CyberAlert -- 03/17/1997 -- Hume Hits Pierre

MRC Alert: Hume Hits Pierre; 60 Minutes Avoids Full Story

1. An ABC News veteran says that a colleague's reporting was considered "almost completely unreliable." No wonder Peter Jennings is too embarrassed to admit he worked by ABC.

2. 60 Minutes refuses to tell viewers what Paula Jones claims President Clinton asked of her.

3. Actor Alec Baldwin goes McCarthyite, acuses conservatives of conducting "witch hunt" against the National Endowment for the Arts.

4. The President of CBS News says he is in "awe of Bryant Gumbel's talent."

5. The Washington Post runs an opinion piece charging the MRC with "gushing fonts of Foster murder-porn.".

1) On the March 13 World News Tonight last Thursday, Peter Jennings introduced a story:

"The former newsman and former presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger is making news again with his theory that a U.S. Navy missile blew up TWA flight 800 last summer..."

"Former newsman"? Kind of a vague and, to put it mildly, incomplete description for a man who spent over 15 years as an ABC News reporter, one who held the title of Chief Foreign Correspondent when he left the network in 1993. But maybe Jennings is a bit embarrassed by his former colleague making so much noise with his unsubtantiated allegations of a missile shooting down the TWA plane.

But is Salinger's irresponsible behavior a new development? Not according to Brit Hume, now Managing Editor in Washington for Fox News and for many years ABC's White House reporter.

On the March 16 Fox News Sunday Hume observed:

"Poor Pierre. He was for many years a colleague of mine at ABC News. And he is a lovable guy, who has still about him a certain cache partly because he was JFK's Press Secretary, and he's a man with a certain sort of charm about him."

Niceties aside, Hume then launched his own missile:

"I must tell you that in the latter days of his career at ABC News he was not allowed on World News Tonight because of the feeling there that his reporting was almost completely unreliable. He had all kinds of wacked out stuff about the Pan Am flight 103 that they wouldn't let near the air. And every now and again he'd get on the morning news somehow, by sweet talking a producer or someone and there'd always be a tremendous ta-do after that about how in the world that ever happened. And I must tell you that he simply wasn't regarded in his latter years as somebody you could count on."

Makes you wonder who ABC may now still employ who we'll learn in a few years is disseminating "unreliable" information.

2) On Sunday's 60 Minutes Ed Bradley explored Paula Jones' sexual harassment case against President Clinton. But he refused to tell viewers what, specifically, is at the root of the charge. Here's all viewers were told about what happened when they met in the Little Rock hotel room:

Paula Jones: "He pulled me forward, I mean while he was talking, this man didn't even let me, I didn't even know it was coming, while we were talking he started pulling me forward and trying to kiss me."

Ed Bradley: "Grabbed you?"

Jones: "I backed up, and I stood back and then he tried it a second time and I was trying to talk to him about Hillary Clinton and he started trying to run his hands up my leg and I backed away and I went towards the end, by the door and the next thing I know he was, he came over there, unzipped his pants..."

Her voice trailed off as Bradley said: "What she says happened next, and what she says caused her to leave the room, is spelled out graphically in her lawsuit. As a matter of taste we opted not to include it."

Whatever happened to the journalistic norm of telling everything, gritty details and all, no matter what? Let the public decide what's important? I guess not. Without the "graphic" details that the public got about Clarence Thomas how will they be able to evaluate Jones' charge? And if CBS were suddenly concerned about young viewers, Bradley could have used a term that kids wouldn't understand: "fellatio."

A bit later in the piece, Bradley talked with Michael Isikoff, a Washington Post reporter when Jones made her charge in 1994. The Post waited three months to print his story on her story. Isikoff recalled for Bradley:

"I had helped in the Post's coverage of Anita Hill and I well remember the atmosphere in the newsroom about her allegations and how seriously they were taken."

Ed Bradley: "Did Paula Jones get the same treatment?"

Isikoff: "No, she didn't. Clearly people were holding Paula to a higher level of proof, or being asked for a higher level of proof than with Anita Hill."

3) Last Tuesday some artists marked Arts Advocacy Day by demanding more money for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In the March 12 USA Today, Jessica Lee reported:

"Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., led pop singer Anita Baker, actress Marlo Thomas, Screen Actors Guild President Richard Masur, country singer John Berry and MTV rocker Jewel on a tour through the Capitol. Baker said arts not only feed the spirit but put food on he table. 'The NEA supports or provides up to one million jobs. Don't downsize us,' she said."

Actor Alec Baldwin was also in town meeting with, among others, Newt Gingrich. He also put in some TV appearances during which he accused those wishing to further downsize or eliminate the NEA of "witch hunt tactics."

On the Monday, March 10 NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, Baldwin noted that opponents claim "some of the money is being wasted on objectionable and even pornographic material, which is a very rare instance, by the way." He then asserted:

"The fact remains that when you say we don't have the money for this, the truth is there are other places in government. I would take the argument of the people who say that we don't we have the money for this more seriously if they were willing to go out and conduct a similar witch hunt and to use similar witch hunt tactics that they use, year in and year out during this time of reappropriation for the NEA, to find where there was fraud and waste and money that could be saved."

4) Another note on Bryant Gumbel's deal announced Thursday with CBS for $5 to $7 million per year. In Friday's (March 14) New York Post reporter Josef Adalian relayed this comment made by CBS News President Andrew Heyward at the Thursday announcement:

"This is a wonderful day for us. Instead of watching and respecting and being in awe of Bryant Gumbel's talent on somebody else's network, I'm going to be able to work with him."

The White House has already put together a whole report which tried to prove how a grand conspiracy of groups supported by Richard Scaife forces "legitimate" news organizations to pick up wild charges against Clinton. Instead of disparaging such analysis as a waste of tax money, The Washington Post on Sunday ran a piece furthering the left-wing theory that Independent Counsel Ken Starr is a mere puppet of puppet master Scaife. The March 16 "Outlook" section included a piece from Joe Conason, Executive Editor of the New York Observer. He argued that Starr is "comically compromised" because Scaife has contributed to Pepperdine law school -- the school Starr had announced he'd be dean of before changing his mind.

Three-quarters through his diatribe, Conason charged: "Scaife is also a key funder of Reed Irvine's Accuracy in Media, Brent Bozell's Media Research Center and Paul Weyrich's National Empowerment Television, all gushing fonts of Foster murder-porn and other kinds of scandal smut."

We get our "scandal smut" from major newspapers and then check which items the networks pick up. But one measure of the MRC's "gushing" obsession with Vince Foster: This is the 154th CyberAlert produced since the first one in April of last year. This edition is the second one to contain Vincent Foster's name. The other came in a quote from Bob Schieffer on the June 16, 1996 Face the Nation. But why let any facts mess up a liberal conspiracy fantasy.

-- 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