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CyberAlert -- 03/11/1997 -- Reporting Matches Polling

MRC Alert: Reporting Matches Polling; Basketball Baby; Latest NQ

1. Brit Hume observes that media wouldn't have been distracted by stories about Sam Ervin, and interest in Dan Burton reflects media bias.

2. ABC and CBS run pieces on how Republicans no cleaner than Democrats. That's how polls find the public sees it too.

3. Today can't squeeze in a mention of the fundraising scandals, but NBC finds time for a bumped wedding and a basketball bouncing baby.

4. The March 10 edition of Notable Quotables.

1) Sunday's New York Times carried a front page story headlined "Critic of White House ethics Let AT&T Give Him Favors." The story detailed how Congressman Dan Burton played in an AT&T sponsored golf tournament and the corporation sponsored a fundraising dinner for Burton who now chairs "the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, which has jurisdiction over the agency that will soon award at least $5 billion" in telephone service contracts with the government.

The story led to this exchange on the March 9 Fox News Sunday between Mara Liasson of NPR and Brit Hume of Fox News.
Liasson: "And it's even harder to investigate practices that Congress does themselves. That's the tough thing. Today we see the article about Dan Burton..."
Hume: "That's a golf junket."
Liasson: "Right, but I'm just saying it's tougher to do this and get a clean bid at the White House."
Hume: "Well, I must say, Mara, if you go back to the days of Watergate, the days of the Nixon administration. If somebody published a story then that said Sam Ervin had been on a golf junket or a law seminar weekend or something like that it would have lasted a half an hour and the Washington press would have forgotten about it. The atmosphere is different when it comes to Republicans."

Indeed, that night on ABC's World News Sunday anchor Carole Simpson picked up the New York Times story on the perfectly legal event. Simpson's brief story began with this effort at equivalence: "The head of the House committee looking into Democratic fundraising is defending his own fundraising today...."

2) Monday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows all ran stories on the various reports regarding how the FBI warned the NSC about potential Chinese influence attempts and whether or not the FBI asked that the information not be passed on to the President.

Catching up with NBC Nightly News which ran a Republicans "do it too story" last Thursday on some legal GOP fundraising techniques, Monday night ABC and CBS aired similar pieces. Neither cited any examples of the kind of illegal foreign fundraising ensnaring the Clinton team.

On the March 10 World News Tonight Peter Jennings announced:
"The cynicism about politics these stories generate shows up on our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. For one thing, three-quarters believe that what the Democrats did to raise money in the last election campaign is no different from what other Presidents and what the Republicans have been doing for years."
After mentioning a couple of other poll numbers, Jennings continued:
"Well that everybody does it cynicism will certainly get some reinforcement from this next report. It is about what Republican connections were available and at what price."

Here's an excellent illustration of the media triangle: First, report one side's spin (in this case, that Republicans do the same thing); Second, take a poll that shows that's what the public believes; Third, reinforce the poll finding with a story that matches what the public believes which matches the reporting in the first place.

So, in the "next report" to which Jennings referred, Linda Douglass began:
"A review of GOP fundraising letters and documents by ABC News has found that Republicans have been selling access to their leaders for years..."
Douglass cited a 1995 dinner which offered the opportunity for breakfast with Bob Dole for $15,000 and, for another $30,000, lunch with Newt Gingrich.
Douglass picked up: "...And what about Republican complaints that President Clinton degraded the White House by opening its doors to donors? An analysis of President Bush's schedule shows he also entertained big donors, known as the Eagles, 18 times in the White House. And in 1988 President Reagan's fundraisers charge admission to one event at the White House."

Let's see, 18 for Bush and one for Reagan is no different than about 100 coffees and over 800 overnights?

Douglass concluded: "Republicans insist what they did was legal and charge some Democratic fundraising practices may not have been. But Democrats call that a smoke screen and say that GOP fundraising documents underscore the need for a wider ranging investigation of both political parties. Linda Douglass, ABC News, Washington."

A liberal activist couldn't have written a better script for Douglass.

The CBS Evening News provided the same news. Bob Schieffer opened his story:
"Dan, Republicans may not have rented out the White House, but according to some documents we've obtained, they sure didn't mind trying to sell a little access to key officials."
Schieffer cited the same 1995 dinner, before concluding:
"Those connected with the dinner claim that no laws were broken there, but in what could be another embarrassment for Republicans a fundraising letter sent out by Republican Senator Kit Bond has turned up in which he advises donors to contact him at his Senate office. Bond says tonight that the address and the phone number were simply placed there by mistake, that donors should have been referred to party headquarters and that he never used his Capitol office to raise money, Dan."

