Shooting: Blame the GOP; Tax Cut = "Spending Government Money"
1) Juan Williams charged that
GOP anti-government rhetoric provoked the shooting in the U.S. Capitol
2) Brokaw blamed American
society, MSNBC's John Gibson the "scandal atmosphere." CNN's
Lou Dobbs a bright spot.
3) The White House concealed
the subpoena for days, but ABC emphasized debate "as to whether Starr
is acting beyond his power."
4) "A tax cut is another
way of talking about spending government money," insisted Steve
Roberts, but Brit Hume expressed the novel concept that money belongs to
those who earned it.
5) Charles LaBella's memo
raised on Meet the Press by Tim Russert, but on Friday's Today Katie
Couric never asked Al Gore about it.
6) Unlike the press corps, the
public considers infidelity and asking a friend to commit perjury worse
than taping a friend.
You knew it would happen. It was just a matter of time before a major
media figure would blame the shooting in the U.S. Capitol building on
Republican or conservative anti-government rhetoric. Less than 48 hours
after the 3:40pm ET Friday incident, when in media parlance Rusty Weston
"allegedly" opened fire, on Fox News Sunday FNC analyst and
Washington Post reporter Juan Williams charged:
"My concern with this guy, Weston, is he's
a guy talking up this business about the evils of big government and
he's a nut case but this is his rant and I wonder if, you know, in some
way the Republicans in this town haven't gone too far with this kind of
Through Sunday night the media have shown remarkable restraint in not
raising the shooting incident as evidence of the need for more gun laws.
One would most expect such calls on the TV debate shows, but the late
Friday incident occurred too late for inclusion on Inside Washington or on
the McLaughlin Group. The normally live Capital Gang on CNN was even
pre-taped and didn't mention the shooting.
caught a few noteworthy exchanges from Friday night coverage:
-- Tom Brokaw
blames society. The MRC's Jones Communications cable went out for 12
seconds at about 7:28pm ET just as Tom Brokaw began a final comment at the
end of the NBC Nightly News. But we caught enough to understand and convey
his point. So picking up where our cable did, here is Brokaw's thought:
"...world peace. This generous nation
rebuilt its enemies and held the line against communism until communism
died. We gave the world lessons in political and economic democracy and
free speech and religious tolerance. We dealt with our flaws openly. And
yet, as we end this American century, with the sounds of gunfire in our
most treasured institutions, we still have so far to go. Just ask the
families of officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson."
-- MSNBC's John
Gibson linked the shooting to the "scandal atmosphere." Treading
into the thought neighborhood of Juan Williams, Friday night MSNBC's
John "Spike" Gibson didn't go quite so far, but you can tell
where he was heading. At about 7:40pm ET Gibson, who a few minutes earlier
had referred to Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer as "Denny,"
proposed to MSNBC security analyst Jeff Beatty:
"It is not hard to imagine, in the
super-charged, controversial, scandal atmosphere of this country that
somebody is angry at the President or anybody in politics in Washington
and if not entirely got their feet on the ground, might act out. Is
-- CNN's Lou
Dobbs denounced Senator Torricelli's effort to exploit the incident to
push gun control. At about 6:30pm ET Friday night Lou Dobbs, anchor of
Moneyline in that timeslot, maintained his presence during that hour by
taking over CNN's live shooting coverage. At 7:26pm ET Bob Franken live
on Capitol Hill told Dobbs in New York City:
"I'm just being handed a couple of
statements I'd like to share with you if I could Lou. We have, first of
all, one from Robert Torricelli that brings some political issue into it.
I'd like to read this to you. Robert Torricelli, who's a Democrat from
New Jersey, says the following. 'Guns come to every neighborhood, even
Capitol Hill. Thousands of people live in fear everyday because of the
massive number of firearms in the hands of those who use them to
perpetrate violence on innocent bystanders. This tragedy shows once again
the need for responsible gun control measures.' We also have a statement
An irritated Dobbs at this point cut off Franken,
"Bob, do we have one really pertaining to
the incident and less to the politics that surround it?"
The shooting pushed back into the Friday newscasts the subpoena issued to
President Clinton, but the networks still managed to run stories. Friday
night only CBS reported that the subpoena was not a threat but had been
issued. After the White House admitted at about 11pm ET Friday night that
Clinton had been served, on Saturday night ABC led with the news but
expressed concern about whether "Starr is acting beyond his
power." Unlike ABC's Mike Von Fremd, CBS News correspondent Scott
Pelley highlighted how the White House had "concealed" the
-- Friday, July
24: Of the broadcast networks, Friday night only CBS's Scott Pelley
reported that a subpoena had indeed been issued. ABC and NBC viewers
learned only that one had been threatened or was impending. ABC's Peter
Jennings delivered the White House spin about how lawyer David Kendall was
negotiating about how to provide information to the grand jury, but also
showed the January clip of Clinton promising more rather than less, sooner
rather than later. NBC's David Bloom marveled at how a subpoena threat
had prompted a new willingness to cooperate after refusing earlier
requests to testify.
