CyberAlert -- 04/15/1997 -- McDougal the Felon

McDougal the Felon; Cut F-22 But Not Welfare

1. McDougal and Reno lead all the newscasts, but CBS emphasizes McDougal's credibility problem. Dateline NBC's McDougal interview will just be that show's fifth scandal story in 27 months.

2. The White House releases another pile of documents, but only CBS airs a full story. NBC ignores their release.

3. Networks worry about wasting money on new F-22 fighter, but NBC warns of "disastrous effect" of welfare reform.

1) The three broadcast network evening newscasts all led Monday night with the sentencing of Jim McDougal and Janet Reno's decision to not appoint an independent counsel.

On NBC Nightly News Jim Miklaszewski showed a clip of McDougal's Dateline NBC interview with Stone Phillips that will run Tuesday night. McDougal said of Clinton: "I just got sick and tired of lying for the fella."

Miklaszewski noted "That could be big trouble for President Clinton," before explaining McDougal's charge that Clinton was involved in a scheme to obtain an illegal $300,000 SBA loan. After airing a clip of McDougal asserting his credibility doesn't matter since he pointed Ken Starr toward other witnesses and evidence, Miklaszewski concluded his story:

"Privately White House officials say McDougal's credibility does matter. That it's his word against the President. But tonight there's worried silence and no comment. Clinton aides admit they have no idea what McDougal turned over to investigators."

CBS Evening News viewers got a spin more sympathetic to the White House. Reporter Phil Jones concluded: "This may sound like bad news for the Clintons, but in the end McDougal's credibility will always be in question for he is a convicted felon. Phil Jones, CBS News, Washington."

In two years and three plus months, Tuesday's Dateline interview with McDougal will be just the fifth Clinton-scandal story aired by the NBC magazine show. A check of the MRC's Media Tracking System from January 1, 1995 through last week found:

  • An August 8, 1995 interview with Senator D'Amato about his Whitewater hearings
  • A January 17, 1996 profile of fired travel office chief Billy Dale
  • A January 26, 1996 piece on Hillary Clinton testifying before a grand jury
  • More than a year and a campaign season later, a March 2, 1997 story on the selling of the Lincoln bedroom.

Dateline airs two to four times a week, or about 350 times since January 1, 1995. Dateline averages four stories per show. Five of 1,400 segments equals 0.3 percent, meaning 99.7 percent of Dateline stories have not dealt with Clinton scandals. Remember that the next time a reporter wonders why the scandals are not "resonating" with the public.

2) Also on Monday the White House released another pile of documents. On CNN's Inside Politics and World Today viewers learned about some intriguing ties between John Huang and the Chinese Embassy. But the networks didn't pick up that angle. NBC Nightly News didn't mention anything about the papers. On the CBS Evening News Rita Braver looked at who got a ride on Air Force One. She also noted that a few months after he resigned from the Justice Department Web Hubbell got a seat at a Clinton fundraising dinner.

On ABC Peter Jennings offered, in full:
"The Democratic National Committee today released thousands of documents concerning fundraising, one of them from 1992 in which party officials request that major fundraisers be given serious consideration for jobs in the Clinton Administration. And at least 20 of them, we learn from these documents, end up working for the government. There was also a list with 62 fundraisers who were rewarded with flights on Air Force One or Air Force Two. Just got those documents today, more analysis of them to come."

We'll see. In the past the networks have quickly dropped Clinton scandals stories and failed to follow-up on revelations.

3) Enough with scandal coverage, or lack thereof. Here's some old-fashioned policy bias. Last Wednesday (April 9) Lockheed- Martin unveiled a new fighter plane, the F-22. The three broadcast networks all focused on its cost and raised doubts about its necessity.

-- On World News Tonight ABC's Peter Jennings announced: "It is also the most expensive fighter plane ever built -- 80 to 100 million dollars each as of now and the cost is expected to keep on rising. As we said it is your money big time and it certainly raises questions today about whether everything the Pentagon wants is worth the price."

-- Dan Rather intoned on the CBS Evening News: "There is also news about a highly publicized new U.S. warplane that's making $70 billion in tax money disappear. This was roll-out day for the F-22, billed as the stealth attack jet for the 21st Century and billed, as always, to you."

-- Tom Brokaw, on the NBC Nightly News, told viewers: "A fierce political version of an aerial dogfight over a new and very expensive fighter plane, the F-22. The F-22 was a good idea at the time of conception, but do we really need it now? And a whole new generation of other expensive weapons. Here's NBC's Ed Rabel."

Ed Rabel explained: "The F-22 was designed a decade ago counter sophisticated new Soviet aircraft then on the drawing boards. But with the Soviet Union now just a memory, critics are calling the plane, rolled out today by manufacturer Lockheed-Martin, a Cold War relic and an expensive one at that -- a 160 million a copy gold-plated gizmo outmatching any conceivable threat."

Eugene Carroll, Center for Defense Information: "We're spending money we don't have to build and airplane we don't need to defeat a non-existent enemy."

Of course, these critics would have more credibility if they hadn't fought military weapons during the Cold War.

Liberals oppose military spending and favor social welfare spending. By coincidence that's just what NBC advocates.

The next night, on the April 10 NBC Nightly News, Brokaw ominously warned:

"In Southern California, the welfare reform requirements could have a disastrous effect. That's the conclusion of a university study out today. Too much expected too soon of too many. Here's NBC's George Lewis."

As viewers saw video of an overweight women walking with two kids, even up some stairs, George Lewis asserted: "April Boyd is a single mom with six children. Because of a hip injury suffered in a car accident she says she's unable to work. Boyd is one of a half a million Los Angeles-area residents who could lose part or all of their welfare benefits."

Boyd: "We're already struggling, so it'll just be all that harder for us because right now I can't even work no more."

Lewis: "Today's USC study predicts that welfare reform will push thousands of people deeper into a life of poverty and overwhelming personal problems."

After a soundbite from a study author, Lewis reeled off some of the dire numbers about unsupported disabled children and how 21,000 more children will end up in foster care.

Though credible studies put homelessness at under one million nationwide, Lewis preposterously charged: "And homelessless could rise by as many as 190,000 people. Economically depressed neighborhoods, like LA's skid row, will be hit the hardest. But the prediction is that the economic impact for the entire community could go as high as a billion and a half dollars a year. This afternoon a state welfare official criticized the USC study, saying it went out of its way to paint, what he called, a doom and gloom picture."

Viewers saw a clip of the Governor walking between Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie as Lewis noted: "Republican Governor Pete Wilson predicts that most people kicked off the welfare rolls will find work. April Boyd is not so sure."

Boyd: "If you don't walk in a person's shoes such as myself you'll never know how we feel and what we going through."

Over video of April going up steps unassisted, Lewis concluded: "Most everyone thought that overhauling the welfare system would be a good idea. Now, there are new concerns being raised about the human consequences of doing that."

How about a little concern for the human consequences of an ever-rising tax burden on workers carrying those who think they have a right to other people's money.

-- Brent Baker