CyberAlert -- 08/28/1998 -- Clinton's Field Trip
Clinton's Field Trip; Cronkite Quiet; Mum on Nunn's Call for Resignation
>>> Check out all the material showcased on the MRC's home page: The August 24 editions of MediaWatch and Notable Quotables, the August MediaNomics, the August 27 Media Reality Check and MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's Wall Street Journal op-ed. Just go to http://www.mediaresearch.org and click away. <<<
The turmoil in Russia and plunge of the U.S. stock market were the top stories Thursday night on all the networks with ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC going first with Russia while FNC led with the stock market.
ABC's Hillary Brown laid out a scenario in which Chernomyrdin is confirmed as Prime Minister and Yeltsin transfers power to him until elections in three months, but only after the parliament gives Yeltsin immunity. CBS Evening News anchor Paula Zahn ominously opened the show: "Russia's fling with free markets may be over tonight. So may the political career of Boris Yeltsin. And the carnage at the Kremlin could even stop the stock market's long Bull run..." CBS News reporter Richard Threlkeld proposed the same scenario as ABC, adding that Yeltsin has already signed a resignation letter, but has just not yet submitted it. The other networks were less definitive, passing along the rumors of how Yeltsin is about to resign along with the official denials.
Bill Clinton's quick trip up to Worcester for a speech in front of an enthusiastic Democratic crowd, but during which he did not mention Lewinsky, earned a full story on ABC, CNN and FNC. CBS and NBC gave it a few seconds. All but NBC raised how Republican candidates are using the President's Lewinsky affair as an issue against Democrats up for election this fall. The streets outside the hall were filled with protesters demanding Clinton resign, but ABC and CBS ignored them and only FNC brought up how a local Democratic city council member refused to attend.
Highlights of how the Thursday, August 27 network evening shows covered the President's field trip:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. About 22 minutes into the show Mike Von Fremd began by
emphasizing the stage-managing:
King opened by
introducing a glowing tribute to Clinton from Congressman Jim McGovern:
"A very welcome and public show of Democratic support for a President
who needs every friend he can get these days." After a clip of
Clinton King segued into a bite from Senator Kennedy: "That Mr.
Clinton said not a word about Lewinsky didn't matter to his most loyal
Like CNN's King FNC's Wilson reported that Clinton's advisers want him to apologize. With reporters kept far away during the Worcester trip, Wilson observed, Clinton's trip to Russia may present the first chance for reporters to ask Lewinsky questions. But, Wilson suggested, "There is a slim possibility that this will all be answered tomorrow. The President is doing an event at a church here on Martha's Vineyard to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 'I Have a Dream' speech. What better place to make another confessional than in a church?"
Anchor Jon Scott noted the expected Lindsey appearance before FNC ran a piece about parents upset that their kids are learning about sex from news stories about Clinton.
One veteran reporter did have an opportunity to press Clinton for more about how he feels about his Lewinsky deceit, or to at least pass along his observations about the President's demeanor and mood. But Walter Cronkite suspended his reporter role for a few hours on Tuesday when he, his wife and grandson welcomed the Clinton family aboard his boat. (See the August 26 CyberAlert.)
In the August 27
USA Today Peter Johnson highlighted Cronkite's refusal to talk:
Can you imagine Cronkite's reaction in 1973 if a retired CBS Newsman spent a few hours with the Nixon family and then refused to say a word about what he observed?
Leading, respected Democrats taking seriously the possibility of impeachment or calling upon Clinton to resign are just not newsworthy to the networks. First an update on the August 27 CyberAlert item on House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and then a check of how the networks reacted when a retired Senator, a revered Democrat, called for Clinton to call it quits.
-- The August 27
CyberAlert reported that Wednesday night the ABC, CBS, FNC, CNN and NBC
evening newscasts all ignored a front page Washington Post story that
morning which highlighted how Gephardt called the President's behavior
"reprehensible" and wouldn't rule out Democratic cooperation
in conducting impeachment hearings. Wednesday morning neither CBS or NBC
uttered a word about Gephardt's comments, but ABC's Good Morning
America gave them 15 seconds. In addition, though CNN's The World Today
skipped Gephardt, Inside Politics did run a story and an interview segment
Just like every other network evening newscast, however, MSNBC's The News With Brian Williams on August 26 skipped Gephardt though about half the show dealt with Clinton-related scandal. Williams talked with a New York Times reporter about Al Gore, discussed with reporter John Palmer Clinton's plans for Thursday's trip and interviewed Senator Orrin Hatch. He asked the Utah Republican about Clinton issuing own report, the idea that Clinton is guilty of abuse of power, what will happen if the details "get unbearably gross to hear about," whether Clinton should say more, and Reno's probe of Gore, but no question about Gephardt.
-- Sunday's Washington Post carried an op-ed by retired Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, the kind of person people are referring to when talking about a "revered" figure or an "elder statesman." He condemned how Clinton placed his "own personal interests far above the national interests" and wrote that Clinton must disclose all of his illegal behavior which, Nunn concluded, "will require personal sacrifice and may even require his resignation, but it would fulfill the President's most important oath -- to preserve and protect our nation."
Coverage of the August 23 op-ed: On Sunday's Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert asked James Carville to react to Nunn's formulation, but that evening NBC Nightly News didn't mention it. In fact, no evening newscast or morning news show uttered a word about Nunn. On Thursday MRC news analysts Geoffrey Dickens, Clay Waters, Jessica Anderson and Paul Smith checked some shows and confirmed the lack of coverage. Nothing Sunday morning on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's Sunday Morning or NBC's Today. Ditto for Sunday night on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today or NBC Nightly News. And zilch Monday morning on any of the three broadcast network morning shows.
CyberAlerts going on vacation. And me too. So, while I may issue a
CyberAlert next week with a few backed up items that I didn't find room
for over the past few weeks, don't expect another daily analysis of the
previous day's television coverage until after Labor Day.
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