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CyberAlert -- 06/04/2001 -- FNC Realized Vandalism Reality

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FNC Realized Vandalism Reality; Post v. Post on Trashing; Russert Shocker: No Tax Cut If You Don't Pay Taxes; Scalia Ridiculed

1) NBC's Tom Brokaw on Friday night reported how former Clinton staffers "have asked President Bush for an apology for leaked stories about vandalism" since "a government investigation turned up no evidence of damage" to White House property. But FNC's Carl Cameron realized "there was no investigation" and vandalism has not been "disproven."

2) On Sunday, the very day that Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler used his column to scold the paper for burying inside a short wire dispatch on how stories about White House vandalism were wrong, a front page story provided a list of vandalism, including obscene graffiti on walls, obscene phone messages, a presidential seal ripped off a wall and broken keyboards.

3) Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert gave credibility to a Washington Post story which used numbers from a left-wing group to show how the poor will not get tax rebates. But that's because they don't pay income taxes. The Post described Citizens for Tax Justice as "a nonprofit research organization with the only nongovernmental computer model able to calculate the distribution of taxes."

4) Al Hunt and Bob Schieffer ridiculed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for daring to predict that the court's ruling, which forced the PGA to change its golf rules, could lead to a kid claiming attention deficit disorder demanding four strikes in Little League. Hunt dismissed Scalia as "positively silly." Schieffer castigated Scalia for his "callousness."

5) Al Hunt claimed that you can make "a short run" case for the utility of price caps on energy while Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times condemned the Chairman of FERC for being a "hard-liner" on price caps.


1
Clintonistas fooled mainstream media, part one: NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on Friday night reported how former Clinton staffers "have asked President Bush for an apology for leaked stories about vandalism" since "a government investigation turned up no evidence of damage" to White House complex property by those departing staffers.

But the same night FNC's Carl Cameron realized "there was no investigation" and "as for whether or not there was vandalism, it has not been proven or, for that matter, disproven." Cameron suggested "that Republicans were eager to get the Bush presidency off on the right foot" and wanted to move on from Clinton and so Bush sources stopped talking to reporters about it and never released any evidence to government agencies.

Tony Snow made the same point two days later in his "Below the Fold" segment on Fox News Sunday as he added that on Saturday White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer supplied a list of damage, a list summarized in Sunday's Washington Post. (See item #2 below for more on the Post story.)

For the past few weeks the far-left group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and some former Clinton staffers have been citing the widespread reporting of the trashing of White House complex offices (mainly in the Old Executive/Eisenhower building) as an error which many media outlets should correct and apologize for. Despite the claim of massive coverage, in fact, as documented in CyberAlerts in late January, of the broadcast networks, only NBC ran a full story. On World News Tonight ABC's Terry Moran gave a couple of sentences to "the pranks and minor vandalism that were left behind in some offices by departing Clinton staffers." The next morning, Diane Sawyer asked George Stephanopoulos about it on Good Morning America.

In her piece which ran on both NBC Nightly News and Today, Andrea Mitchell rationalized the vandalism as being caused by the "aftershock of the battle for Florida, low level staff still angry over the way the election was decided."

Neither the CBS Evening News or The Early Show touched the subject.

For details, see these two CyberAlert items:
http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010126.asp#6
http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010129.asp#3

Friday night, June 1, Tom Brokaw announced: "Former Clinton administration staffers have asked President Bush for an apology for leaked stories about vandalism as the Clinton-Gore team left the White House. A government investigation turned up no evidence of damage. The White House said today that there was nothing to apologize for."