What did Brit Hume say about how a story about Sam Ervin would have been forgotten in a half hour?

Dan Rather moved on to poll numbers that matched what ABC found: "Okay Bob. A CBS News poll out tonight suggests growing public awareness, and some growing concern, about fast and loose campaign fundraising by both parties. Three-quarters of the people we surveyed said the Democrats' 1996 fundraising practices were common to Republicans as well. 40 percent said they attach great importance to the fundraising investigation -- much more so than Whitewater [on screen: 18%], but a lot less than Watergate crimes of the Nixon White House [on-screen 53%]."

Only NBC Nightly News picked up on Monday's Washington Post story on how "the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indians of Oklahoma kicked in $107,000 to the Democratic National Committee and hoped the money would help result in favorable Clinton Administration action on the return of their tribal lands. It didn't happen."

Noting how the DNC later asked for another $25,000 for inaugural activities, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski asserted: "Tribal leaders believe they're the victims of what they call a shakedown."

3) In another sign of how not all the networks are putting the Clinton fundraising scandals at the top of the news agenda, Monday's Today did not include a word about them. Both ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning found it worth reporting that the FBI warned Senators and Congressmen about China's efforts to influence the election. Not NBC.

Instead, March 10 Today viewers were treated to a combinations of topics better suited to Jerry Springer and a segment of David Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks. In the first hour:
-- Today spent four minutes and fifty seconds on an interview with a couple whose June wedding has been bumped from Denver's Museum of Natural History so that the museum can accommodate the G-7 economic summit meeting in Denver. Ann Curry, filling in for Matt Lauer, began with this inquiry: "Suzanne, you found out about this conflict, both of you, eleven days ago and Brad says you cried for hours. What's the worst of it?"
-- Next, Today devoted two minutes and 24 seconds to Katie Couric and Ann Curry -- this required "team coverage" -- watching a 19-month old boy dribble a basketball.

An interesting set of priorities for a "news" show. The latest issue of Notable Quotables runs below. -- Brent Baker

4) The March 10 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. To subscribe my mail for $19 annually, send an e-mail message to Carey Evans: cevans@mediaresearch.org

About half of these quotes have appeared in previous CyberAlerts -- which means about half have not and should be new to you.

March 10, 1997 (Vol. Ten; No. 5)

Work-Nots Before Workers

"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 of immigration reform but there's going to be no money that comes in behind it." -- NBC anchor Tom Brokaw on welfare and immigration reform, to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, March 3 MSNBC InterNight.

"[Food] stamps, a blessing, allowed them [able-bodied adults without children] to purchase about $25 worth of food a week. They would not be able to eat like a President or member of Congress, but they could have some soup, maybe a little pasta, some tuna, some beans. They wouldn't starve, and they would have enough energy to continue looking for a job...After 90 days, the following notice is to be disseminated: Put down that soup spoon, poor person, the Clinton administration and the Republican-led Congress are clearing the table." -- New York Times columnist (and former NBC reporter) Bob Herbert, February 21.

End Public Cynicism: Lie to Your Constituents

"Here was Torricelli defying such facile media labels ["poll-directed"] with an unpopular vote against a gaudily wrapped package of constitutional mischief....Why do political weather vanes sometimes point true north? What prompts a pragmatic legislator to courageously resist, at the last moment, the siren song of expediency?...Two freshman Senators, so different in style and temperament, deserve plaudits for sticking their necks out to block a constitutional calamity. Despite my cynical doubts, sometimes the system works." -- USA Today Politics columnist and former Time reporter Walter Shapiro praising Senators Bob Torricelli and Tim Johnson, who campaigned for and then voted against the Balanced Budget Amendment, Feb. 28.

Clinton Just Wanted to Get Re-Elected

Larry King on White House fundraising zeal: "A little Nixonian?" Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward: "...Well, sure. It was all about raising money, in part, for Nixon. But it's not Nixonian, because Nixon was clearly a criminal President. What Clinton wanted to do was be re-elected, and in that burning desire did he cross a line? Did he kind of open the flood gates? Well, he did the money, did he watch the boundaries of the law? We're gonna see." -- Feb. 28 Larry King Live on CNN.

