CyberAlert -- 09/02/1999 -- CBS & NBC Got to Pardons; Clinton Raved About Woman from Past

CBS & NBC Got to Pardons; Clinton Raved About Woman from Past

1) ABC's WNT and GMA have yet to mention Clinton's pardons for terrorists, but after nearly three weeks the CBS Evening News and NBC's Today got to the story, though NBC emphasized how Hillary has been "burned by a decision she says was not her doing."

2) Nightline box score: One show on George W. Bush and drug allegations; zero on Juanita Broaddrick's charge against Clinton.

3) Tuesday night CBS re-ran Dan Rather's gushing interview of Hillary Clinton: "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning."

4) The Boston Herald picked up on speculation "about the identity of a 'beautiful' schoolteacher from Arkansas whom President Clinton -- unbenownst to him -- was raving about on the press center's PA system after his weekly radio address."

5) "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Since the last CyberAlert six days ago, President Clinton's August 11 decision to pardon 16 Puerto Rican terrorists finally generated some television news network coverage beyond Fox News Channel, but some glaring holes remain. ABC News, for instance, has yet to utter a word about it on World News Tonight or Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson reported.

Last Friday when the New York Times revealed how the FBI and U.S. Attorneys opposed the releases, CNN gave the disclosure 21 seconds while ABC, CBS and NBC ignored it just as all four networks and MSNBC skipped the August 23 press conference by New York City police denouncing Clinton's plan which only FNC found newsworthy. For a rundown of coverage through August 26, check the August 27 CyberAlert:

This week began with Meet the Press substitute moderator Stone Phillips raising the topic with guests, though as is common with topics pressed by Tim Russert on Sunday, neither Today or Nightly News had yet mentioned the subject.

NBC's Today, MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, CBS Evening News and CNN's The World Today all run one story each this week, with both CBS and NBC treating Hillary Clinton as the victim. CBS anchor John Roberts stressed how "Republicans have pounced on a new issue to use against her. It involves a decision made by her husband." In his story run on Today and MSNBC Fred Francis concluded the controversy has left "the First Lady burned by a decision she says was not her doing." While all of the stories relayed the White House spin that none of those to be pardoned committed murder, FNC's Carl Cameron uniquely pointed out that "since they've been locked up all the bombings have stopped."

-- New York Times disclosure largely ignored. To go through coverage in date sequence we'll start with last Friday's front page story in the New York Times. Reporter David Johnston began his August 27 piece:

A wide range of federal law-enforcement agencies that were asked to review a clemency petition filed by imprisoned members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group unanimously opposed any leniency in the weeks before President Clinton offered to commute the sentences of 16 members of the militant organization, officials said today.

The clemency petition was flatly opposed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Prisons and United States Attorneys in Illinois and Connecticut, the officials said.

Though their opposition was mentioned in a final report from the Justice Department to the White House, that report made no specific recommendation, as such reports often do. Instead, the report on the 16 members of the militant Puerto Rican independence group known as the FALN, for Armed Forces of National Liberation, contained what law-enforcement officials said was a more carefully worded analysis that presented the President with multiple options for each prisoner, from unconditional release to no leniency whatsoever.

The officials said that presenting the White House with a multiple-choice format was highly unusual for the highly confidential clemency reports, and suggested a diversity of views within law-enforcement agencies that did not exist. The officials, who said they were troubled by the decision, acknowledged that they had no evidence that anyone at the Justice Department or the White House had intentionally sought to distort the decision-making process....

Federal law-enforcement officials have not publicly addressed the issue, but have bitterly complained in private about the President's Aug. 11 decision, which one senior official said left law-enforcement officials "stupefied" and "outraged" by the conditional offer of clemency....

In their recommendations, F.B.I. officials complained about granting leniency to members of a militant group that had claimed responsibility for terrorist acts at a time when the United States was engaged in a worldwide battle against terrorism. Officials at the Bureau of Prisons, who monitor the FALN members' visits, telephone calls and letters, concluded that if they were released from prison, they might resume their criminal behavior even after renouncing it....

END Excerpt

Coverage? Zilch on he broadcast network morning and evening shows on Friday night. CNN's The World Today, MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed, delivered this 21-second item from anchor Joie Chen:
"The New York Times reports federal law enforcement agencies unanimously oppose clemency for 16 Puerto Rican militants, which was granted by President Clinton. The independence seekers were convicted in a series of bombings in the United States from 1974 to 1983. Human rights groups had complained their sentences were too harsh. None of the activists has accepted the President's offer of leniency. Republicans speculated the President acted to help his wife, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to court New York's Puerto Rican vote, which the White House denies."

