CyberAlert -- 05/19/1998 -- CBS & NBC Skip China in the AM
CBS & NBC Skip China in the AM, All in the PM; Only FNC Recalls Huang
2) Monday night the networks presented the government case against Microsoft and demanded Gates respond. China absent from ABC, CBS and NBC but CNN catches up and FNC uniquely recalls John Huang's role.
3) "That will be a relief to the public," declared Peter Jennings last fall when Fred Thompson's committee decided to not probe the China connection. But now ABC refuses to admit new evidence may vindicate Thompson.
The broadcast networks are not just not reporting anything about the connections between Clinton fundraising and China, they are going out of their way to avoid the subject.
The May 18
CyberAlert detailed how the networks handled the two big stories of the
Update: I've now
had a chance to check Sunday's GMA and Today, neither of which raised
the China topic, as well as Monday coverage.
-- Sunday Today. The first half hour presented an interview with Mark Fuhrman about a 1975 murder in Greenwich Connecticut, a feature piece on a real life horse trainer as portrayed in the movie the Horse Whisperer. Topics in the seconds half hour: osteoporosis, John Lithgow, star of 3d Rock from the Sun, and a look at healthy snacking.
-- Monday's morning shows: Zilch on NBC's Today or CBS's This Morning, MRC news analysts Geoffrey Dickens and Clay Waters informed me. The two main features of This Morning's prime half hour, the 8am half hour shown by nearly all affiliates: problems with stucco homes and a preview of the final Murphy Brown sit-com. NBC Today's 7am half hour features: breast cancer breakthroughs, a legitimate story, followed by more on Sinatra and a preview of a Dateline story about the father who kidnaped his now teenage daughters when they were babies.
On Good Morning
America co-host Lisa McRee did ask UN Ambassador Bill Richardson one
question about the China scandal:
During the 7:30am news update Antonio Mora took 12 seconds to note how the Justice Department had begun investigating but that Clinton had denied any link between contributions and policy.
The networks didn't go soft on Microsoft Monday night, presenting the
government's case but only allowing Microsoft to deny the charges. CBS
and NBC, however, also ran interviews with Bill Gates in which he was
pressed to respond to the governmental complaints.
Here are some highlights from the Monday, May 18 evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight led with the arrest of Mexicans involved in the drug trade,
including prominent bankers, while all were in Las Vegas. Barry Serafin
opened his piece on the anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft by the
Justice Department and twenty states: "State and federal officials
used words like 'outrageous,' 'illegal' and 'predatory' in
accusing Microsoft of trying to squeeze out its competition."
Next, ABC's Gina
Smith presented the case against Microsoft, opening with a contrary
analogy, though one I find pretty compelling:
-- The CBS Evening
News was topped by the success with the anti-cancer drug Herceptin. Next,
Rather intoned: "Well it's shaping up as one of the anti-trust
battles of the century. Federal and state governments today sued
Microsoft, saying the computer software giant is predatory and scheming to
crush all competition, charges Microsoft flatly denies. Both sides say
they have consumers best interest at heart."
For the Eye on America segment, Rather explained: "Jim Stewart looked into a sport that's putting handguns into the hands of young children." Stewart looked at practical shooting, the sport of hitting targets while on the move. Mason emphasized that one of the Jonesboro shooters participated in the sport but gave only a little more time to a critic than to an advocate.
CBS had no time for China, but managed room for a full story on a perfect game pitched by Yankee David Wells, the 12th time ever that's happened in baseball.
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET started with Microsoft. After a piece from Wolf Blitzer on how Clinton is frustrated by the lack of cooperation from allies on Pakistan and India, reporter Pierre Thomas contributed a full story on how Justice is looking at whether donations played a role in why Clinton overruled Pentagon objections to technology transfer waivers for Loral and China.
-- FNC's 7pm ET
Fox Report led with Microsoft. Later, Carl Cameron filed a story on the
Justice probe, but added an angle so far ignored by the other networks:
John Huang, the Commerce official turned DNC fundraiser. Cameron
The broadcast networks certainly aren't taking the charges seriously.
