CyberAlert -- 09/04/1997 -- Diana Before Al Gore; Murdoch a Murderer?; Bye-bye Joan

Diana Before Al Gore; Murdoch a Murderer?; Bye-bye Joan

  1. Gore raised definitely illegal to solicit "hard money" from the White House, but two of three networks skipped the disclosure. ABC dedicated most of its news, and CBS all but 48 seconds, to Diana.
  2. Who are "the media moguls of tabloid sleaze" who created the paparazzi? CBS offered only one name: Rupert Murdoch.
  3. ABC and CBS have yet to report anything about Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary trading meetings for donations. ABC claimed that reporters were "clamoring" for details on Gore. Not quite.
  4. Friday is Joan Lunden's last day. Before she goes, remember her as an advocate of more government spending for any feel-good cause.

1) Wednesday's Washington Post revealed that contrary to the official Gore line, money he raised went into "hard" accounts from which funds were distributed to candidates, not just "soft money" accounts at the DNC. But, of the three broadcast networks Wednesday night, only ABC's World News Tonight told viewers about the disclosure. The Post's Bob Woodward reported in a September 3 front page story:

"More than $120,000 in campaign contributions personally solicited in 1995-96 by Vice President Gore for a 'soft money' account not covered by federal law instead went into a 'hard money' account subject to federal election limits....

"The distinction is significant because Attorney General Janet Reno has cited the absence of evidence that high-level government officials sought hard money donations as a key reason not to recommend appointment of an independent counsel to investigate fundraising activities for last year's elections."

Though the fourth night of evening news broadcasts since Princess Diana's death, ABC and CBS devoted more than half their evening shows to the tragedy and related stories. The CBS Evening News in fact dedicated all but 48 seconds to Diana. NBC Nightly News actually spent less than half its show on Diana. The extra time allowed NBC to run a story on....JonBenet Ramsey!

ABC's World News Tonight on September 3 dedicated 13 and a half minutes of its 22 minute show to Diana Spencer. Between those stories ABC squeezed a story from Linda Douglass on the Post revelation on how money Gore raised went to individual campaigns and that the Justice Department is now considering the appropriateness of an independent counsel. Total time for the intro from Peter Jennings and the Douglass piece -- 1:47.

NBC Nightly News allocated a mere ten a half minutes to how Diana is still dead and related stories, less than half their newscast. Of course, that also gave NBC time for a 2:10 story on the release of the text of the JonBenet ransom note.

That's about the same amount of time NBC gave to a Tom Brokaw/Tim Russert segment on Al Gore. In the 2:20 long segment Russert announced that the Justice Department had taken the first of three steps necessary along the path toward appointing an independent counsel and that the Senate hearings on Thursday will examine Gore's role in the fundraiser at the Buddhist Temple. But, Russert made no mention of the Post's "hard money" discovery that had prompted the Justice action.

It's All Diana, All the Time. Or, to play off the all-news radio promo, at the CBS Evening News it's "Give Us 22 Minutes and We'll Give You the World of Diana." CBS allocated all but 48 seconds of Wednesday's Evening News to the "People's Princess."

The show led with a seven minute-long "exclusive" interview by Dan Rather with photographer Jacques Langevin. He was in the tunnel after the accident, but claims he was not pursuing the Diana-mobile. Referring to what he saw as Diana departed the hotel, Rather inquired in tabloid style:

"Did you think she looked particularly beautiful or tired or any reaction to how she looked through the lens?"

Moving on to what he saw at the crash scene, Rather inquired: "Could you see her?" and "Could you see her breathing?"

On a special 48 Hours at 9pm ET/PT last night CBS ran a longer version of the interview.

Here's the entirety of the 17-second CBS story on Gore, as intoned by Dan Rather:
"In Washington tonight, news about the still unfolding investigation of campaign fundraising. The Justice Department is now reviewing whether allegations that Vice President Gore illegally solicited donations should warrant a preliminary investigation under the special prosecutor law."
You've just read 35 percent of CBS's non-Diana news.

2) So, if the paparazzi are to blame for Diana's death, who created the paparazzi? The September 3 CBS Evening News provided the answer: Rupert Murdoch, the man the media establishment love to hate. Dan Rather announced:

"What about the businessmen, the media moguls of tabloid sleaze who pay these photographers big bucks for what they do? Correspondent Richard Threlkeld has been investigating this undercovered part of the story."

Threlkeld focused on just one businessman: "Until Murdoch the paparazzi business was just small potatoes."

Andrew Neil, of the European newspaper in London, asserted: "In this country, Murdoch set new rules. He was prepared to pay big money for these pictures."

Threlkeld: "Murdoch stuck the pictures on the front pages of his London tabloids, The Sun and News of the World. He made a fortune and used it to buy the New York Post, TV Guide, 20th Century Fox, Fox TV and Sky TV."

Neil: "There would be no Rupert Murdoch empire in America if it hadn't been for the money from the Sun and the News of the World in Britain."

