CyberAlert -- 06/06/1997 -- Tamraz Tanked
Tamraz Tanked; Molinari Complaints; Top Ten on Clinton
1) Four Clinton scandal revelations suggesting the Clinton team rewarded donors with big government deals have broken in print outlets since Saturday, but the networks haven't bothered to report any of them.
-- "Commerce Kept List of DNC Donors: Aide Backtracks on Department's Denial," read a front page Washington Times story on May 31. Reporter Jerry Seper discovered: "The Commerce Department, accused of selling seats to Democratic campaign contributors for potentially lucrative foreign trade missions, kept a list of confidential donors to the Democratic National Committee, despite earlier denials that the documents existed."
-- An Associated Press story carried by newspapers on Saturday, May 31, began: "Lobbyist Peter Knight, who served as President Clinton's 1996 campaign manager, arranged numerous private meetings and dinners with a top Energy Department official for clients who won millions of dollars in government contracts, documents show....On more than one occasion, Mr. Knight's clients made large donations to the Democratic Party or to Mr. Clinton around the time the department made decisions favorable to them."
-- In the June 9 Time magazine, out on Monday, Michael Weisskopf uncovered how DNC donor Bill Haney has been taken care of by Al Gore. Weisskopf explained: "Since the Vice President took office, the Energy Department's cleanup division, headed until recently by a Gore protege, has awarded Haney's Molten Metal Technology $33 million to test its process on the poisoned remains of nuclear weapons proving grounds -- more money than 17 other companies have received collectively to do the same job. More startling is that the department kept lavishing dollars on the firm until this March, despite the advice of the government's own experts who, according to documents obtained by Time, repeatedly challenged the effectiveness of Molten Metal's technology."
-- Remember Roger Tamraz, the Lebanese-American interested in building an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and who the NSC opposed letting attend a White House event? He made the front page of Wednesday's Washington Post and Los Angeles Times as the White House admitted it helped him more than previously conceded. The June 4 Los Angeles Times reported: "President Clinton asked a senior White House official to look into whether the United States should support an international business venture of a major Democratic campaign contributor after the donor approached him about it at a White House reception last year, administration officials said Tuesday."
Coverage? Not a word from the networks on any of the four stories, not even CNN. MRC analysts Clay Waters, Geoffrey Dickens, Steve Kaminski and Gene Eliasen have reviewed network shows and not seen any mention, since May 30, on: ABC's Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today and Inside Politics, and NBC's Today and Nightly News.
UPDATE: CNN covered a story skipped by the other networks. The May 29 CyberAlert reported that while CNN's World Today noted on May 23 that the Republican Party received a large and legal donation from the founder of Amway, CNN ignored a May 25 Los Angeles Times story on how John Huang raised money while a Commerce Department employee. To hide the illegal activity the DNC listed Huang's wife, Jane, as the "solicitor."
CNN viewers just had to wait nine days. On the June 3 World Today CNN anchor Joie Chen offered a brief item, MRC analyst Clay Water informed me, on how the Senate had subpoenaed Jane Huang's financial records because the DNC listed her as the donation solicitor while her husband worked at Commerce.
It may have taken CNN nine days, but at least they eventually reported the intriguing revelation. That's more than you can say for ABC, CBS and NBC.
2) The MRC's op-ed piece that appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, "Media Revolving Door Spins Faster for Liberals," is now up on our Web site. It's hard to get every point into an 800 word article, so here are some additional illustrations of media indignation and hypocrisy as well as the failure of some reporters to reveal their own political histories when discussing Susan Molinari's jump to CBS News.
(See the May 29 CyberAlert for a Revolving Door count and some talking points.)
THEME #1: A politician like Molinari will tar CBS News for the first time with partisan bias.
-- "The GOP News from CBS," read the headline over a May 29 New York Times editorial which argued: "With the hiring of Representative Susan Molinari to move directly from Congress to the anchor desk, CBS has reduced the wall [between news and politics] to dust. In fact, having already hired Laura Ingraham, CBS News now employs more famous Republican women than the Republican National Committee does."
REALITY CHECK: I don't recall the Times complaining about the man Ingraham replaced: liberal Joe Klein. CBS will have to air Ingraham's Sunday Evening News pieces for a couple of more years in order to equal the number of Klein stories they ran.
-- Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz reported on June 2 that "Many CBS staffers are riled about Molinari's hiring, noting that she's married to New York Rep. Bill Paxon, a member of the GOP leadership. 'How many stories is she going to have to recuse herself from?' one correspondent said."
REALITY CHECK: If Molinari's Saturday show follows the lead of NBC's Saturday Today, there won't be any politics to recuse herself from. As determined by the MRC's Tim Graham in providing material to Brent Bozell for his syndicated column, in the midst of the Clinton scandal stories that broke on Saturday (see item #1 above), the May 31 Today ignored them all. Instead, interview segments explored a book by an actress on dating, wolves in Yellowstone Park, a science fair, how children relate to their friends, a Road & Track magazine classic auto show, bathing suit fashions, a review of two new movies, and finally, a cooking segment.
THEME #2: Denounce the CBS decision to hire a politician without mentioning that CBS has already put liberal political operatives in more powerful positions.
