CyberAlert -- 03/19/1997 -- What 60 Minutes Will Show

Copy of: MRC Alert: What 60 Minutes Will Show; Clinton Hammered Last Fall?

1. 60 Minutes insists good taste prevents it from saying what Clinton requested of Paula Jones, but the program will show bare breasts.

2. NBC's Andrea Mitchell claims that NBC was "hammering" Clinton on fundraising before the election. Not true.

3. From the Late Show with David Letterman: "Top Ten Ways President Clinton's Injury Has Changed His Life."

4. The March MediaWatch study: TV Fundraising Coverage in February Skips Major Developments.

1) Two CyberAlert recipients made some interesting observations about Sunday's generally favorable 60 Minutes story on Paula Jones.

First, the March 17 CyberAlert noted that Ed Bradley refused to tell viewers what Jones says Clinton requested in the hotel room. He reported only: "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."

Bradley may be uncomfortable with saying that Clinton requested oral sex, but this is a new concern for wholesomeness for the show. An October 22, 1995 profile of Julie Andrews by Mike Wallace included a brief clip of Andrews exposing her breasts in the 1981 movie S.O.B.

Second, Bradley presented trooper Danny Ferguson's recollections of what happened and let Ferguson say Jones is lying about what happened. But, Bradley failed to note that Furguson is named in Jones' lawsuit.

2) Appearing on CNBC's Equal Time on March 13 NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell insisted that the fundraising issue was well covered before the election, denied liberal bias exists, claimed reporters are "tougher" on those they favor and said there's one poll she doesn't believe -- the one which found virtually every Washington reporter voted for Clinton-Gore.

MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens transcribed a few of her more colorful claims. Reacting to a comment from co-host Bay Buchanan, Mitchell asserted:
"Let me just jump in on one thing. I do think Bay that in fairness there was a lot of coverage of this campaign finance issue. I was participating in that myself. The Asian connection. All of that began in October when we first started getting an inkling of it. Yes we weren't on top of it earlier in the year when we should have been but you can see the decline in what had been expected to be a landslide for Bill Clinton. His numbers really dropped in October because we were hammering the White House on it. So we weren't shy about doing it in the closing weeks of the election."

+++ Reality Check: "Hammering the White House"?

A check of the MRC's Media Tracking System database found that NBC Nightly News aired a grand total of three stories by Mitchell before the election on fundraising. The first aired on October 21, two weeks before the vote. That story contained the entirety of what NBC Nightly News devoted pre-election to the Gore at the Buddhist monastery story: two sentences at the end of her piece.

"Hammering the White House" does not quite describe NBC's approach on October 29 when they blamed both campaigns equally. Tom Brokaw opened Nightly News:
"If this campaign has an unofficial motto, it is this: 'Wake me when it's over.' But, beyond the tedium of the day to day campaigning, there's another much more alarming development this year -- money. Huge amounts of money pouring into both parties, raising very serious questions about influence and conflict of interest."
That led into story from Andrea Mitchell in which she asserted: "Of course Republicans, including Bob Dole and Jesse Helms, have also tapped into foreign fundraising. And none of these investigations will produce answers until months, or years, after election day."
Later, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski offered a nice spin that had the Clinton campaign "admitting" the Republican are just a bad: "On campaign finance, White House officials admit that both sides are dirty. The best defense: Republicans do it too."

This isn't the first time Mitchell has mischaracterized NBC coverage. On the January 4 Larry King Weekend she maintained that "the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom" was a big story because it "resonates with the American people." At that point NBC Nightly News had yet to tell viewers about the story which broke three weeks earlier in The Washington Post.