-- Saturday, July
25. (Golf bumped NBC Nightly News in the Eastern and Central time zones on
both Saturday and Sunday night.)
ABC's World News Tonight led with Clinton being
formally called to appear. Reporter Mike Von Fremd worried: "Since
Bill Clinton is the first President ever subpoenaed to appear before a
grand jury, there is now a legal dispute raging among constitutional
scholars as to whether Starr is acting beyond his power."
After battling soundbites from Paul Rothstein of
Georgetown University and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of Southern
California, a clip of Mike McCurry claiming negotiations were ongoing and
a comment from a former Starr deputy, Von Fremd noted that Clinton is
scheduled to appear this week. He then concluded:
"But if there are negotiations going on that
date could slip. And when it comes to dealing with Starr the President has
a history of fighting and delaying every step of the way and he may find
it difficult to do an about face now.
can't help himself.
The Saturday CBS
Evening News led with the shooting, but Scott Pelley, pulling weekend duty
in Aspen, Colorado with Clinton, delivered a much tougher report. Pelley
asserted: "Given the political implications the White House has
concealed the fact of the subpoena for days."
Pelley then showed his question to McCurry at
Friday's press briefing: "Is it your position Mike that the White
House is not going to tell the American people whether the President has
received a subpoena to testify in a criminal case?"
McCurry at the press briefing: "It is my
position we don't comment on subpoenas because subpoenas arise out of
grand jury proceedings that are secret so they protect the rights of the
Pelley: "It is legal, however, for the
recipient of a subpoena to make that fact known..."
-- Sunday, July
26: ABC's World News Tonight anchored by Terry Moran (he's come far
from CourtTV) led with the Capitol building shooting. The CBS Evening News
put the subpoena up first. Both ABC's Mike Von Fremd and CBS's Scott
Pelley delivered the same basic story: Clinton has been commanded to
testify on Tuesday, the two sides are negotiating but it appears likely
that Starr will allow a videotaped deposition at the White House with
Clinton's lawyer present, Starr will not agree to limit the scope of his
questioning, and Senator Orrin Hatch threatened impeachment proceedings if
Clinton refuses to cooperate.
-- One lie too
many. Maybe it was the embarrassment of being beaten by CBS, or maybe it
was just being mad about being lied to, but on Sunday's Meet the Press
moderator Tim Russert demanded that Clinton aide Rahm Emmanuel explain why
he "misled" NBC about the subpoena. Russert asserted:
"Let me talk about an issue of credibility.
As you know, NBC News called you three times on Thursday and five times on
Friday and asked specifically whether a subpoena had been issued based on
information we had obtained. And eight times we were told no. Did you
mislead us or did the White House lawyers mislead you."
When Emmanuel claimed he just said "we
don't comment on subpoenas," Russert countered: "But we
specifically asked whether you received a subpoena and you said no."
A tax cut is giving away the government's money. That's economics
according to New York Times and U.S. News veteran Steve Roberts. In a
discussion of the House Republican effort to cut taxes, viewers of
Sunday's Late Edition on CNN heard this exchange:
"We're seeing this fascinating flip-flop
where the Democrats now take all of the economic arguments Republicans
used to give and the Republicans have become the free spending, because a
tax cut is another way of talking about spending government money."
Host Wolf Blitzer: "Alright, very quickly
Tucker, you're laughing. Why are you laughing."
Tucker Carlson of The Weekly Standard: "That
is so perverse that a tax cut is spending government money? No, it's
giving it back to the people who made it."
Roberts: "It has the same effect on the
bottom line of the deficit. Exactly the same effect and that's what Alan
Greenspan was saying that if you, that what's worked over the last few
years, why we have such a good economy is because people have been
responsible. You start being irresponsible, you're going to raise the
Carlson, cutting in: "Irresponsible by
taking back money that you made."
Roberts: "By raising the deficit.
Irresponsible by raising the deficit."
Over on ABC's
This Week Sam Donaldson reflected thinking from the same
"responsible" school on tax cuts, declaring: "Since 1981 we
have increased the national debt five times thanks to the tax cuts."
But there was an
island of sanity Sunday morning. On Fox News Sunday after Clinton economic
adviser Gene Sperling droned on about the "historic obligation to fix
Social Security for future generations," host Brit Hume suggested:
"But Gene don't you think that we have a
historic obligation to let the American people keep as much of their money
as we possibly can?"
