About Bush's "Truth"; Gary Graham Crusade; ABC Picked Liberal Over Limbaugh; Byrd Attack Dismissed
1) Unlike previous revelations about requests for an Independent Counsel, the networks jumped on Thursday's news that a current Justice official wants Gore probed. Peter Jennings likened Bush and executions to Gore's honesty: "This is all about truth and character for both these men, right?"
3) Charles Gibson boasted of GMA's slant: "We've been bringing you reports raising questions about the soundness of the death penalty across the nation." The Gary Graham case led the Thursday morning and evening shows. On Today, Geraldo called it an "outrage."
6) ABC passed over conservative Rush Limbaugh for Monday Night Football and instead picked liberal Dennis Miller, who once belittled Limbaugh's show: "...barely educates [and] reinforces the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the listener."
online, the June 20 edition of MagazineWatch about the June 26 issues of
Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. The items in this edition compiled by MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
After months of ignoring revelations about the requests by former fundraising task force chief Charles LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh for an independent counsel to investigate Al Gore's 1996 fundraising activities, Thursday night all the networks jumped on the disclosure that LaBella's successor at Justice, Robert Conrad, had earlier this year urged appointment of a special prosecutor.
(When the March 10 Los Angeles Times revealed the contents of a memo in which LaBella urged appointment of an independent counsel, none of the broadcast networks uttered a word about it that morning or evening. Ditto for when at a May 24 House hearing the FBI's general counsel provided corroboration for FBI Director Louis Freeh's statement in a 1996 memo that he learned that Attorney General Janet Reno's continuation in her job was at risk from the White House if she pursued Clinton-Gore fundraising.)
Justice Department officials' admission Thursday was prompted by a question from Senator Arlen Specter to Conrad at a hearing on Wednesday.
ABC's Peter Jennings equated doubts about Gore's honesty in answering prober's questions with how George Bush is handling the death penalty. He asked Cokie Roberts: "This is all about truth and character for both these men, right?" Roberts agreed: "It is."
For a flavor of how the broadcast networks handled the Gore story, below are transcripts, thanks to MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, of how each anchor introduced the story and the spin the reporter delivered in their wrap-up. In between, all three reporters explained how the recommendation stemmed from an April 18 interview with Gore by Justice investigators in which his answers about the Buddhist temple event troubled Conrad and how Janet Reno has already turned down two requests from her deputies (LaBella and Freeh) to name an independent counsel. Since that position no longer exists, Conrad asked Reno to name a special prosecutor under her direction.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Immediately after the lead story about the impending Gary Graham execution, Peter Jennings announced: "In Washington today, a senior prosecutor at the Justice Department has recommended that a special counsel be appointed to investigate Vice President Gore's fundraising activities during the last presidential campaign. Did he lie about his famous visit to a Buddhist temple?"
Jackie Judd concluded her subsequent piece: "Peter, we're told tonight that Reno does know about this recommendation, but it has not been sent to her officially and so is not yet under really active consideration."
Later, Jennings talked with Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopoulos about the controversies facing the two candidates. The first question to Stephanopoulos about Bush: "Why need he be so worried about his issue of the death penalty?" And to Roberts about Gore: "Why should be unusually worried about one more investigation of the Clinton-Gore administration?"
Jennings soon equated
the relevance and import of the two topics: "This is all about truth
and character for both these men, right?"
There you have it, Bush potentially being wrong in his judgment about the quality of the Texas judicial system would make him just as guilty for not telling the truth as Gore would be if proven what he himself said is untrue.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned after two opening stories on Gary Graham: "Vice President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new carefully orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore's past campaign fundraising practices. A Justice Department official is calling for an independent investigator in the case."
Bob Schieffer concluded: "The Justice Department would not comment for the record, but one official there said Conrad had made a quote, 'preliminary recommendation,' that has not yet been formally presented to the Attorney General. But even if she decides not to appoint an outside counsel, it leaves the Vice President in a political fix. Three senior law enforcement officials, including the FBI Director, had already urged Reno to name an outside counsel to investigate Gore. This will just make it harder for him to explain why they're wrong."
-- NBC Nightly News. Also following multiple opening pieces on Graham, Tom Brokaw declared: "The other presidential candidate, Vice President Al Gore, is also in the news tonight, and it's not good news for him. After many months of speculation, controversy, and confusion, it appears that another senior Justice Department official has concluded Al Gore should be investigated by a special prosecutor for alleged campaign fundraising abuses."
Claire Shipman, after running a soundbite from LaBella urging Reno to act this time, concluded: "Now Janet Reno, remember, may decide again not to follow this advice, and she can't appoint an independent counsel. That law expired last year. If she does bring somebody in, it would be a special counsel working within the Justice Department and reporting to Janet Reno."
