) How Pauline Kanchanalak is being investigated for obstruction of justice for destroying documents.

3) Tom Brokaw's liberal economic and class structure views came through in a Monday night interview with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. On the March 3 InterNight on MSNBC, Brokaw pressed Giuliani about how the congressional leadership doesn't care about cities. Giuliani pointed out that the two programs -- welfare and immigration reform -- that were mandated, he believes without adequate funding, were passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Democratic President.

Brokaw insisted: "But isn't that going to only exacerbate the feeling, especially in the cities in this country, that there is a growing schism between the haves and the have nots because we're going to mandate welfare reform. We're going to mandate a lot immigration reform but there's going to be no money that comes in behind it."

Talking about Giuliani's plan to allow some students to escape public schools, Brokaw argued: "You have a plan in which you want to send lots of inner city youngsters to private schools next year on scholarship. Aren't those the youngsters that would likely do well in a public school anyway and all those that would be left are those who are going to feel a sense of abandonment?"

4) MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught this example of a journalist putting personal politics ahead of journalistic norms. On Saturday's (March 1) Capital Gang on CNN, Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt offered this as his Outrage of the Week:

"Remember the outcry from conservatives eight years ago when the Senate looked at summaries of FBI reports on John Tower, the unsuccessful nominee for Defense Secretary? Now, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Shelby wants to go much further, demanding CIA nominee Tony Lake's raw FBI files. As Senators Dick Lugar and Bob Kerrey have said, this is outrageous. It's time to end Shelby's McCarthyite witch-hunt."

Hardly the standard the Washington media apply to private information leaked to them.

-- Brent Baker