Fox News Channel viewers learned something very different in a piece from Carl Cameron run on both Special Report with Brit Hume and an hour later on the Fox Report. Cameron reported:
"Indignant former Clinton administration staffers, along with the help of a Democratic Congressman, demanded an apology from the Bush White House, accusing Republicans of falsely smearing them for vandalizing the White House before they left."
Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY): "The only thing that was trashed was the reputation of hundreds of people, whose only crime was working for a Democratic President."
Cameron: "During transition, when the Bushes were moving in and the Clintons were leaving, and under fire for both 'pardongate' and taking furniture that was not theirs, stories surfaced citing anonymous Bush sources that inside the White House, the Clinton-Gore folks left vandalism, vulgar graffiti and petty pranks. But publicly, the Bush administration downplayed the story."
Ari Fleischer, January 25: "There's no investigation. What we are doing is cataloging that which took place."
Cameron: "The President himself was dismissive."
Bush, January 26: "There might have been a prank or two. Maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that's OK. It's time now to move forward."
Cameron: "But the Bush White House never said the vandalism did not occur and, perhaps tellingly, never apologized. Then a story emerged that the General Services Administration had investigated and reported that the vandalism was a hoax. It appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper, saying, quote, 'The agency concluded that departing members of the Clinton administration had not trashed the place during the presidential transition.' But the GSA never investigated and said no such thing. It is responsible for White House real property and structure, and after a cursory inspection found that the building was indeed intact. Damage to office equipment and other things was not assessed.
"On March 2nd, GSA wrote a four-paragraph letter to Congress saying, quote, 'The circumstances did not warrant and investigation, and we have not conducted an investigation.' The General Accounting Office a month later told Congress that since GSA did not investigate and since the White House had inadequate documentation, it would not investigate or draw conclusions, either. They wrote, quote, 'We plan no further work in this area, given the facility examination results reported by GSA and the lack of records of damage.'
"That three-paragraph GAO letter is all there is. Yet the Clinton folks wrote the President, quote, 'A General Accounting Office report has once and for all determined that no such vandalism occurred. The GAO investigation was comprehensive.' But in fact, there was no investigation, comprehensive or otherwise. And as for whether or not there was vandalism, it has not been proven or, for that matter, disproven. What is certain is that Republicans were eager to get the Bush presidency off on the right foot, Tony [Snow], and in order to do that, they felt it was important to get Bill Clinton out of the headlines. When that conclusion was made on a political level, suddenly the Bush sources who were anonymously talking about the vandalism went completely silent."

2

Clintonistas fooled mainstream media, part two. Or, in this case, the perils of early deadlines. On Sunday, the very day that Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler used his column to scold the paper for burying inside a short wire story on how the paper's earlier front page stories about White House vandalism were wrong, a front page story gave backing to the accuracy of the paper's initial reporting by relaying a list of vandalism provided by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Getler complained about the downplaying of the report which supposedly disproved vandalism: "The use of a brief news service account rather than a well-displayed, staff-written story about the GSA findings tells me that the readers who complained have better news judgment than the editors."

Getler's column appears in the "Outlook" section which goes to press on Friday. In his piece which ran in the June 3 paper, Getler reasonably contended that newspapers sometimes bury updates within other stories and so don't provide an adequate separate story to alert readers to new facts. An excerpt of his example:

That is the situation The Post found itself in with many readers on May 18 after it published nine sentences from a Knight Ridder news service story on Page A13. That story reported that an investigation by the General Services Administration (GSA) "has concluded that departing members of the Clinton administration did not trash the White House during the presidential transition, as unnamed aides to President Bush and other critics had insisted." The GSA probe was ordered by Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.).

This story, and Post readers, deserved better treatment. Neither The Post nor the Bush White House distinguished itself throughout this story, which began in January during Bush's first week in office. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and other GOP aides helped ignite and fan an inflammatory story about vandalism to White House equipment and Air Force One that quickly made The Post's front page. Fleischer said the White House was "cataloguing" the apparent damage.

Very quickly, the White House started backing away from the charges and suggested it was taking the high road, saying it was "time to move on." But damage had been done, first to the departing administration, beyond that which was self-inflicted in other ways, and also, perhaps more important, to confidence in the new White House podium.

Although The Post treated the end of this story in humdrum fashion with its wire report of the GSA finding four months later, many readers, to their credit, never let go of this story and the way it was handled or mishandled.

Looking back at this episode, several points come to mind:

-- The Post's initial front-page reporting on Jan. 26 and 27 was straightforward. The White House was saying these things, and Clinton aides were responding. Where The Post fell short, in my view, was in not challenging Fleischer on the record more quickly and forcefully on the initial allegations and on using the White House platform to air such unsubstantiated charges.

-- The Post did not remain alert to the overall power of this story with readers, considering that this had the appearance of White House manipulation of the press moments after taking office. When President Bush, on Feb. 13, volunteered that "all the allegations that they took stuff off Air Force One is simply not true," The Post did not even report it. The only reference appeared in Al Kamen's In the Loop column two days later. "In case you missed it," is the way Kamen began the item.

-- The Post did come back to the issue on Feb. 18, reporting that "the administration has offered no concrete evidence" of the vandalism, but this was in the middle of a broader story and was on Page A10.

-- The use of a brief news service account rather than a well-displayed, staff-written story about the GSA findings tells me that the readers who complained have better news judgment than the editors. Here was a rather rare event: a government investigation, ordered by Republicans, returns a not guilty verdict about an outgoing Democratic administration with respect to allegations of vandalism launched by the spokesman and other aides for the Bush White House, and widely played up by the media.