Immediately after the Gore story all three network anchors read short items on an announcement from Independent Counsel Robert Ray about how he had decided to not go for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, though he concluded that, in contrast to her claims, she did have a role in the Travel Office firings. ABC and CBS went with that sequence while NBC's Tom Brokaw first relayed his conclusion about her role in the scandal.
Here's what viewers of each show heard on Thursday night, June 22:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "One other issue about investigations today. The independent counsel, Robert Ray, said today he's not going to file charges against Hillary Clinton. He said there is not enough evidence to prove that she lied about the firing of White House Travel Office employees seven years ago. He did say there is substantial evidence that Mrs. Clinton had a role in the firings, which contradicts her denials."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "Another blast from the political past tonight concerns First Lady Hillary Clinton. Robert Ray, who replaced special prosecutor Ken Starr, says no charges will be filed against Mrs. Clinton over the firings of White House Travel Office employees that happened just when the Clintons were coming into office. Mrs. Clinton has denied any role in those firings. Ray says there is quote, 'substantial evidence,' unquote, that she was involved but not enough evidence to prove her statements were knowingly false."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw: "Then there's also this tonight from Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who says there is substantial evidence that First Lady Hillary Clinton played a role in the firings at the White House Travel Office back in 1993. However, he says he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of Mrs. Clinton's statements and testimony about Travelgate were knowingly false, so Ray says he will not prosecute the First Lady, now running for the U.S. Senate from New York."
Gary Graham mania. His impending execution dominated the three cable news networks all day -- with Geraldo Rivera live from Huntsville, Texas all day on MSNBC -- after the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows made it their top story. The omnipresent Geraldo popped up on Today to denounce the execution as an "outrage." Thursday night his cause topped the broadcast network evening shows a day after all three had run full pieces the night before.
Opening the June 22 CBS
Evening News, Dan Rather made sure viewers realized the link to Bush and
the larger political cause:
Introducing the first interview segment on Thursday's Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, boasted of how his show had chosen sides: "We do turn first this morning to convicted killer Gary Graham, who as we said, is sentenced to die this evening on the strength of a single eyewitness. Over past 10 day, we've been bringing you reports raising questions about the soundness of the death penalty across the nation and in the state of Texas. As in so many death penalty cases, this one is reaching a fever pitch."
Over on NBC's Today,
co-host Katie Couric interviewed Bernadine Skillern, the eyewitness who
identified Graham as well as Graham's lawyer, Jack Zimmerman. Live from
Texas, Geraldo Rivera soon joined the conversation as well as Diane
Clements of Justice for All. Abandoning any pretense of being a reporter,
Rivera argued, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
But Geraldo, nor anyone else, appeared live from Arkansas on Today back in 1992 when Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to handle that execution. In fact, that execution of Rick Ray Rector didn't generate any morning show segments and barely registered ion the evening news. (Details to follow later today in a Media Reality Check the MRC's Tim Graham is preparing for morning distribution and which I will send to the CyberAlert list.)
Back to Thursday's Today, Geraldo made clear he doesn't think much of the legal reasoning Bush applied in maintaining he could not extend a second 30-day reprieve.
Governor George Bush says that he doesn't really have that many options
under the Texas constitution because Ann Richards has already granted a
gubernatorial reprieve. What is your interpretation of that? Because I
know that, that has been interpreted in different ways and some people
don't agree with the Governor."
It takes three networks to handle all of Geraldo's bias. In addition to serving as an advocate/reporter on Thursday's Today on NBC and to providing live reports from Huntsville, Texas on MSNBC all day, Geraldo had his usual gigs Wednesday night on CNBC. He used them to castigate as "barbaric" giving Graham six last meals, to allow Graham to denounce the system as "barbaric" and to argue that a civilized nation would not execute a man for a crime committed at age 17. All these quotes were taken down by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:
-- CNBC's Upfront Tonight, June 21: "Gary Graham told me that he has already had six last meals. Coming that close to death a half dozen times. And whatever your feelings about the death penalty, if that is not barbaric nothing is."
Six times the "barbaric" system ruled in his favor and allowed another appeal to be heard.
-- On Rivera Live
Geraldo played clips of his interview with Graham and put the same
complaint to him:
This from a guy who admits shooting two people, one in the neck. Just good luck prevented them from being murder victims.
At another point in the interview, Geraldo empathized with him: "You were 17, even if you did it. Most civilized nations, and most states wouldn't let them kill you."
Fortunately he committed his crime in Texas.
ABC assumed the EPA is more accurate than congressional researchers or the oil industry in figuring the cost of reformulated fuel.
On Wednesday's World
News Tonight ABC reporter Bob Jamieson explored why, after factoring out
the difference in state taxes, Seattle's pump price is "30 cents more
than the basic costs, while Chicago's is nearly 80?" After
acknowledging that a pipeline disruption "may have added 25 cents to
the price of a gallon in Chicago," Jamieson raised EPA regulations:
How about we assume the Congressional Research Service is right. That would explain it all, leaving a price difference of zero.
