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CyberAlert -- 06/10/1999 -- Today Gave Hillary Clinton

CyberAlert Extra
Today Gave Hillary Clinton 12 Minutes to Show She Cares About Kids

This morning, June 10, NBC's Today brought aboard Hillary Rodham Clinton to promote its week-long effort to help the VH1 music cable channel publicize its "Save the Music" campaign to give used instruments and money to schools for music education. Co-host Katie Couric asked Hillary about the Knicks and gave Hillary a platform to blast conservatives as "out of touch with the mainstream."

The 8am ET live half hour of Today opened with over two minutes of Hillary collecting musical instruments from the crowd outside the studio. Co-host Matt Lauer promised that "we are going to take those instruments and donate them to schools so we can return music education to public schools," as if it has been taken away.

Then it was inside for a nine-and-a-half-minute session of Katie Couric interviewing Hillary and VH1 President John Sykes. Hillary got plenty of time to explain the value of music education as Sykes stressed how "children and education" are "high on her list" of priorities and "she's been amazing."

At no point did Couric provide any evidence music education is being cut nor did she ask Hillary how such a bad thing could occur during the Clinton administration years. The VH1 Web page also lacks any substantive information on this project, but you can check it out at: http://www.vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/

Couric soon got to what's really important, asking her: "Are you a big Knicks fan? Are you rooting for them?"

And the interview did not stick to the frivolous: Couric gave Hillary a chance to take a political shot at Republicans: "I think when you look at what's happening in the country today a Democrat is going to win this Senate seat to replace Senator Moynihan which is as it should be. Because the Democratic Party as we saw again yesterday with the way the Republicans treated the gun laws in the House of Representatives is much more in touch with the mainstream, not only of America but particularly of New York."

Couric failed to challenge her indictment of the GOP, so will Today now provide likely Republican candidates Rick Lazio and Rudy Giuliani with a similar laudatory and unchallenged 12 minute showcase?

Instead of pressing her with a challenging question Couric moved on to how she would present a $1 million grant later in the day to a school. As the segment ended Hillary got another opportunity to affirm: "And for kids. That's what really counts."

+++ Watch a portion of this interview as Couric asks Hillary Clinton about the Knicks and Clinton denounces the Republican stand on gun control. MRC Webmaster Sean Henry has posted a RealPlayer clip. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

Now to the details of what viewers heard and saw this morning, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:

As viewers watched Hillary Clinton collect instruments outside from fans, Matt Lauer opened the hour:
"8 o'clock now on this Thursday morning, the tenth day of June 1999 and yes that is the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton who is in town again in New York again this morning. And she's here for a couple of good reasons of course the one that we're most proud of is that she's here to help us participate in the VH1 Save the Music campaign. She is collecting old the instruments from people who've come down to the studio area outside Rockefeller Plaza. And of course we are going to take those instruments and donate them to schools so we can return music education to public schools. And she's doing very well, she's making a good haul."
Katie Couric: "Actually we've got a lot of people waiting to hand their instruments over but I think Mrs. Clinton is finding out the individual stories behind each instrument which I'm sure is a thrill for people who've come by our studio this morning. We're gonna be chatting with Mrs. Clinton in just a few minutes about her interests in keep music programs alive in public schools and of course we probably will ask her a few questions about her political intentions as well."
Lauer: "We should also mention that Mrs. Clinton has been very active in the Save the Music campaign and it has meant a lot to her in the past couple of years so again it's wonderful to have her here for that."

Couric and Lauer then talked briefly with Hillary:
Lauer: "Alright you wanna walk over here and see how Mrs. Clinton is doing?"
Couric: "Sure why not?"
Lauer: "Why don't we join her?"
Hillary Clinton, holding a violin: "Oh that's a beautiful instrument. Is that yours? It's your grandmother's. Oh my gosh. Thank you for thinking of all these young kids. That really is a wonderful gift."
Audience member: "They deserve a chance. I mean I don't think music programs should be cut out of schools. It just help kids so much so. If I can do something nice for people."
Couric: "Well that's so nice because that must have some sentimental value for you?"
Audience member: "It does, it does, but, but you know. I don't play it so."
Couric: "So someone else will."
Clinton: "This will live on."
Couric: "Hi Mrs. Clinton!"
Clinton: "Hi Katie how are you?"
Couric: "How are you? Good morning!"
Clinton: "This is something. People come from all over to bring these instruments. Their grandfather's, their grandmother's, their parent's, their own when they were in school."
Couric: "And you are finding out sort of the stories behind the instruments aren't you? If they played them and why they are willing to part company with them."
Clinton: "Yeah. And a lot of them, you know, you can tell it's a really emotional moment."
Couric: "Yeah there are some more here actually."
Lauer: "You know I thought you'd would bring a saxophone with you from the White House?"
Clinton: "I already gave one."
Lauer: "Okay good we like to hear that."
Couric: "Actually the Clintons got involved with this, we'll be talking about that."

And it kept going with Today showing Hillary talking with members of the crowd.

