Scoop on Ron Brown; Today's Double Standard on David Brock
1) Wednesday night's Prime Time Live featured a story from Brian Ross, really the only true political investigative reporter employed by a broadcast network. He relayed some explosive charges from Nolanda Hill, long-time business partner of the late Ron Brown. The question is, will this spur some media interest in his nefarious dealings, or will the networks drop the story, as they did when some of the charges Hill now confirms were first raised in early 1995.
In brief, on Prime Time Live,
-- Confirmed the charge that she paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his interest in her businesses for which he had paid nothing to acquire.
-- Elaborated on allegations that Vietnam was set to payoff Brown for advocating normal trade relations with the country by informing Ross that the payoff never occurred because Brown was tipped that the FBI was tracking the scheme. Ross pegged the missed payola at $700,000.
-- Reported that the Lums paid Brown $60,000 while he was Commerce Secretary and that they hired Brown's son, Michael, in order to quietly funnel money to Ron Brown. (See the May 22 CyberAlert for a summary of a Frontline story on the Lums and Ron Brown)
-- Told Ross how Brown believed Hillary Clinton placed John Huang in his Commerce slot.
-- Reported that the White House sent Ron Brown to China in 1994 to urge officials to approve a billion dollar power project involving the Lippo Bank.
At about midnight tonight I was unable to find a wire story on this anywhere on the Internet and the ABC News Web site (abcnews.com) didn't have a word about it, so I put together the above list by playing back the PTL story. Therefore, I'm not too confident any of this will get much play. If that's true, it wouldn't be the first time the media backed off the story:
-- The February 1995 MediaWatch noted that on January 14 the Washington Post reported that Brown failed to report income from a business bailed out by taxpayers, a deal involving Nolanda Hill. "Despite numerous follow-up stories and congressional demands he resign, ABC, CBS and NBC aired only one story, the first 13 days later on January 27.
-- The March 1995 MediaWatch reported that all the network evening shows ran a piece on the February 16 decision by the Justice Department to open an investigation of Brown. "But curiosity quickly ebbed. NBC followed up with two stories, CBS and CNN World News with a story each. In all, the networks devoted eight stories to Brown in February. Even the revelation in the February 25 Washington Post that NBC had forgiven a $10 million loan defaulted on by a partnership including Brown failed to pique their curiosity, although questions about federal regulation of Fox drove the Gingrich book story."
2) NBC's Today invited on The American Spectator's David Brock to discuss his piece in the July Esquire magazine in which he condemns conservatives for supposedly turning on him when they found his book on Hillary Clinton too positive.
Matt Lauer introduced the
June 18 interview:
Lauer, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson, first asked: "You really were the darling of the conservatives. If there were a conservative cause, you wrote about it. If there was a liberal cause, you skewered it. What was it, though, that you put into this book about Hillary Rodham Clinton that upset your friends so much, or what didn't you put in the book that upset them?"
Brock replied: "Well, I think that the expectation was, based on my reputation, that this book would be a hit piece, and what I found is, in the reporting, that it was a much more mixed picture of Hillary Clinton. There was grounds for criticizing Hillary Clinton, but that she also had some very admirable traits, and I think what happened is the conservatives just didn't want to concede that there were any admirable traits. They wanted a caricature that I didn't give them, and the result of that, as I detail in this Esquire piece, and also of my earlier criticism of the Gary Aldrich book, which put out a false story about the President, and I had some information about that. I came forward and said, 'Hey, that's wrong.' That made them mad, the Hillary book made them mad, and the result was, you know, dis-invitation to parties, denounced as a turncoat, my motives were questioned. In the Aldrich case, I'm gay and my sexuality was even used to discredit what I was saying about Gary Aldrich. So I was thrown away, in some sorts."
Some of Lauer's other questions:
-- Lauer: "And not being invited to parties is, alright, but that's no big deal, socially. But basically the problem is, you're saying, they looked at you not as a journalist, who would tell a fair story, they looked at you as someone who would be a hit man for their cause."
-- Lauer: "But even though, some people think this sounds a little disingenuous because when you wrote your Troopergate article talking about Bill Clinton's alleged infidelities as governor of Arkansas, you even say in the Esquire piece that you saw it as an eye for an eye, a way to get back at the Bork problems, about the liberal attacks on Clarence Thomas. An eye for an eye doesn't sound like journalism."