END Excerpt

Sunday Washington Post readers only got to Getler's piece after seeing this front page headline: "Bush Aide Details Alleged Clinton Staff Vandalism." The subhead: "List Is Response to Credibility Questions."

An excerpt from reporter Mike Allen's June 3 front page piece:

White House officials yesterday released a list of damage they say was done by outgoing staffers of President Bill Clinton, including obscene graffiti in six offices, a 20-inch-wide presidential seal ripped off a wall, 10 sliced telephone lines and 100 inoperable computer keyboards.

For months, Democrats had questioned the administration's credibility because officials refused to document allegations of vandalism they made in the week after President Bush's inauguration. In April, the General Accounting Office said it was unable to confirm damage, in part because of what it called a "lack of records" from the White House.

Most of the incidents described yesterday by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer were said to have occurred in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. Pornographic or obscene greetings were left on 15 telephone lines in the offices of the Vice President and White House counsel and in the scheduling and advance offices, Fleischer said. As a precaution, all phones were disabled and reprogrammed, he said.

The details were provided to The Washington Post after several days of inquiries about the degree of White House cooperation with the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO said in April that it "found no damage" to White House real estate. The GAO did not prepare a report but said in a three-paragraph letter that it could reach no further conclusions because the White House said it had no written record of damage. The letter did not mention the Eisenhower building, where most of the damage had been reported.

White House officials had said they did not release the information sooner because of Bush's desire to "move forward and not live in the past."...

END Excerpt

For the complete story, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13372-2001Jun2.html

3

Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert disappointingly gave credibility Sunday to a Washington Post story from last week which used numbers from a left-wing group, naturally unlabeled, to show how the poor will not get the rebates scheduled this year. But that's because they don't pay income taxes, which made the premise of the story ridiculous.

On the June 3 broadcast, Russert read a part of the May 31 Post story to Republican Senator Don Nickles: "Let me turn to the tax cut that you mentioned, Senator, and put something on the board which is rather interesting to a lot of people: 'Poorest Americans to Get No Tax Rebate, Study Shows. For millions of Americans, the check is not in the mail. Since Congress passed President Bush's tax plan, news reports have focused on one of the most striking features -- a late-summer mailing of rebate checks to 95 million Americans. But the Citizens for Tax Justice,' who have a computer who can generate this kind of information, 'says that half of those Americans in the bottom 60 percent of income earners -- more than 32 millions individuals and families -- will receive no rebates.' I did a little research here. In the state of Oklahoma, do you know what percent of your people will not receive a rebate?"
Nickles pointed out the obvious flaw: "Well, taxpayers who paid taxes, who paid income taxes, are going to get a rebate. And the Citizens for Tax Justice is not, in my opinion, a very credible source."
Russert stood up for the credibility of the left-wing group's spin: "But no one has questioned this information-"
Nickles: "Well, I haven't seen it, but-"
Russert: "-one out of every three people in Oklahoma -- one-third will not receive a rebate."
Nickles: "Well, then they didn't pay taxes. We're giving a tax cut for taxpayers. And if a taxpayer paid $300 in federal income tax, they're going get a check. And if a couple paid $600 of federal income taxes last year, they're going to get a check. And we loaded this bill, frankly, Tim, from the, if you look at it proportionately, we loaded it towards the low income. Low-income taxpayers have a rate reduction from 15 percent to 10 percent, and it's retroactive back to January 1 of this year."
Russert: "But if half the people in the bottom 60 percent aren't getting a rebate, aren't they the people who need it the most?"

Why do people who don't pay income taxes "most" need a tax cut?

Here's how Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler labeled the group behind the "study" in his May 31 story: "Citizens for Tax Justice, a nonprofit research organization with the only nongovernmental computer model able to calculate the distribution of taxes, reported that almost half of those Americans in the bottom 60 percent of income earners -- more than 32 million individuals and families -- will receive no rebates. Nearly 35 million Americans who earn income and file a tax return will receive nothing, the group said."

An excerpt of the rest of the piece:

How is this possible? About one-third of income earners pay little or no income taxes -- after exemptions, deduction and credits -- though they may pay substantial payroll taxes or sales taxes.

A single person will receive $300 if he or she has at least $6,000 in annual taxable income, while a couple will get $600 if they have at least $12,000 in taxable income. But taxable income is very different from income. For instance, a family of four would be able to deduct at least $18,500 in standard deductions and personal exemptions from their income before they pay income taxes, so they would need to earn at least $30,000 to get close to a $600 rebate.

Suspend excerpt

In other words, this sample family already is getting a huge tax cut every year.

Resume excerpt:

Asked about the Citizens for Tax Justice study, Michele Davis, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, said: "We have a single statistic: One hundred percent of the people with income tax liability will receive a rebate."