Oh, Everybody Does It

"How can you keep a straight face when you talk about this President, who is a Democrat, inviting people to the White House -- big, heavy rollers, contributors -- when the same thing was done by Republican Presidents?" -- CNN's Bernard Shaw to U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), February 25 Inside Politics.

"President Clinton's best defense for any campaign fundraising excesses or irregularities by Democrats appears to be that the Republicans do it too. And even more." -- NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, February 19 Today.

"Democratic National Committee documents show that Mr. Gore's appearances at dozens of fundraisers brought millions into Democratic Party coffers. But White House aides point out that Vice President Dan Quayle was also a super-active fundraiser during the Bush years." -- Rita Braver, March 3 CBS Evening News.

"Clinton did not invent a new system. He milked the old one for all it's worth. But you still don't have any proof that is illegal...What the Democrats did was modeled after what the Republicans had done." -- Newsweek contributor Eleanor Clift, March 1 McLaughlin Group.

Kissinger's "Conservative"?

"Dr. Kissinger, the death of Deng Xiaoping has triggered an interesting intellectual debate on the conservative right, with a lot of conservative journals now and writers coming and saying that to be a conservative, and you were associated with a conservative administration, to be a conservative on China is to understand that you have to stand up strategically, to contain this burgeoning giant, and morally, to contain this very oppressive regime. How do you as a conservative, and who has been an object of some of these attacks, react to that argument?" -- New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to Henry Kissinger, February 23 Face the Nation.

Great Killer's Record Marred by Runaway Capitalism

"Deng Xiaoping. He was one of the most remarkable and controversial men of the 20th century. An intel- lectual giant in a tiny frame who helped shape the modern China, from the long march to the communist revolution to the mix of communist ideology and free enterprise." -- Tom Brokaw, Feb. 19 NBC Nightly News.

"And finally, there was the most troublesome shadow of all, Mao Zedong, Deng's friend and foe, his rival for the soul of a country so ancient it has had the misfortune both to forget its history many times over and to repeat it again and again. Only history will decide who was the greater." -- Time Senior Editor Howard Chua-Eoan and Senior Writer James Walsh, March 3.

"For all of China's economic success, much of the vast country is still either desperately poor or suffering from the excesses of runaway capitalism -- or both." -- Newsweek's Bill Powell, March 3.

Only Craig Livingstone Can See Those

"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." -- Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt's Outrage of the Week, March 1 Capital Gang.

Plenty of Clinton Scandal Coverage

"It seems to be pretty tough; it seems to be pretty thorough; it seems to be that there's been no laziness on the part of the media with this one." -- ABC's John Cochran to independent journalist Marc Morano at a Feb. 27 National Press Club dinner. ABC did not air a story the night the Gore fundraising story broke.

"There's no question that [Clinton] had extremely intense scrutiny on this issue. No one can argue that anybody in the press, right, left, center, above or below, has failed to cover everything in Whitewater to the maximum extent and continue to do so. And the same thing with these new and what I consider to be very serious questions about campaign contributions." -- Dan Rather to Morano. CBS didn't report the March 4 issuing of subpoenas to White House staff for documents on hush money payments to Webster Hubbell.

"I think in a way, the press is paying the price here for the frenzy of some of its past scandals because the tone of the stories now is identical to that of Travelgate and Filegate and Mena, Arkansasgate and other things which really didn't go anywhere in terms of their significance. So I think there is a crying-wolf problem which we in our business have when it comes to unveiling this sort of thing." -- U.S. News & World Report Editor James Fallows on CNBC's Equal Time, February 26.

Rather Hard on Mr. Nuts

"I think it's inappropriate for our competitors, who have gone through their own incarnations -- including moments like Connie Chung anchoring from Tonya Harding's rink -- to judge us."

"Whenever there is the first hint of a counter-clockwise symbol on a weather map that a hurricane might hit land, `Mr. Hard News' is down there wrapped around a lamp post." -- Tom Brokaw reacting to Dan Rather calling NBC Nightly News "news-lite," quoted by Gail Shister in the March 5 Philadelphia Inquirer.

-- L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
-- Geoffrey Dickens, Gene Eliasen, James Forbes, Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters; Media Analysts
-- Kathleen Ruff, Marketing Director; Carey Evans, Circulation Manager; Brian Schmisek, Intern

-- Brent Baker

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