Brock responded: "...What I'm saying now is, 'I can't be on that team anymore,' because I found out that my own side wasn't honest."
-- Lauer: "Alright, when you say 'the team,' give me names of the players....Like who?"
Brock explained: "The people who tell them [conservatives] what to think. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which really backed this Aldrich book on day one, and all through the following months, even after they knew that it was knowingly false."
-- Lauer: "Give me some other names that people will recognize."
Brock: "Well, look, all of the conservative talk radio: Gordon Liddy, Ollie North. These guys had me on when I was useful. When I had my Hillary book out, they wouldn't have me on, and I have a problem with that. It wasn't open-minded. Look, have me on and disagree with me. Say, 'You're wrong about Hillary because of this and this and this.' No, they shut it down and what I'm trying to say is that that's not the function of journalism. Even within the conservative movement, we've got to look at ourselves, we've got to be self-critical."
-- Lauer: "This may be the spin from those conservatives you're talking about -- But some of them claim that when you wrote the Hillary book, you were looking for publicity, and now the hurt-puppy routine that you're going through right now, is more of a quest for publicity."
Lauer ended with a challenging question, but up to then he prompted Brock through a series of attacks on conservatives. As MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham reminded me, that isn't the treatment conservatives and Brock got when he appeared on Today to discuss his book on Anita Hill. As recounted in the May 1993 MediaWatch:
"On May 3, 1993, Today co-host Katie Couric interviewed David Brock, who has picked Hill's case apart in a new book, The Real Anita Hill. But instead of having him on alone Today forced Brock to share the ten-minute segment with Hill defender Charles Ogletree, who trashed the book: 'It's a great piece of fiction, but he doesn't deal with fact. He makes countless errors of fact, he tells outright lies, he refers to statements that have been proven false. And it's a dupe. I think the most important thing is that journalists should take a look at David Brock's book and find out about the real David Brock.'
"Today co-host Katie Couric also questioned Brock's bias: 'You do, though, Mr. Brock, have some innate biases, don't you? I mean The American Spectator [where Brock's revelations first appeared] is an ultraconservative magazine, and it seems as if you are an advocate for Justice Thomas in the book. Is it really fair to call yourself an objective journalist?'"
The NBC standard: Attack a liberal icon and you must be balanced by a liberal and your ideological bias will be highlighted. Attack conservatives for lacking integrity and honesty and you get an unchallenged platform.
Three personal comments.
1) I'd note that while the credibility of Aldrich's book was foolishly compromised by the decision to include a couple of uncorroborated allegations, that doesn't mean the rest of the book isn't accurate. Brock should have some sympathy for Aldrich's plight given how Brock's Anita Hill book was nit-picked by liberals.
2) Speaking as a Washington conservative, I think it's accurate to say that DC conservatives had little to do with pushing Aldrich's book -- conservatives across the country made Aldrich's book a top seller.
3) The source of much of the most irresponsible allegations about Clinton -- the baseless charges that distract from more serious ethics matters -- come from people who are not part of the conservative leadership in DC and New York that Brock disparaged. One example: The tape distributed by Jerry Falwell that implicates Bill Clinton in several murders.
3) News you can use. Wednesday night's network shows provided a nice illustration of how the networks avoid political news as much as possible. The House committee looking at campaign finance met as did a senate committee writing a tax bill, but ABC and NBC ignored both. The CBS Evening News led with the Southern Baptist boycott of Disney (owner of rival ABC), ran a brief story on the tax bill and a pretty hard-hitting story on how the White House should handle the Paula Jones case, but ABC and NBC avoided politics altogether. Both ran stories on estrogen, and for a reason I do not comprehend, both decided that on June 18 a March 13 UFO sighting in Arizona deserved a full report.
Here's a run down of the June 18 shows. (Anchor means just a brief item read by the anchor)
ABC's World News Tonight:
NBC Nightly News:
If only Charlie Trie, John Huang and Webster Hubbell would claim to have seen a UFO. Then they'd get on the network news.
-- Brent Baker