Back to last Thursday's Equal Time. Later in the show Mitchell and Bay Buchanan debated liberal bias:
Andrea Mitchell: "I don't accept the notion of the liberal bias. I really don't Bay. I think if anything there is a sort of contrarian bias if there is a bias or a tendency it's to always look for what is controversial and look for the negative rather than looking for what is actually going well in this society."
Bay Buchanan, referring to the Freedom Forum's poll that found 89 percent of Washington reporters voted for Clinton in 1992: "Well let me ask you, Andrea. Isn't there a certain human nature with 90, 89 percent of those in the media voting for Bill Clinton don't you think there's a human nature that you're gonna be leaning into that kind of agenda that he would be proposing?"
Andrea Mitchell: "I don't accept that statistic first. And secondly I don't think that that's human nature. I think that in fact we bend over backwards as a group to be, you know, tougher on people that we might think that we'd favor. But I don't accept the fact because among the reporters I know I don't find a whole lot that's favorable to Bill Clinton."

Well, I'll take this opportunity to note that NBC Nightly News has yet to run a story on the Chinese/Long Beach port controversy. See item #4 below for details on how all the networks failed to report throughout February numerous fundraising revelations.

3) "Top Ten Ways President Clinton's Injury Has Changed His Life," from the March 17 Late Show with David Letterman. Copyrighted by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Now sexually harassing nurses instead of secretaries.

9. Has to take his daily gallon of gravy intravenously.

8. Visiting dignitaries now asked to lend a hand during President's sponge bath.

7. Has to remember to lock wheels on wheelchair before getting a lap dance.

6. While doped up on painkillers, called Peter Jennings a "fruity Canadian bastard."

5. Had to postpone his three-day "summit" with the Spice Girls.

4. Gets big laughs by calling his leg "as useless as Al Gore."

3. After accepting large donations from Indonesian businessmen, asks them to sign his cast.

2. New pickup line: "How'd you like a ride on Wheelchair One?"

1. Two words: medical marijuana.

4) Here's the full text of the March MediaWatch study, put together and written by MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham based upon the daily database entries completed by analysts Clay Waters, Steve Kaminski, Gene Eliasen, Geoffrey Dickens and Jim Forbes.

TV Fundraising Coverage in February Skips Major Developments that Might Not "Resonate"
From the March 1997 MediaWatch


TV Fundraising Coverage in February Skips Major Developments that Might Not "Resonate"

Loving the Lincoln Bedroom Angle

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward broke the story March 2 of "solicitor-in-chief" Al Gore dialing for dollars in the White House. It drew major coverage -- but not from all. That evening's ABC World News Sunday, as well as the next morning's Today show on NBC, completely ignored Woodward. This illustrates the pattern of reporting on the DNC fundraising scandal. Newspaper scoops emerge nearly every day, but many were overlooked by one network, or all of them. Anyone watching only one network missed key parts of the emerging story.

MediaWatch analysts reviewed all February fundraising scandal stories on the evening shows of ABC, CBS, CNN (The World Today), and NBC, as well as the morning shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC. The February 25 discovery of Bill Clinton ordering the invitation of major donors to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom caused a major increase in intensity: the networks aired as many stories in the last four days of February as they had in the first 24. The gritty complexities of election law were, for the networks, much less attractive than a sexy angle expected to "resonate" with viewers.

On the evening shows, the networks aired 50 full reports and 13 anchor briefs, but 25 of the reports and three of the briefs came in the last four days. The eight network shows that led with the fundraising story were all in the last four days. For a majority of days in February, ABC (16 days), CBS (18 days), and NBC (19 days) aired no story on the fundraising beat. Even CNN had 12 days with no fundraising story.