McIntyre said "that is a fair statement," but it simply confirms that people at the bottom of the income ladder will not receive rebates.

End Excerpt

This story just shows that if you are making a liberal point the media will overlook a fundamental flaw in your reasoning.

To read Kessler's report in full, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A99044-2001May30.html

4

Over the weekend Al Hunt and Bob Schieffer ridiculed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for daring to predict that the court majority's ruling, from which he dissented, that the Americans with Disabilities Act gives the federal government the power to change the rules of a sport, could lead to a kid claiming attention deficit disorder demanding four strikes in Little League.

Hunt dismissed Scalia as "positively silly," making the assessment that four strikes would change the "fundamental nature" baseball while allowing Casey Martin to walk the course does not alter the fundamentals of golf. But making golfers walk between holes and having three strikes mean a batter strikes out are both arbitrary rules of sports, so why couldn't the court's logic in the Casey Marin case lead to Scalia's fear?

Schieffer castigated Scalia: "He let go a sarcastic dissent that deserves attention not so much for its logic as for its callousness." Missing Scalia's point, either deliberately or because he was too stupid to understand it, Schieffer chastised the justice: "What I can envision is how the parents of children with learning disabilities must feel when they are held up to ridicule by a justice of the Supreme Court."

-- CNN's Capital Gang, June 2. Time's Margaret Carlson cheered the decision: "It is a wonderful thing to see a civil right affirmed."

Next, Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt took on Scalia: "I thought that Justice Scalia was positively silly in saying someday an attention deficit disorder kid will come in and demand four strikes. I've been to thousands of baseball games from little league through major leagues, I've never seen four strikes. That changes the fundamental nature of a game and would be unacceptable. This does not. That is a very important distinction. And as for the court jumping in and telling the PGA, if the PGA said a black can't play you would of course expect the court to jump in, wouldn't you, Bob? This is a civil-"
Bob Novak: "That's not comparable."
Hunt: "No, I'm sorry, the ADA is a civil right."

-- CBS's Face the Nation, June 3. In his end of the show commentary, Bob Schieffer summarized the court ruling in the Martin case which said the PGA must allow him to walk between holes because he has a degenerative circulatory problem.

Schieffer then got on his high horse, scolding:
"Still, it is a complicated issue over which reasonable people can disagree. The court ruled 7-to-2 in Casey Martin's favor. What bothered me was the way Justice Scalia disagreed. He let go a sarcastic dissent that deserves attention not so much for its logic as for its callousness. Now that Martin can use a cart, he wrote, 'One can envision the parents of a Little League player with attention deficit disorder trying to convince a judge that their son's disability makes it at least 25 percent more difficult to hit a pitched ball.' No, I cannot not envision that, because I fail to see the parallel. This ruling was about getting to the tee, not playing the game. But then I'm not a lawyer. But I am a father. What I can envision is how the parents of children with learning disabilities must feel when they are held up to ridicule by a justice of the Supreme Court."

Talk about clueless.

5

Price caps promoted. Al Hunt claimed that you can make "a short run" case for the utility of price caps on energy while Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Doyle McManus condemned the Chairman of FERC for being a "hard-liner" on price caps, but held out hope for the future as the incoming Chairman "once in a while in Texas would play around with price caps when needed."

-- Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night, referring back to the Nixon years: "I covered wage and price controls a long, long time ago, when a lot of people here weren't born, and they don't work over the long run, but this is a short run problem and I think over the short run you can make a case, a short run case.'

-- Doyle McManus of the Los Angles Times on PBS's Washington Week in Review on June 2, referring to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): "The Chairman right now is a guy named Curt Hebert. He is a big, close ally of Trent Lott the Senate, I guess it's Minority Leader. President Bush just put on that commission a new member named Pat Wood who had been the energy commissioner of the great state of Texas. Curt Hebert, the current Chairman, is a real hard-liner on price caps. Never saw a price cap he liked. Pat Wood, once in a while in Texas would play around with price caps when needed."

Why when you oppose something that has never done anything but make a situation worse would you be labeled "a hard-liner"? Would McManus denounce himself as "a hard-liner on freedom of the press" and praise someone who would "play around with pre-publication approval of newspaper stories by government censors when needed?"

-- Out of room today, but a brief update on Jenna/Barbara Bush underage drinking coverage: After ignoring the story Wednesday and Thursday night, on Saturday the CBS Evening News ran a full report. On Sunday, ABC's This Week devoted a segment to it with historian Michael Beschloss and clinical psychologist Robert Butterworth. -- Brent Baker


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