Koppel: Chinagate Unproven; Contradictory Reports on SUV Danger
1) Nightline finally got to
the China connection on Wednesday, but Ted Koppel's theme: "The story
may not have the additional advantage of being true."
2) ABC and CBS failed to raise the China connection in
reporting Clinton's MFN request, but CNN's John King did and NBC
highlighted how "China is selling human organs of executed
3) Dan Rather characterized Starr's quest for answers as a
"prosecutorial attack" as CBS aired its third China connection
story, but insisted an investigation will harm diplomatic options.
4) New tests discovered trucks and SUVs are much less
dangerous to car passengers than claimed. NBC reported that, but ABC, CBS
and CNN distorted the results.
Correction/Additional Goldwater info: The
June 1 CyberAlert noted that A&E's "Biography" on Goldwater
showed an old CBS News clip of Daniel Schorr reporting that "Senator
Goldwater has an invitation from Lieutenant General William Quinn, the
commander of the 7th Army, to visit him for a vacation next weekend at
Burthsengarten, (sp?) once Hitler's stamping ground, but now an American
army recreational center." Several considerate readers replied with
better spellings and I think the consensus is: Berchtesgaden.
Phil Terzian, the syndicated columnist and American Spectator contributor,
passed along this fascinating tidbit: "The infamous Lt. Gen. William
Quinn who invited Barry Goldwater to visit him in 'Hitler's old stamping
grounds' in Germany is the father of -- yes, Sally Quinn." That's
Sally Quinn as in the free-lance journalist and wife of former Washington
Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee.
Fourteen week nights after the May 15 China connection story broke in the
New York Times, ABC's Nightline finally got to it -- but not to advance
the story. Instead, to argue that the charges forwarded by conservatives,
about how the Loral Chairman's large donations led to a waiver and how
that led to the transfer of advanced missile technology, cannot be proven.
Ted Koppel opened the June 3 broadcast, as transcribed by MRC analyst Clay
"I often drive into work just after
noon, which is the time that Rush Limbaugh goes on the air and as he
knows, I'm a frequent listener. Nor is my reaction to Rush quite as
visceral as you might expect from a charter member of the dominant
mainstream media. He's a smart fellow and I enjoy the program, although
sometimes Rush leaps to what may seem like an obvious conclusion before
all the facts are in. He's not alone, mind you, a significant majority in
the House of Representatives may have done the same thing. They have
concluded that the Clinton Administration could have contributed to
improvements in Chinese missile technology by letting the Commerce
Department approve technological transfers that would have been opposed by
State or Defense. There is a strong suggestion that this would not have
happened if the CEO of a major U.S. satellite communications company with
business in China, had not also been a major contributor to the Democratic
National Committee. And for good measure there is the involvement of a
Chinese Lieutenant Colonel who is alleged to have funneled money to the
Democratic National Committee, through Johnny Chung. Remember him? We'll
be talking about him a little more later.
"It has the potential of being a terrific conspiracy story. Several
members of Congress, including Speaker Gingrich, have called on President
Clinton not to go to China this month as planned until he answers to
Congress. But the story may not have the additional advantage of being
true. Here's what Nightline correspondent Chris Bury has found."
Bury began by contending: "For all the
sound and fury here in Washington, no concrete evidence has yet emerged to
support the two most damaging allegations. It is not certain any
classified missile technology was transferred to China. And no one has
produced any proof that President Clinton changed policy because of
Bury did, at least, highlight Al Gore's
hypocrisy, playing this clip of Gore from the fall of 1992:
"President Bush really is an incurable patsy for those dictators that
he sets out to coddle."
Bury then noted: "Once elected,
despite their tough talk, the new President and Vice President, adopted
the Bush policy allowing eleven satellite launches in China to George
Later in the show, despite the show's theme
of how the charges are all unproven, Koppel did press Deputy NSC Adviser
James Steinberg about several of the specific allegations.
night ABC, CNN at 8pm ET, FNC and NBC all led with the German train
accident. CBS went first with FDA approval for testing a potential AIDS
vaccine. Neither ABC or NBC mentioned Monica Lewinsky or any part of the
Clinton scandals, but CBS, CNN and FNC all ran stories on the efforts by
her new legal team to get a deal. All but FNC's Fox Report noted Clinton's
request to renew MFN for China, but neither ABC or CBS raised the China
connection though CNN's John King and NBC's Tom Brokaw managed to work in
Some highlights from the Wednesday, June 3
-- ABC's World News Tonight: Sam Donaldson
looked at Clinton's request to continue MFN for China and Albright's
demands to India and Pakistan before the Big 5 meeting in Geneva. But
though some suggest advances in China's missile abilities prompted India's
nuclear test, Donaldson didn't raise that angle in relaying Clinton's
claims: "The President praised China for chairing the Geneve meeting,
saying it was an example of constructive Chinese leadership, a perfect
segue into announcing he's renewing China's trade benefits..."