The morning shows did less: 18 full reports, 11 interview segments, and 19 anchor briefs. Again, almost half of the coverage -- eight full reports, five interviews, and 11 anchor briefs -- came after the Lincoln Bedroom story broke. Six morning shows led with the Lincoln Bedroom story, but only two shows led off with the fundraising story in the previous 25 days. Not counting the absence of Saturday morning shows on ABC and CBS, ABC (on 15 days), CBS (16 days) and NBC (19 days) aired nothing new on the fundraising story. A look at daily scoops shows spotty network interest:

  • February 6: The Boston Globe reported "President Clinton renewed controversial aid flights to Cuba last October on the same day a campaign donor pressed President Clinton to resume the flights and offered to arrange a $5 million contribution to the President's campaign." ABC's World News Tonight noted top aide Harold Ickes' memo to the donor, but only CBS aired the Cuba angle.
  • February 7: The Globe reported Arnold Hiatt, the DNC's largest individual donor, gave $500,000 to Democratic Party after discussing suggestions with Ickes about how to donate the money. The Los Angeles Times reported that of the four Asian businessmen Clinton dined with at a July 30 meeting which eventually raised $500,000, two could not legally donate to U.S. campaigns. A front-page USA Today story reported internal White House documents showed the White House Office Data Base was used for political purposes from its inception in 1994. The Wall Street Journal recounted the payoff for two Boston businessmen who attended a White House coffee, getting an exclusive energy efficiency loan program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. None got any coverage.
  • February 12: Contradicting Clinton's claims about coffees, spokesman Mike McCurry said: "I think the President would have wondered why he was doing all those coffees if he hadn't had some follow-up." Only CNN's Wolf Blitzer noted the contradiction.
  • February 16: The Washington Post reported that following a Hillary Clinton visit to Guam in September 1996, island residents raised $900,000 for the Democrats and in December, a Clinton official circulated a report backing a bill allowing Guam to control its immigration and labor laws. On Meet the Press, Rep. Dan Burton announced 20 additional subpoenas on Chinese interest in the U.S. elections. Liberal New York Post columnist Jack Newfield quoted a Clinton adviser claiming Clinton's "incredibly intense" demands for fundraising "caused people to start cutting corners." The Guam story was mentioned only on ABC's World News Sunday and NBC's Today. Burton's subpoenas only aired on CNN, CBSThis Morning and Today. Newfield's article came up on NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week, but it made no other TV show.
  • February 19: In a front-page story, USA Today's Tom Squiteri wrote: "Top finance officials in the Democratic Party quietly decided last July to limit John Huang's fundraising and to end appearances by President Clinton at Asian-American events organized by Huang." Squiteri noted this didn't match statements last fall that officials had no idea of Huang's improprieties. Network coverage? Zero.
  • February 20: The Washington Post reported that Asian-American business association chief Rawlein Soberano was asked by Huang to funnel more than $250,000 through his group for a kickback of $45,000. Inside, Bob Woodward reported a twice-convicted felon who met with Clinton at a 1995 White House coffee attended four subsequent DNC fundraisers with Clinton. The Wall Street Journalshowed how a Miami businessman met twice with the National Security Council's Latin America specialist to urge Clinton to back Paraguay's President in a coup attempt. "The day the unsuccessful coup attempt began," the DNC "received $100,000 from Mr. Jimenez." Only ABC's morning and evening shows mentioned Soberano. (NBC got around to it March 3.) The other two stories: skipped by all.
  • February 22: The New York Times reported "The Manhattan District Attorney said yesterday he had given federal prosecutors evidence that a Venezuelan banking family might have illegally funneled campaign contributions to the Democratic Party during the 1992 elections." Network coverage? Zero.
  • February 23: The Washington Post reported DNC Chairman Don Fowler tried to routinely put large donors in touch with the White House or cabinet officials to have their needs met. Network coverage? Zero.
  • February 25: . The Los Angeles Times reported that while the Clintons kept a public distance from former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, "a trusted White House aide" Marsha Scott has acted as a "confidential go-between," raising the question of White House attempts to keep Hubbell from testifying fully. Network coverage? Nothing.
  • February 28: The Wall Street Journal reported Clinton made angry calls at 1 a.m. to Democratic leaders urging them to fight the naming of an independent counsel. CBS and NBC evening shows mentioned it in passing. ABC and CNN did not.

-- Brent Baker