What a novel
concept. At least in newsrooms.
Tim Russert raised on Sunday a major story that never made it onto Nightly
News during the week and which Katie Couric ignored on Friday. On Meet the
Press he inquired of guest Rahm Emmanuel:
"Charles LaBella, who was appointed by Janet
Reno to head up the Justice Department investigation into campaign
contributions, Louis Freeh a non-partisan Director of the FBI, both of
them have said, unequivocally, there needs to be an independent counsel to
look at campaign irregularities, both of Democrats and Republicans. Why
won't the President support these two men?"
Well, LaBella was
urging a look at Democratic activities and direction from the White House,
but setting that aside, as detailed in the July 24 CyberAlert a July 23
front page New York Times story on LaBella's memo did not get a syllable
on Thursday's Good Morning America or CBS's This Morning. Today ran
two brief items from the news reader. Reno's reaction at a press
conference went unreported Thursday night by ABC and NBC.
broadcast evening shows all skipped the matter. So did the Friday morning
shows, with the exception of a vague reference on GMA quoted below,
reported MRC news analysts Clay Waters, Jessica Anderson and Mark Drake.
But it wasn't as if there weren't opportunities to raise the issue of
appointing an independent counsel. Pegged to his trip to Chernobyl, both
GMA and Today interviewed Vice President Al Gore from Moscow.
Check out the
flavor of the questions posed by Katie Couric on Today, as transcribed by
the MRC's Mark Drake. She didn't pose a single challenging question
even about the subject she stuck to --U.S.-Russia relations:
"Tell us about the purpose of your meeting
with Russia's new Prime Minister. What will the two of you be focusing
"In fact, Iran, this week, as you know,
tested a medium range missile that could reach Israel and Saudi Arabia,
and they did this, apparently, with technology from Russia. How concerned
are you about that, Mr. Vice President?"
"Have you brought up this particular Iranian
missile with Russian officials on this trip?"
"The transfer of technology, the enforcement
of keeping that from happening, in some cases, is virtually impossible,
though is it not?"
"Switching gears for a minute, Mr. Vice
President, are you finding yourself having to be a bit of a cheerleader to
boost morale in a country that's finding itself in some kind of
financial turmoil right now?"
"How is Boris Yeltsin faring? How much
confidence do the Russian people have in him?"
"But what's your sense, Mr. Vice
President? His popularity seems to ebb and flow. How is he faring? What
are you gathering from the people you've with spoken with so far?"
"Let me ask you about Chernobyl. I know that
you toured it recently. Describe what it looked like if you could."
GMA substitute co-host Aaron Brown at least made
Gore defend U.S. loan policy and squeezed in a question, delicately, about
the independent counsel issue:
"Let's talk about Chernobyl first. That
must have been a little bit frightening in a kind of global way, to see
not just the site itself, but to see those ghost towns that used to be
"Every now and then you hear from the
Ukrainians a sense that what happened twelve years ago at Chernobyl could
happen again at Chernobyl. Are they doing enough? Are we doing enough to
make sure it doesn't happen?"
"Let's talk about some of the decisions
the Russians are making. It seems like since the fall of the Soviet empire
we have been sending bailout money to the Russians year after year after
year. Now the IMF is going to send more bailout money and the Russians
continue to refuse to make the kinds of economic reforms the international
community says is necessary. Why is this not money down a rat hole?"
"Without beating this to death, it is so
unstable politically, it is sometimes hard from this end, I suspect
equally so from your end, to figure out if decisions or agreement made
today are going to be the agreements they keep tomorrow."
"One quick domestic question. There are more
and more every day calls for an independent counsel to look at the
campaign financing stuff, some of which includes phone calls that you made
or didn't make during the campaign season. Is there any way short of an
independent counsel to put this behind you?"
If the networks
continue ignoring the evidence and calls demanding an independent counsel
Gore and Clinton won't have anything to put behind them since most
won't know about it.
The Washington press corps, especially Margaret Carlson, may despise Linda
Tripp and dismiss Monicagate as no big deal since all it involves is lying
about sex, but the American people have a different set of values. The
July 26 Fox News Sunday featured the results of an interesting set of
questions posed in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamic poll.
personal behavior do you think is worse?"
Cheating on your spouse: 49%
Secretly taping a conversation with a friend: 18%
Both equally: 29%
"Which of the following is worse?"
Asking a friend to commit perjury: 54%
Secretly taping a conversation with a friend: 19%
I bet you can
guess which behavior most Washington reporters find more upsetting.
-- Brent Baker
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