Donaldson added that House Minority Leader
Gephardt opposes renewal because of China's oppression, but Speaker Newt
Gingrich backs it, "citing the need for commercial and diplomatic
Noting that NSC chief Sandy Berger is just
back from China, Jennings asked Donaldson if anything was resolved about
the Chinese hosting Clinton in Tiananmen Square during his trip in three
weeks. Donaldson replied: "One official here said the welcome will be
right in front of the Great Hall of the People, across the street from
Tiananmen Square, but you an I know it's the same space."
Jennings added: "The same space where
of course the Chinese cracked down and killed so many people during the
-- Though Donaldson reported support
from the Republican leader and opposition from the Democratic leader, Dan
Rather announced on the CBS Evening News:
"President Clinton today opened what
has become his annual battle with the Republican Congress over trade with
China. The President used the White House Rose Garden to formally propose
renewing China's trade privileges. The President said it's especially
important now, because he said, China can help deal with the nuclear
tensions between India and Pakistan."
Again, no mention of the China connection
and how it might impact debate about the MFN issue.
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Wolf
Blitzer checked in with a story on how "Monica Lewinsky's new
attorney's, Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, have opened preliminary
contacts with independent counsel Ken Starr over a possible immunity deal,
causing serious jitters at the White House..."
In his story on Clinton's MFN
request, John King noted: "There are allegations of illegal Chinese
contributions to the Democratic Party and Congress is investigating
whether Mr. Clinton allowed the Loral Corporation to share sensitive
missile technology with China because it Chairman is a big Democratic
-- FNC's 7p ET Fox Report included a piece
by David Shuster on how Lewinsky's new lawyers made sure Starr was willing
to deal before they accepted her as a client.
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Tom Brokaw
worked the China connection and MFN into his introduction of a unique
story on Chinese inhumanity, how the nation may kill prisoners to fulfill
orders for organs:
"Now President Clinton and China: He's
been on the defensive about campaign contributions that appear to be
directly linked to Beijing's interests. But today he said China should be
kept as a full trade partner, Most Favored Nation. Otherwise, he said, we
may lose China's influence with India and Pakistan."
After a soundbite from Clinton Brokaw
continued: "But this will not help the President's case. There's hard
new evidence tonight that China is selling human organs of executed
Reporter Andrea Mitchell previewed a Thursday appearance at a
congressional hearing by a man who says he bought a kidney that came from
a Chinese prisoner.
Lewinsky's new lawyers and Ken Starr's decision to ask the Supreme Court
for a quick decision on privilege for the Secret Service, led all the
networks evening shows Tuesday night. (CNN led with Lewinsky/Starr at 8pm
ET, but at 10pm began with smoking studies.) Only NBC's Lisa Myers told
viewers that Lewinsky was "uncooperative" when providing those
samples to the FBI last week. The CBS Evening News ran a piece on the
China connection, only its third full story since May 15.
ABC's Jackie Judd looked at the lawyers for
World News Tonight and FNC's David Shuster handled that news as well as
Starr's request to the Supreme Court. Here are some highlights from the
other shows on Tuesday, June 2. (MRC analysts Clay Waters, Geoffrey
Dickens and Jessica Anderson pitched in and provided the transcribing,
while I was at a Capitals NHL playoff game, for these stories as well as
the SUV stories in the next item.)
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather topped the
show by painting Starr as on the attack:
"Good evening. There are these
important developments tonight in Ken Starr's prosecutorial attack against
President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Starr is now reported ready to
offer Lewinsky total immunity for testimony against the President.
Lewinsky has fired her lawyer; she's hired two new ones. And Starr cited,
quote, what he calls 'serious criminal matters' in asking the Supreme
Court to act immediately on his request for testimony by Secret Service
Prompted by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's
announcement of a special task force to coordinate Senate probes into the
China connection, CBS ran a piece summarizing the allegations. Other than
a couple of less than 30-second items read by the anchor, the totality of
CBS Evening News stories on the China connection now stands at three: one
by Phil Jones on May 20, five days after the initial May 15 New York Times
story, another on Sunday May 24 summarizing talk about it on the Sunday
morning interview shows, and then June 2. But that puts CBS ahead of NBC
Nightly News which has run just two full reports.
Referring to all the congressional probes,
Bob Schieffer concluded by painting Clinton as the victim and as with
Wednesday night coverage, CBS failed to link China's missiles to India's
"For the President, the timing couldn't be
worse. With all his other troubles, these investigations will now be
heating up just before he's prepared to leave for China later this month
and, among other things, just when he needs China's help to cool the
situation between India and Pakistan."
-- CNN's The World Today led at 8pm with
Wolf Blitzer on the day's events, a Pierre Thomas profile of two new
attorneys and Jonathan Karl on Ginsburg, "the lawyer who loves to
talk." At 10pm ET, however, CNN led with a study on the danger of how
smoking while pregnant is more damaging to the fetus than cocaine followed
by a piece on a study on how smoking contributes to hearing loss.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the
"Good evening. There are major
developments tonight in the Monica Lewinsky story. Her old lawyer is gone.