A conservative is too controversial for ABC Sports but a conservative-bashing liberal is not? How else do you explain ABC passing over Rush Limbaugh for a spot in the Monday Night Football booth and instead picking Dennis Miller?
Late Thursday ABC announced that joining play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the booth for ABC's Monday night NFL games this year will be Miller, a veteran of Saturday Night Live, and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts.
Anyone who watches Miller's Friday night HBO show, Dennis Miller Live, knows that while he is great with quick quips, he's also a regular basher of conservatives, though he does occasionally stray from the liberal line. As noted in the June 8 CyberAlert, he denounced Hillary Clinton as a "craven careerist" in a June 2 interview of Christine Lahti.
The MRC has not systematically documented Miller's liberal antics on his HBO show, but MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson has tracked Miller and taken down many of his more strident jokes, put-downs and quips. Here's a small sampling the quotes, starting with ones Tom provided to MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell for a column.
From Bozell's July 21, 1998 Creator's syndicate column:
Comedian Dennis Miller, who called himself a "conservative libertarian" in a 1996 interview, has demonstrated again that he hasn't a clue about the meaning of either term.
However Miller identifies himself, his strongest invective is always aimed at the right. After the Republicans took Congress in 1994, his attacks on Newt Gingrich were breathtakingly vicious. Even though Gingrich isn't the inviting target he was a couple of years ago, Miller isn't short of conservative whipping boys.
Discussing Trent Lott's remarks on homosexuality on the June 19 edition of his weekly HBO half-hour, "Dennis Miller Live," he snarled, "Maybe we shouldn't come down on Trent just because he believes the only thing a man should have up his [rear end] is his own head," and labeled him a "stiff-haired, pinhead scumbag."
OK, maybe Miller's not a social conservative. Maybe he's a true-blue, albeit nasty and foul-mouthed, libertarian. But listen to something else he said on the very same episode: "When it comes to paranoia, most folks [are more concerned with] the federal government... but I'm made more paranoid by corporations. Car companies that lie about their safety records; chemical firms selling toxic weed killers that wind up in our food... Let's face it, the idiots in Washington, D.C. can't even investigate a conspiracy, much less create one."....
On July 10th, Miller went after Rush Limbaugh, whose show, he claims, "barely educates [and] reinforces the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the listener." Unlike, we are meant to gather, "Dennis Miller Live."
From the July 1995
edition of TV, etc., the MRC's now defunct entertainment media
newsletter, some quotes from Miller's HBO show:
-- June 16: "Then, while up in New Hampshire, Gingrich went looking for moose. He said he wanted to see a moose before his Party's environmental policy made them extinct..."
-- June 23: "As for
our esteemed leadership in Washington, sometimes it would appear that
these demagogues furtively crave teen pregnancies because they need the
scapegoats. Well, we need to get the religious right to take off their
official Ralph Reed blinders and wake up...
And from the May 1994 TV, etc., Miller on CNBC's old Dick Cavett show on April 15: "When you [hear Clinton] speak, you think 'My God, he actually knows the issues,' whereas the entire Reagan library is nothing but...3 X 5 cards."
A cabinet member is excoriated by the senior Senator of his own party and what does CBS News do? Ignore it and talk about a "new round in the blame game" and insist a hearing "shed more heat than light." That's just what happened in CBS's reporting, or really lack of reporting, on Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's appearance Wednesday before a Senate committee to answer questions about a lost and found hard drive at Los Alamos which contained top secret nuclear data.
On ABC's World News
Tonight on June 21 Barry Serafin led with the condemnation:
"Richardson was the target of blistering attacks, mostly from Senate
Republicans....But even the Senate's senior Democrat went on the attack,
accusing Richardson, who declined to testify at an earlier hearing, of
contempt of Congress and supreme arrogance."
Andrea Mitchell stressed
in her NBC Nightly News piece how Richardson delivered good news about how
there is no evidence of espionage, but she also acknowledged his chilly
reception: "For Richardson, a trip to the woodshed with big
consequences. Only three months ago, around the time the hard drives were
apparently taken, he was on the short list to become Al Gore's running
mate. Today, a very different outlook."
Now compare that to what
CBS Evening News viewers heard Wednesday night from Dan Rather. No full
story, just this loaded item which treated the matter as a political game:
From the June 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions on the Los Alamos Security Application." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. "Do you have any previous
experience sitting around doing nothing?"
And, from the Late Show Web page, (http://www.cbs.com/lateshow/), some of the "also ran" jokes that didn't make it into the list because "those overachieving writers keep producing more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."
-- "Would you agree that in terms of
security, nothing beats the honor system?"
Final Note: Tonight's
20/20 features Barbara Walters with Al and Tipper Gore. To see and hear
Walters earlier this week singing the closing song at her late father's
nightclub, The Latin Quarter, go to:
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