-- FNC and CBS picked up on threats of renewed violence. In a brief Periscope item, the September 6 Newsweek reported: "The most damning evidence against the nationalists, Newsweek has learned, is still-secret audiotapes made by the Bureau of Prisons. The tapes record at least some of the prisoners saying that 'as soon as they get out of there, they were going to return to violence,' one law-enforcement official said. As a result, the Bureau of Prisons -- which rarely participates in pardon and clemency debates -- strongly recommended against leniency. This position was endorsed by the FBI and former federal prosecutors who brought the cases against the Puerto Ricans."

The Monday, August 30, Fox Report ran a full story and that night CBS became the first broadcast network to mention the subject on a morning or evening show. Instead of seeing the matter as a controversy in which many think Bill Clinton is doing wrong, CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts portrayed Republicans as the aggressors who have "pounced" on something Hillary Clinton had no control over. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, Roberts intoned:
"President and Mrs. Clinton went to the state fair today, the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Hillary Clinton was introduced as someone New Yorkers could soon call their own. The First Lady talked like a candidate saying upstate New York has been left behind in economic growth. Mrs. Clinton still has not said officially whether she will run for the U.S. Senate from New York. Whether or not the First Lady is running, Republicans have pounced on a new issue to use against her. It involves a decision made by her husband."

After summarizing the Newsweek disclosure and noting how many believe Clinton made the decision in order to help his wife gain popularity amongst New York Puerto Ricans, CBS reporter Jim Stewart concluded with some tough assessments: "The 16 inmates offered the clemency however were not linked to any crimes resulting in death or injury. Former New York policeman, Richard Pastorella, lost his sight to one of the groups bombs."
Richard Pastorella: "The clemency offer without a doubt should be rescinded. I think President Clinton was very badly informed and I think he exercised very, very poor judgment in this issue."
Stewart: "What has federal lawmen so exercised about this case, is that they feel the White House isn't listening to them. How do we fight a war on terrorism, one complained, when they turn around and grant clemency to terrorists."

-- ACU ad captured attention of Today and MSNBC. "The firestorm growing over the President's offer of clemency to 16 Puerto Rican prisoners is scorching the First Lady," NBC's Fred Francis noted in opening an August 31 Today story prompted by a conservative TV ad. The Francis story also ran later Tuesday on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, MRC analyst Mark Drake noticed.

In his brief story, like CBS's Stewart, Francis played a week-old clip from the August 23 New York police press conference:
"A television ad running today in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where Mrs. Clinton is vacationing and campaigning, is paid for by the American Conservative Union. Other critics call the President's action a thinly veiled attempt to win the Puerto Rican vote for his wife, especially since he went against the judgment of the FBI and virtually all police departments."
Howard Safir, New York City Police Commissioner: "This type of action will encourage terrorism worldwide. We should never make deals with terrorists."
Francis: "Freedom for the imprisoned is a passionate cause in Puerto Rico, where many feel the members of the separatist group got long sentences, one 90 years for sedition, robbery and firearms violations. The White House says the only motive in offering clemency is compassion."
Following a soundbite from Democratic U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, Francis concluded: "The prisoners have yet to answer the White House offer, leaving the President on the defensive, critics in Congress calling for an investigation and the First Lady burned by a decision she says was not her doing."

-- Republican Congressman Vito Fossella's plan to investigate noted only by FNC. Tuesday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume as well as the Fox Report Carl Cameron told viewers:
"New York Republican Congressman Vito Fossella stopped short of accusing the President of trying to bolster his wife's political hopes by offering freedom to jailed political terrorists, but he promised Congress will subpoena documents and witnesses and the facts, whatever they may show, will come out."

Cameron added: "Leaders from more than 13 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and associations from around the country, representing hundreds of thousands of members, denounced the President's offer of clemency. The President of the Fraternal Order of Police, himself Hispanic, worried aloud that Mr. Clinton's offer was designed to help his wife's Senate candidacy."

After his story aired on Special Report with Brit Hume the anchor of the same name pointed out: "But Carl, the White House says that these, these people that are involved did not, were not engaged in any cop-killing."
Cameron uniquely observed: "They do say that, and in fact, they weren't convicted directly to these particular bombings. But as one law enforcement officer said today, since they've been locked up all the bombings have stopped."