Catherine Crier raised another subject skipped by the other networks,
(Assistant Secretary of Defense Bacon was formerly a Wall Street Journal reporter. The May 18 Weekly Standard features a fascinating examination by Jay Nordlinger of how Bacon pushed for Tripp's personnel records to be handed over to Jane Mayer for her New Yorker profile in which she used the records to show that Tripp had been arrested while a teen in 1969.)
-- NBC Nightly News also led with Microsoft. Pete Williams offered the same analogy as ABC's Smith, noting the lawsuit wants "to end Microsoft's demand that its programs must pop up first when the computer comes on. The government says the current practice would be like a television network forcing a TV maker's sets to switch automatically to the network's channel when the TV is turned on."
Tom Brokaw peppered Gates with arguments from his Microsoft's distractors, such as why not let people choose between Explorer and Netscape. Like Rather, he raised the claim that in 1995 MS went to Netscape and "offered to divide up the market. That doesn't sound like it's a very competitive arrangement."
No time for China, but NBC ran a piece on a nationwide effort by states to enforce child seatbelt laws, plus more on Sinatra.
Though ABC has run more on the China scandal than CBS and NBC (one minute Friday night, full story Sunday night and one question and a 12 second news item Monday morning), neither World News Tonight or GMA has pointed out how the current allegations may vindicate Senator Fred Thompson. As the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, ABC is the most obligated to correct the record since it spent so much time last summer disparaging Thompson's claim of a China connection.
This excerpt from the September 10, 1987 CyberAlert, which starts by reviewing ABC's September 9 World News Tonight coverage, provides an illuminating reminder of how the network so adamantly dismissed the very suggestion that China may have sent money to Democrats:
Anchor Peter Jennings intoned: "At the Senate hearings into campaign fundraising today what appears to be a change of heart by the committee's Republican Chairman Fred Thompson."
ABC showed a soundbite from the opening day in which Thompson raised the China-connection issue followed by a clip from Tuesday in which Thompson said he didn't mean to blame just one party.
Jennings then turned to Linda Douglass, asking her what prompted Thompson's remarks. Douglass explained that he just got "tired of taking a beating from the Democrats who every single day point out the fact that he's failed to prove there's any Chinese plot."
Douglass elaborated: "Today one Democratic Senator held out an olive branch to Senator Thompson. He said, 'look, forget the Chinese plot, the hearings are important because they're exposing the evil influence of money in politics.' At that moment Senator Thompson's face relaxed, he said then he was sorry if he left the wrong impression. And it's clear that many of the Senators now want to diffuse the partisan warfare and get this whole messy issue behind them."
Jennings agreed: "That will be a relief to the public."
And to ABC which seems to avoid covering the actual content of the hearings. During the first round, ABC aired the fewest stories of the Big Three....
This isn't the first time ABC has tried to discredit the Chinese influence claim. As detailed in the July 21 CyberAlert, Linda Douglass opened a July 18 World News Tonight piece: "At the very outset Republican Chairman Fred Thompson announced dramatically what he hoped to expose, a Chinese plot to subvert American elections with illegal contributions." Douglass countered: "But after of hours of testimony, a parade of charts and a blizzard of documents there has been no evidence so far of such a plot..."
Along the same lines, on the Sunday, July 13 World News Tonight ABC ran a story on how Democrats on the committee disagreed with Thompson's charges about China. But on July 15 when the committee Democrats changed their mind, ABC skipped the development. As reported in the July 16 Washington Post, the day before Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Glenn issued a joint written statement saying "the information shown us strongly suggests the existence of a plan by the Chinese government -- containing components that are both legal and illegal -- designed to influence U.S. congressional elections."
Maybe if ABC and the other networks spent more time pursuing leads and less time denouncing Republicans for suggesting wrongdoing may have occurred, we would have learned about China's role months ago. Indeed, the House committee has twice been unable to get Democrats to agree to give immunity for testimony from two associates of Johnny Chung, yet the networks have ignored that suppression of possible criminal wrongdoing and instead focused on the personality of the committee Chairman, Dan Burton.
-- Brent Baker
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