After the news update, the group moved inside. Couric introduced her interview:
"As you know we've been collecting musical instruments all week for our 'VH1 Save the Music Today' drive, a program started by the VH1 cable channel that takes old instruments refurbishes them and gives them to schools whose education programs in music have been cut. Last fall as part of the program President Clinton donated one of his own saxophones to a Washington DC school and First Lady Hillary Clinton visited a public school to tell students just how important she believes music education is. Mrs. Clinton is here this morning to talk about the Save the Music program and she's joined by VH1 President John Sykes. Good morning nice to see you both."

Couric's first question: "Now I guess you called on Mrs. Clinton John because you were trying to get the President to donate his sax and it just wasn't happening so you needed to go to the real power right?"

VH1 President John Sykes admired how after they asked Hillary for Bill Clinton's sax they got it in two weeks. "Now that's power" he exclaimed, "This was high on her list. Children and education." He added that "she's been amazing" in her support.

Couric wondered: "Why did it capture your attention? I mean you're asked to do a million different things I'm sure."
Clinton claimed arts education have been dropped from too many schools.
Couric responded: "But as you know public education is in trouble in some places. I don't want to make a blanket statement. But some public schools are struggling to teach children even the basics, so can you understand how some school officials might say, 'Music education is great but it's not a necessity in a child's curriculum.'"
Clinton called that "shortsighted."
Couric helpfully pointed out: "Also if you are interested in music and that sort of bleeds into after school hours you're doing something and not getting into trouble in other ways."
Sykes then claimed, without offering any evidence of any reductions in school spending, that while "the Dow is over 10,000 now...we're shortchanging our kids in public schools."

After Hillary stressed how both music and sports are good for kids, Couric pitched up this softball: "Speaking of sports, how about those Knicks?"
Couric followed-up: "Did you watch last night?....Are you a big Knicks fan? Are you rooting for them?"
Clinton: "I'm becoming a big Knicks fan."
Couric: "More and more every day huh?"
Clinton: "Well I've always been a Patrick Ewing fan because you know he went to Georgetown and he is somebody that we have followed in our household. And I've just always admired his determination and his you know absolute commitment and this may be the year."
Couric: "Meanwhile I know the New York Yankees are heading to the White House today to be honored for winning the World Series. You a Yankees fan too?"
Clinton: "Well now the fact is I've always been a Yankees fan."
Couric: "I thought you were a Cubs fan."
Clinton: "I am. I am a Cubs fan but I needed an American League team because when you're from Chicago you cannot root for both the Cubs and the Sox. I mean that's, you know there is a dividing line that you can't cross there. So as a young girl I became very interested and enamored of the Yankees. So I'm excited about this afternoon. We're gonna have them all there at the White House."

Couric then broached the Senate race for which Today was giving Hillary a cozy platform: "This is your 11th trip to New York this year. Newsweek says you're in the process of leasing an apartment here."
Hillary said she's "going around collecting offers of you know people's guest rooms and extra beds and pullout couches."
Couric tried a joke: "I heard George Stephanopoulos offered his apartment to you? He called Harold Ickes but he said he was just kidding?"
A bewildered Clinton asked "Is that right?" and then laughed.
Couric: "Alrighty. This is the first trip to New York since you announced that you are gonna form an exploratory committee to decide whether you will indeed run for Senate but as you know Congresswoman Nita Lowey bowed out. No one else's name has really surfaced. If you decide not to throw your hat in the ring, if you will, won't that create a lot of problems for the Democratic Party here in New York?"
Clinton let loose and contradicted any defense Today had that this was a non-political appearance:
"Well I think a Democrat will win the Senate race and I'm looking forward to going out and listening to New Yorkers and just having a good time as I did yesterday in Binghamton. We had a fabulous time. I learned a lot, I saw a lot of people I had a great experience and I'm gonna be doing a lot of that in July and August. But I think when you look at what's happening in the country today a Democrat is going to win this Senate seat to replace Senator Moynihan which is as it should be. Because the Democratic Party as we saw again yesterday with the way the Republicans treated the gun laws in the House of Representatives is much more in touch with the mainstream, not only of America but particularly of New York."

Couric moved on: "From here I know that you all are heading to a New York City school for a big announcement. Can you tell me quickly about that?"
Sykes explained how they were going to a school in Harlem to donate $1 million, prompting Couric to enthuse: "Well it's a terrific program."

Clinton joked: "I understand tomorrow you, Matt and Al are gonna play for us?"
Couric: "Uh I don't think so, I don't think so. But it is a great program. We just hope that we were able to help a lot of kids as well. And Mrs. Clinton will you come back when you can stay longer and talk in more detail about your political aspirations?"
Clinton: "Sure will. I will do that."

In the end of the interview crosstalk of thank yous and good-byes you could hear Clinton taking one last chance to talk about kids: "And for kids. That's what really counts."

There's nothing wrong with Today promoting a private effort to do good, but by showcasing Hillary Clinton NBC owner General Electric gave the Clinton for Senate effort quite a large in-kind contribution. When conservatives like Steve Forbes want 30 seconds of airtime to make themselves look like wonderful, caring people they have to pay for it. But if you're a liberal like Hillary you get 12 minutes for free. -- Brent Baker

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