Wednesday night, September 1, CNN's The World Today ran a full story on the pardons controversy, but we're still waiting for a mention on ABC's World News Tonight, Nightline or GMA, or on NBC Nightly News.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Nightline box score: Juanita Broaddrick 0, George W. Bush/drugs 1. A tidbit I forget to mention in the last CyberAlert: The Tuesday, August 24 Nightline focused on the controversy over whether Bush ever used cocaine and whether he should be forced to answer the media's questions about his alleged drug use history.

But, as confirmed for me by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Nightline has yet to do a show on Juanita Broaddrick's charge, revealed in February, that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Tuesday night on 60 Minutes II CBS re-ran Dan Rather's May 26 slobberfest with Hillary Clinton. He added a fresh opening and CBS ran a shorter version, but otherwise viewers were treated to the same gushing tribute. And Hillary's potential Senate candidacy benefitted again from the kind of free media promotion Rudy Giuliani can only dream about.

As cited in the May 27 CyberAlert, amongst the comments and "questions" uttered by Rather:
-- "For whom do you root, the Mets or the Yankees?"
-- "First Lady Hillary Clinton is a political superstar."
-- "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning."
-- "It's hard to know what keeps her going through marital problems made public, political fights turned ugly, through triumphs, disasters and always the demands of her work."
-- "The agenda she lays out seems downright old-fashioned. She sees her work as focusing on children and families..."
-- "What are the possibilities that one day, some day you'll run for President?"
-- "Of all the allegations, accusations, charges made what do you consider to be the most unfair attack?"

And even all that does not adequately communicate the full adulation of the piece. To read additional excerpts and to view a clip of the interview, in RealPlayer format, go to the May 27 CyberAlert:


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) "Bubba Bubbles Over for Teacher," announced the headline over an August 29 item in the Boston Herald's Inside Track gossip column by Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa. Bill Clinton is still hitting on the babes and since I suspect this garnered little, if any, attention elsewhere I thought I'd pass along a recitation of what occupies his mind.

From Martha's Vineyard, where Clinton was vacationing, the two Herald reporters relayed:

EDGARTOWN -- The big question on everyone's mind yesterday wasn't the absence of presidential pooch Buddy at Martha's Vineyard Airport. It was about the identity of a "beautiful" schoolteacher from Arkansas whom President Clinton -- unbenownst to him -- was raving about on the press center's PA system after his weekly radio address!

Let's set the stage: Bubba, who we all know just loves the ladies, finished greeting his 80 guests, who were invited to the Edgartown School in the morning to hear the prez talk about charter schools and take his weekly whack at the GOP.

After the meet-and-greet, Clinton was getting ready to tape a spot about drunken driving when someone flicked on his mike a little too early. The media mob, which was filing stories and radio feeds in the school gym, overheard the commander in chief telling someone about a "beautiful" blast from his past!

The woman, who -- surprise, surprise -- was unknown to Clinton's aides, was a teacher the prez said he knew 25 years ago. The mystery gal was an ardent Democrat, he gushed. And she worked hard for him in his home state. The prez said the old pal was on the island because she had "some kind of time-share deal" in Falmouth (which he pronounced Fawlmouth.)

"She was a great friend of mine," he said into the mike before switching gears. "Are we ready? Showtime? OK."

The feed -- the proverbial manna from heaven for the Track -- caused a mad media scramble to find out just who the prez was talking about. But the White House press people played dumb.

Anyway, the first family fled Martha's Vineyard earlier than expected yesterday to fly to New York's Westchester County to check out some prospective post-presidential pads before traveling to the chi-chi Hamptons for a fundraising weekend....

After the pitstop in Westchester, the first family headed to the haute Hamptons to rub elbows with lots of pols, Democratic National Committee chiefs and Hollywood heavies like Steven Spielberg and Alec Baldwin.

Chic clothing designer Vera Wang is throwing a fundraiser for Hillary and the DNC at her swish Southampton digs today. And during the weekend, the Clintons will be entertained at various functions by Phoebe Snow, the Fugees' ex-front man Wyclef Jean, Jon Bon Jovi and comedian Jon Stewart.

END Excerpt


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Finally, another item I forgot to mention last week after returning from a few days in Aspen, Colorado -- The rather aggressive, in your face, front page motto run by the Aspen Daily News: "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen."

Maybe I could adopt that for a CyberAlert slogan, something like: "If you don't want your bias documented, don't let it happen." -- Brent Baker


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