1) Attorney General Janet went before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but NBC Nightly News didn't devote a second to it. As did ABC and CBC, however, Nightly News found time to report which college Chelsea Clinton plans to attend.
Dan Rather told viewers about Reno's appearance, but didn't bother with mentioning why Republicans are upset with her. Here's the entirety of Rather's April 30 report:
"Attorney General Janet Reno today defended her decision not to request any special prosecutor to look into Democratic fundraising during last year's election campaign. Reno told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she sees no credible evidence that requires her to invoke what the Republicans want, which is the independent counsel law."
Following that 19 second item, CBS then dedicated one minute and 46 seconds to Chelsea's decision to attend Stanford University. Introducing a full story from Rita Braver, Rather again demonstrated that it's impossible to predict what uniquely odd angle he'll bring to a story. Rather declared that Stanford is the "alma mater of Herbert Hoover."
Only ABC's World News Tonight gave more time to Reno than Chelsea. Reporter Linda Douglass noted that Republicans held their fire as "even their harshest attacks were polite." Her piece included soundbites from Reno and Senator Orrin Hatch debating whether there is convincing evidence of illegal acts.
2) The networks continue the policy of picking up stories that fit their "everybody does it" take on fundraising, but skipping new revelations damaging to Clinton. On ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday (April 26) anchor Rene Poissant announced:
"While the Democratic Party has been under fire for accepting questionable donations from the Chinese, now Time magazine reports the Republicans had a Chinese connection of their own. A Hong Kong businessman reportedly bailed out the Republican Party twice in two years to the tune of two and a half million dollars."
NBC's Today followed with a story on Sunday morning and CNN's Inside Politics allocated a segment to the Time story on Monday.
Meanwhile, three scandal development go unnoticed by the networks:
-- On Face the Nation on Sunday President Clinton asserted that he is fully cooperating with Kenneth Starr:
"All I can do is keep smiling, keep cooperating and answering the questions that are asked of me and spending my time being President...I have told the truth, I will continue to tell the truth, that's all that I can do....When I'm required to do something, say something, testify I will do my best to cooperate as honestly and fairly as I can."
Reality Check 1: "Stonewalling Starr" declared a May 5 Newsweek story which reported that the White House is refusing to provide Starr with "notes taken by a former White House lawyer, Jane Sherburne, about her conversations with First Lady Hillary Clinton after her grand jury testimony last year."
Reality Check 2: Clinton's also failing to cooperate with Dan Burton, head of the House investigation. In the April 29 Washington Post Susan Schmidt relayed: "The White House is refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents related to the central figures in the campaign financing investigation, among them former Commerce Department official John Huang."
Coverage: Not a word on the broadcast network morning and evening shows through Wednesday night. (Post reporter Susan Schmidt later in the article referred to Burton as "a hard-line conservative." The MRC's Tim Graham used Nexis to see if the Post ever applied a "hard-line liberal" tag to Henry Gonzalez, the Chairman of the House committee under Democratic control which held Whitewater hearings in 1994. As you may recall, Gonzales spurned any line of questioning that would have embarrassed Democrats. The answer, surprise, surprise: No hard-line label.
-- A front page story in the April 29 Washington Post again raised questions about whether foreign policy was influenced by a large donor. Reporter David Ottaway discovered that Mansoor Ijaz donated $525,000: "Now Ijaz is trying to reap what he has sown. Having earned access to the Clinton administration through his fundraising prowess, Ijaz has met with a succession of senior officials at the White House, State Department and Congress to further his business interests through changes in U.S. policy toward Islamic countries, particularly Sudan, a government long accused of sanctioning international terrorism."
Network coverage: Zilch
-- More evidence of possible espionage at the center of the fundraising scandal? Wednesday's Washington Times carried a page one story by Jerry Seper which revealed:
"Former Democratic fundraiser John Huang...received at least 109 classified intelligence briefings during his 18-month stint at the Commerce Department, not the 37 previously acknowledged."
The discovery concerns House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon, who first raised the possibility of espionage. Seper learned: "Sources close to the Rules Committee said Mr. Solomon is particularly concerned about briefings in which Mr. Huang received classified information, including documents stamped 'secret,' after which telephone logs show he almost immediately made calls to the Lippo Group....On one of those occasions, the records show he also scheduled a meeting with Chinese officials."
Coverage: Nothing on the broadcast networks, nor even on CNN's Inside Politics on Wednesday which spent several minutes on Chelsea's college pick.
3) The networks jump on stories that implicate Congressman Dan Burton, the Chairman of the House committee investigating fundraising. But if the story proves less than solid they don't bother with a correction. When the March 9 New York Times carried a front page story on Burton headlined "Critic of White House Ethics Let AT&T Give Him Favors," on World News Tonight/Sunday anchor Carole Simpson's story began with an effort at equating the activities of both parties: "The head of the House committee looking into Democratic fundraising is defending his own fundraising today...."
The story quickly died as even the media realized Burton had not done anything illegal. (See the March 11 CyberAlert for Brit Hume's comments about the media's liberal bias in highlighting this story.)
A week and a half later, all the networks jumped on the March 19 Washington Post story that a lobbyist for Pakistan claimed Dan Burton shook him down for a campaign contribution. ABC, CBS and NBC all ran full stories on their evening shows. On the March 19 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw announced: "From the very beginning, everyone has acknowledged there are campaign fundraising abuses in both parties. Now, a major Republican Congressman is caught in the crosshairs of a serious allegation." (See the March 20 CyberAlert for details on network coverage.)
But what happened when the allegation didn't pan out as necessarily accurate. Brokaw and the other network ignored the story. The Washington Times reported on Friday that even White House counsel Lanny Davis doubts the charge is accurate. Reporter George Archibald explained in his April 25 story:
"A White House lawyer and Pakistani officials have questioned the honesty of accusations by Democratic lobbyist Mark Siegel that he was 'shaken down' for political contributions by Republican Rep. Dan Burton....White House counsel Lanny Davis said Mr. Siegel never mentioned his claims when they worked closely as lobbyists for the government of Pakistan....Pakistani officials here and in Pakistan were incredulous about he emergence of Mr. Siegel's accusations....The officials...denied Mr. Siegel's claims that he twice discussed Mr. Burton's shakedown efforts and threats with Ambassador Maheela
Not a peep on this yet from Brokaw and his network competitors.
Maybe there's no coverage because reporters have decided before all the evidence is in that there's nothing to worry about. Five days before The Washington Times story broke, the McLaughlin Group taped on Friday, April 25. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught Eleanor Clift's reassuring prediction: "The investigation into Asian influence buying in this country, China influence buying in this country, will not reveal any evidence of espionage. No spies in the Clinton administration."