At least it's reassuring that CBS is maintaining a higher journalistic standard than Murdoch and not making Diana takeover 95 percent of their newscasts. Oh, they did do that didn't they? Well, then at least CBS isn't topping its premier show with a prurient interview with a photographer about what he saw of Diana's body inside the car wreck. Or building a prime-time special around it. Oh, sorry, CBS did that too.

Okay, at the very least CBS doesn't foist any of Murdoch's disreputable news services upon the American people. Oops, forgot about the CBS embarrassment Saturday night. While ABC and NBC intermixed their own live coverage with video from the BBC, CBS was so cheap it had sent everyone home for the weekend so didn't give affiliates anything until 90 minutes after ABC and NBC. But at least at that point the affiliates were able to showcase some top-notch CBS News coverage. Not quite. I remember now, they had all gone to the Hamptons. So for hours CBS relayed a feed of Britain's Sky TV, owned by, by, what's his name, oh I'll remember it, by that Australian guy Rupert Murdoch. Yeah, that's his name.

3) With the Senate fundraising hearings resuming on Thursday, here are a couple of interesting notes about scandal coverage over the last couple of weeks:

ABC and CBS have yet to tell their viewers about the charge by Johnny Chung that Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary traded donations to her favorite charity for meetings with her. See the August 20 and 21 CyberAlerts for details on the disclosures made in Tom Brokaw's interview with Chung aired on the August 19 NBC Nightly News and Dateline. MRC news analysts Gene Eliasen and Steve Kaminski report that ABC's World News Tonight and Good Morning America and the CBS Evening News and This Morning never uttered O'Leary's name in the past two weeks.

ABC and CBS blew off O'Leary, and NBC skipped the Al Gore story last week. While the August 27 World News Tonight and CBS Evening News both aired full stories on how the White House admitted Gore made dozens more fundraising calls than previously claimed and the DNC acknowledged that not all were charged to the DNC, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that NBC Nightly News did not air a word about the concessions.

In the August 27 World News Tonight piece, ABC's John Donvan insisted:
"In fact, most legal opinion holds that the Vice President did not break the law. The rule forbidding fundraising on federal property does not apply to him or to the President. But if the Gore team believes the Vice President is in the clear, then why did they take six months to clear all this up? His spokeswoman responds that tracking down these phone bills and campaign records simply takes a lot of time, but aware that six months seems like an awfully long time, especially when reporters and members of Congress were clamoring for the information, she added, on her own, you really just have to take our word on this."

Reporters were "clamoring"? Checking the MRC's Media Tracking System through August 26, the total number of World News Tonight stories aired since March on Gore's fundraising: Zero.

Joan 4) Friday will be Joan Lunden's last day as co-host of Good Morning America where she's been a morning fixture since 1980. GMA plans a farewell show on Friday and you are sure to hear plenty about what a fair-minded and balanced host she's been. Don't buy it. MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen, who only enjoys GMA when Joan is wearing yellow, has gathered some of her most unprofessional work from the past few years, interviews in which she served as an advocate for more government spending. Here are a few examples:

From the March 1994 MediaWatch:

National Nanny. Is government spending on child care the best determinant of its quality? According to Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden, the best Governors "put their money where their mouth is." On February 10, Lunden showcased Working Mother magazine Editor Judsen Culbreth, and her list of "Governors who get it." These Governors, all Democrats, included Bruce King (N.M.), Barbara Roberts (Ore.), Gaston Caperton (W. Va.), Roy Romer (Colo.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.). Culbreth listed her six "worst" states for child care: "Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Virginia." The problem? Not enough government. Culbreth claimed "They have lax standards, very little regulation, and they put little money behind child care."...When Culbreth concluded "the federal government has given $2.5 million dollars to the states to implement programs," Lunden interjected: "We'll end on that good note there."

From her May 30, 1996 interview with the Children Defense Fund's Marian Wright Edelman a few days before its Stand for Children march which demanded more spending programs:
Lunden: "But it seems like there's more money being spent for the environment or for the gun lobby, there are a lot of different groups together, not always in agreement, the federal government's talking about turning over a lot of the social programs to the states. What kind of programs. What do you think is the best way to approach this?"
Marian Wright Edelman: "Well the first thing is we've got to make a commitment and that's why...
Lunden, simultaneously: "Yeah, yeah."
Edelman: "...I've never seen 3,500 groups come together across race and class to say we will no longer tolerate the neglect and abandonment of our children or the massive budget cuts or the dismantlement of safety net. We will not permit it. And secondly, it hasn't happened. And third, citizens, parents, grandparents can make sure that our government leaders, our government leaders do better and invest in, rather than cut our health care and child care and jobs."
Lunden: "Gotta get the message out there and get people to rally around one of our most important problems. Mary, thank you so much."

On the April 28, 1997 GMA from the Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia Lunden suggested to Colin Powell:
"Some of the things though have to also be done by the government. I mean, you know the criticism, it's the cutbacks in government programs that's now bringing this big call for volunteerism about. Are there some areas where the government really has to do more?"

A few more Lunden Liberalisms in the Friday CyberAlert.

-- Brent Baker