CyberAlert -- 03/24/1997 -- Rather Wrong

Copy of: MRC Alert: Rather Wrong; Hunt's Hit; Fawning over Finland

1. Newspapers full of Clinton scandal disclosures, but the networks look the other way.

2. Dan Rather falsely reports that Republicans turned down Burton's investigation because it will focus on Clinton.

3. Al Hunt: Dan Burton is leading a "kooky investigation."

4. A New York Times columnist argues that Gingrich's tax violation means he cannot lecture Chinese about the rule of law.

5. Tom Brokaw and NBC gush over a snowy socialist state "where women rule the land" so "family matters are a national priority."

1) The March 20 CyberAlert documented how the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Wednesday aired pieces on a Washington Post story alleging Congressman Dan Burton shook down a lobbyist for a contribution. An editorial in Friday's Wall Street Journal on Democratic efforts to sidetrack the House investigation cited this MRC finding as well as how the networks failed to give such prominence to seven other recent Washington Post revelations related to Clinton fundraising.

The pattern of ignoring Clinton fundraising and Whitewater developments continued over the past four nights. Here are four disclosures not jumped on by the networks:

-- A front page New York Times headline on Thursday, March 20 declared: "Asian Paid $100,000 to Hubbell Days After Visits to White House." The Times discovered more evidence of possible hush money payments to Webster Hubbell: "In late June of 1994, the Indonesian businessman James T. Riady saw President Clinton and some of his aides in five days of White House visits ending on a Saturday. Early the next week, one of Mr. Riady's companies paid about $100,000" to Hubbell.

-- Also on Thursday, a front page Boston Globe story began: "On Jan. 15, 1996, John Huang, the Democratic National Committee fundraiser, received an extraordinary memo. It spelled out how to 'convert' Democrats to back favorable trade status for China. And, most mysteriously of all, it included a handwritten notation that the strategy was being discussed 'with the embassy,'" presumably the Chinese embassy.

-- "Democrats May Have to Return $207,350 More," read a USA Today headline on Friday. The March 21 story reported that the paper had uncovered 36 more improper donations not yet acknowledged by the DNC: "In one case, a donor considered legitimate by Democratic auditors listed a used car lot as his home. In other cases, donors gave the address of a Buddhist temple as their residence."

-- Sunday's New York Times reported that Clinton and Gore were regularly told how much was expected to be raised from each coffee meeting, coffees the White House maintained were not fundraisers.

What kind of coverage did these stories generate on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News?
On Thursday night: nothing
On Friday night: nothing
On Saturday night (no CBS because of basketball): nothing

On Sunday night (no CBS in east because of college basketball): Not a word on NBC. ABC's World News Tonight Sunday, which most east coast stations including the one here in DC did not carry because an auto race ran late, did air two stories -- one on Clinton's knowledge of the coffees as fundraisers (which mentioned the $100,000 payment to Hubbell), and a story on how the China/campaign funding controversy is dogging Gore on his trip to China.

2) Forget doing a little reporting. Go with the liberal spin. That appears to be Dan Rather's policy. On Thursday's CBS Evening News Rather told viewers:
"For the second time in two weeks, Republicans have revolted against their leaders over the investigation into political campaign finances. By the narrowest of margins, 213 to 210, the House tonight refused to approve the money to finance the work of 19 committees. Many Republicans did not go along with their leaders who want the investigation to focus only on the Clinton White House."
Really? "Dissenters: Vote Does Not Imply Disapproval of Investigation" read the jump-page headline on a Friday Washington Post story. Post reporter Guy Gugliotta explained: "The key votes to block yesterday's funding resolution were cast by the 11 conservatives because it included increases in committee budgets. The dissenters insisted that their votes did not imply disapproval of the campaign fundraising investigation led by Burton..."
Failing to correct his error, on Friday's CBS Evening News Rather emphasized complaints about the scope of the investigation:
"House Republicans settled their differences today and voted to provide nearly four million dollars for investigation of, mostly if not entirely, Democratic campaign fundraising during the last presidential election. The Chairman of the investigating committee, Republican Dan Burton of Indiana, says hearings could begin in four to six weeks."

3) Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt doesn't much like Republicans who are too aggressive. As noted in the March 5 CyberAlert, on the March 1 Capital Gang Hunt complained about Senator Richard "Shelby's McCarythite witch-hunt" in how he treated CIA nominee Anthony Lake.
This past Saturday Hunt was back on the attack. Here's Hunt's Outrage of the Week from the March 22 Capital Gang in CNN:
"While the House wastes money on a Dan Burton-led witch-hunt of Clinton fundraising abuses, will they look into their own? Newt Gingrich's GOPAC? Or as reported by Gerry Seib and Greg Hitt in the Wall Street Journal, the close connection between interest groups meeting on legislation with Rep. David MnIntosh and then making campaign contributions to the Congressman?"
When Bob Novak suggested Burton may run a good investigation, Hunt shot back: "There's a good Senate investigation which is serious. This is kind of a kooky investigation. We shouldn't waste eleven million dollars. That's hard earned tax money."
Nice that Hunt is showing some concern for taxpayer money.

4) Violate non-profit tax code. Run a communist government with no regard for human rights. Same thing, implied New York Times columnist and former reporter Tom Friedman. On Friday's (March 21) PBS Washington Week in Review NPR's Elizabeth Arnold suggested that during Newt Gingrich's trip to China he won't be asked about his $300,000 "fine."
Friedman jumped in: "It'll be interesting when he sits down with Jiang Zemin, the President of China, and starts lecturing him about the rule of law though, I think. I'd like to be a fly on the wall in that session."

5) A socialist government equals caring, Tom Brokaw argued last week. Teasing an upcoming story as the March 20 NBC Nightly News went to a commercial break, Brokaw announced: "Later, where women rule the land. A place where family matters are a national priority."
What is this paradise? Finland. Reporting from Helsinki, the site of the Yeltsin-Clinton summit, NBC's Ron Allen found that in Finland the Speaker, one-third the parliament and nearly half the cabinet are women. Noting that Finnish women got the vote 90 years ago, Allen asserted:
"Today, 90 percent of Finnish women work. It's 74 percent in the U.S. And the gap between what women and men earn is smaller in Finland. By some measures, Finnish women are smarter than the men. They earn more than half the college degrees. It's all meant family-friendly government paid programs, like affordable day care...And parents can take three years off to care for a new-born without losing their jobs, thanks, they say, to mothers in government. Abortion is legal and free. Teen pregnancy rates are the lowest in the world. A law like America's failed Equal Rights Amendment passed long ago..."
Sounds like the perfect spot for Hillary Clinton's retirement.
  • Finally, credit where credit is due. It was Brian Maloney, the afternoon talk host on KOH radio in Reno, who thoughtfully alerted me to the USA Weekend labeling that I cited in the last CyberAlert. The Sunday newspaper supplement tagged the Sierra Club as a "relatively conservative organization."

-- Brent Baker