William Ginsburg. The friend of her father who was on television for a
time almost as much as a test pattern has been replaced now by two high
powered Washington attorneys. And Ken Starr has gone to the Supreme Court
looking for help. Reminding everyone quote, 'A President is under serious
criminal investigation.' We begin tonight with NBC's Lisa Myers."
Uniquely, Myers raised Lewinsky's
poor attitude: "Sources close to the case say it is not too late for
Lewinsky to get a deal if she tells the whole story. But so far
prosecutors see few signals that Lewinsky herself is in a mood to be
helpful. Remember her visit to the FBI last week to provide fingerprint
and handwriting samples? Law enforcement sources say the session took an
hour longer than usual because Lewinsky was at times uncooperative.
Tonight sources close to the investigation say it will be almost
impossible for Lewinsky to get immunity without providing evidence
damaging to the President. That she must choose between protecting herself
and protecting Mr. Clinton. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington."
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests showed light trucks
are not as dangerous as thought to cars. In four crashes with a Honda
Accord, Washington Post reporter Warren Brown relayed June 3, "A
Chevrolet Lumina sedan inflicted as much damage on the Accord dummies as
the striking light trucks -- a 1998 Chevrolet S-10 pickup, a 1997
four-door Ford Explorer and a 1997 Dodge Caravan minivan." USA
Today's June 3 headline was less conclusive but made clear the tests did
not confirm the supposition that light trucks and SUVs are more dangerous
to car passengers: "Truck-Car Crash Data Inconclusive."
But CNN, ABC and CBS viewers heard
something very different Tuesday night. Only NBC put the reality of the
test results ahead of SUV bashing. "New government crash test results
confirm what many had already feared: passengers in cars risk injury or
death when they are hit on the side by light trucks or sport utility
vehicles," announced CNN anchor Joie Chen on the June 2 The World
On ABC's World News Tonight anchor Forrest
Sawyer declared: "Safety news. Results of new crash tests released by
the government today clearly demonstrate once again that sport utility
vehicles do pose a serious danger to automobiles. Since SUV's are the
fastest growing segment of the market, now the question is, how to make
them less of a threat. ABC's Lisa Stark is at the International Auto
Safety Conference in Canada."
Lisa Stark began by insisting: "The
government crash test confirmed what many drivers have long suspected:
When hit from the side, cars are no match for sports utility
vehicles." Stark claimed: "When the popular Ford Explorer was
rammed into the side of a Honda Accord at 33 miles an hour, it was twice
as likely to cause severe chest injuries to the car's driver as a Dodge
minivan of the same weight."
After letting a couple injured in an
accident with an SUV explain why they are suing the SUV manufacturer,
"Government regulators won't call SUVs dangerous, but their tests
show the problem is very real and manufacturers are going to have to make
changes to solve it."
Over on the CBS Evening News Dan
Rather told viewers: "America's automobile makers say they're
redesigning their Sport Utility Vehicles to make them less of a hazard to
the other guy. Tonight CBS's Bob Orr reports there is new evidence of how
dangerous SUVs can be."
Orr ran down the ominous test results:
"The government crash tests, the first pitting large vehicles against
small cars, confirm what accident statistics have suggested: People in the
cars are at greater risk. Four large vehicles -- a Chevy S-10 pickup, a
Ford Explorer, a Dodge Grand Caravan, and a full-size Chevy Lumina -- were
slammed into a lighter Honda Accord at 33 miles per hour. In each crash,
test dummies registered a greater than 50 percent chance of a serious
injury to the driver. And the government reports in actual side-impact
crashes, the driver of the car is 20 times more likely to die than the
driver of the SUV, or sport utility vehicle...."
Really? NBC Nightly News delivered a
contrasting assessment of the test results. Tom Brokaw reported:
"There are new questions tonight about the most popular vehicles on
the road. For months the federal government raised red flags about big
trucks and sport utility vehicles, claiming they present an extreme danger
in accidents with regular size cars. But are those fears oversized? Here's
NBC's Robert Hager."
Hager explained: "Dramatic tests but
when the dust settles, and the glass and metal too, hard to prove what the
government says statistics show -- that when a big pickup, sport utility
or van hits a car it's much more dangerous than getting hit by another
Hager ran through the test results, and
tough he revealed the SUV was the most dangerous to the car passenger, it
still caused little risk of death. He cited the same 50 percent injury
risk figure as Pelley, but Hager portrayed that as relatively low compared
to expectations. In test one with a the pickup "sensors inside the
Honda say there's only a 50 percent chance an occupant would be seriously
injured, less than two percent chance death. Test two, minivan, Dodge
Caravan. This time a greater risk of injury inside the Accord, but still
less than two percent chance of death. Test three, sport utility, Ford
Explorer. Its size overwhelms the Honda, an eighty percent chance of
severe chest injury, five percent chance of death. But in test four, a
regular car, it turns out a Chevy Lumina does almost as much damage to the
Accord as the other vehicles..."
But that a big car is practically as
dangerous as a "killer" SUV, as Dan Rather put it in April (see
the April 22 CyberAlert), is not newsworthy to CNN, ABC or CBS. It must
not fit their preconceived notions. -- Brent Baker
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