-- A representative question from the hostile reporters to Molinari during the May 28 CBS press conference announcing her move: "What about the barricade that is supposed to exist in journalism between the political people and the officials on the one hand, and the reporters on the other? Aren't you tearing that barricade down?"
REALITY CHECK: As noted in more detail the Wall Street Journal piece, CBS News Senior Political Editor Dotty Lynch "directed polling for George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, The Democratic National Committee and the 1984 Mondale campaign, all before joining CBS in 1985."
-- The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz on last weekend's Inside Washington, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson: "Well, it really just obliterates the line that used to separate the two professions. And it's kind of an insult to journalism, Gordon [Peterson], because, you know, according to this star-maker mentality, what matters is not reporting experience -- standing in the rain, as you put it -- or experience or fairness, but celebrity, and to take a partisan member of Congress and just magically transform him, or her, with the wave of a wand, into an anchor who can sit behind that CBS logo with a statue of Dan Rather, just is not what I consider journalism."
REALITY CHECK: Molinari's not he first politician to join CBS. And while she only influences one show, Dotty Lynch and David Burke, who served from 1965 to 1971 David Burke as chief of staff to Senator Ted Kennedy, oversee the entire network. In 1969 he coordinated Kennedy's spin on Chappaquiddick. Burke went to work for New York Governor Hugh Carey and then went right to ABC News as a VP in 1977. In 1988 he jumped to CBS News as President until 1990.
THEME #3: Act appalled by the CBS selection without mentioning the political operatives running your outlet.
-- On the June 1 Fox News Sunday, in a quote transcribed by MRC intern Ian Alexander, National Public Radio's Mara Liasson complained: "Well, I think it's disturbing. I mean, she's is not going to be a commentator or a part of a show where she's clearly identified with her partisan point of view -- she's going to be an anchor. And I think it means, it sends the message that there's no such thing as journalism anymore. It's all just about celebrity-hood and name recognition and I think it's, I think it's disturbing."
REALITY CHECK: See the Wall Street Journal piece for more detail, but every President of NPR has come from Democratic politics. Current President Delano Lewis raised money for DC Mayor Marion Barry; previous President Douglas Bennet headed AID for President Carter and left NPR for an Assistant Secretary of State slot under Clinton; and he had replaced at NPR an operative for George McGovern.
THEME #4: Discuss Molinari without mentioning your own political background or the political past of who you cite.
-- Time columnist and former Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson appeared on both Saturday's Capital Gang and Sunday's Late Edition.
REALITY CHECK: In neither CNN appearance did she inform viewers about an item on her resume: top policy aide and speechwriter to the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1977 to 1981, the Carter years.
-- In a May 30 story on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, reporter Jane Hall observed that "TV news executives argue that former politicians can provide viewers with valuable insights into the way government and politics really work." She then offered the recollection of CNN President Tom Johnson: "As Lyndon Johnson once said," about the group of Ivy League academics in his Cabinet, "'It would help if one of you had been elected sheriff.'" Shaw proceded to her next point without bothering to mention Johnson's background.
REALITY CHECK: When viewers and readers know someone's background, as is clearly the case with Molinari, they can factor that in to how they evaluate that media personality's presentation. The problem is that those with the most influence are the ones the public knows the least about. The LA Times story failed to note that Tom Johnson, who oversees CNN 24 hours a day, knows what President Johnson said because he once toiled as a Special Assistant to President Johnson.
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on May 28 brought on Marvin Kalb to talk about Molinari. Williams opened the segment: "Full disclosure from the newsroom here, when the story broke last night, a lot of us thought it was either a misprint or a hoax.... Today Molinari got some tough questions from the New York press corps. Reporters, who wondered aloud whether she could go from being a very partisan Republican to a fair-minded journalist, which should be redundant."
Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister found Williams less than pleased with Molinari's jump. She reported June 2: "'The first rule for a journalist should be smarts, an awareness of the world,' Williams says. 'We all kind of cringe when this happens. You want to say, Then why am I up till 2am reading everything I have to read every night of my life? Why am I honing journalistic skills when that's not required?'"
REALITY CHECK: Full disclosure from Williams? Not quite. He only went into journalism when his first career in the Carter White House came to an abrupt end with Reagan's victory. Picking up a May 7, 1995 Los Angeles Times profile at the point where Williams leaves George Washington University early, the Times revealed: "Through a friend of a friend he got an internship at the White House, then occupied by President Jimmy Carter. Eventually it became a paying job and Williams put college on hold....When Carter lost his bid for re-election in 1980, Williams found an entry-level job at the National Assn. Of Broadcasters."
THEME #5: Pretend journalists who have not worked for a politician are free of any bias.
-- Plugging the Inside Washington discussion, host Gordon Peterson asked: "When we come back, Congresswoman becomes an news anchor on the network of Morrow, Sevareid, and Cronkite. Does that disturb anyone here? We'll discuss it when we come back."
REALITY CHECK: Here's an example of the analysis provided by the politically untainted Eric Sevareid: Referring to Jesse Jackson during CBS News coverage of the 1988 Democratic convention, Sevareid insisted: "He has become here, a kind of new, he's acquired a new status. He's almost like Hubert Humphrey was, sort of conscience of the country."
The bottom line: Molinari can't be any more partisan than Bryant Gumbel was for 15 years on Today.
-- Brent Baker