CyberAlert -- 09/13/1999 -- Puerto Rican "Dreams"; Bias Conceded in Lack of Home Deal Outrage

Puerto Rican "Dreams"; Bias Conceded in Lack of Home Deal Outrage

1) John McLaughlin asked if Bill Clinton is "a fighting cock."

2) An NBC anchor referred to "the dreams" of the released Puerto Ricans as NBC's Stan Bernard insisted that on Meet the Press one pledged non-violence. In fact, the FALNer did so reluctantly, ranting about his cause and equating himself to George Washington.

3) "If that were a Republican we'd all be screaming," conceded Jack Germond in acknowledging media bias in not questioning the $1.3 million for the new Clinton house. Instead, This Morning's Thalia Assuras wondered if they will take part in town bake sales.

4) Contrary to PBS's assurances, they did use only Democratic lists for fundraising, but the Washington Post didn't find that newsworthy; ABC failed to correct its now shown wrong July story.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Most questionable terminology selection of the weekend. Here's how, on the version of the McLaughlin Group with ad breaks carried by commercial TV stations, John McLaughlin plugged an upcoming segment:
"When we come back, is William Clinton a lame duck or a fighting cock?"


faln0913.jpg (9383 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The Puerto Rican "nationalists" were released from various prison on Friday, but that generated little network interest as ABC's Peter Jennings again repeated the canard about how the decision "pitted" Hillary Clinton against her husband.

Picking up on the appearance by one terrorist on Meet the Press, on Sunday night NBC's Stan Bernard claimed "the way to liberty was a pledge of non-violence restated this morning." In fact, Ricardo Jimenez eventually mouthed the words but when asked if he had any regrets he complained about his sentence and then spent most of the interview rationalizing the FALN by ranting about the colonization of Puerto Rico and accusing the U.S. government of terrorism. He proclaimed: "I'm pretty sure you're proud of George Washington. I'm definitely in that line in Puerto Rico, as they called me a freedom fighter for our country."

Friday night, September 10, CNN's The World Today and FNC's Fox Report, aired full reports on the release of the Puerto Ricans. But ABC's World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams only allocated a few seconds. ABC's Peter Jennings gave it 17 seconds:
"At prisons around the country today the Puerto Rican nationalists granted clemency by President Clinton were set free. Their release has been quite controversial, pitting Mrs. Clinton, who is running for the Senate, against her husband. All but two of the nationalists are expected to return to Puerto Rico."

(U.S. Open tennis ran past 8pm ET, thus bumping the CBS Evening News in the ET and CT time zones Friday night. Tennis also bumped the show in the east on Saturday and Sunday nights.)

NBC ended Sunday's Nightly News with a story on the joyous welcome the "nationalists" received in San Juan and Chicago. Anchor John Siegenthaler introduced the September 12 report: "NBC's Stan Bernard on the promises they've made and the dreams they've held onto."
Bernard relayed: "They were treated by their supporters like martyrs to the cause of Puerto Rican independence. In San Juan they shouted 'liberty, liberty.' And the way to liberty was a pledge of non-violence re-stated this morning."
Ricardo Jimenez on Meet the Press: "I definitely will not be using any violence whatsoever or the acts of violence to further any goals of the independence of Puerto Rico."

Anyone who had watched Meet the Press earlier in the day would know how hard Bernard and his producer had to look to pluck out that quote. It hardly reflected the attitude displayed by Jimenez, the only Puerto Rican to appear on a Sunday morning interview show, released after serving 19 years of a 90 year sentence. Just check out his answers from Chicago to moderator Tim Russert's questions:

Russert began by listing the convictions: "Let me put on the screen for you and our viewers exactly what those charges were: armed robbery, seditious conspiracy, possession of unregistered firearm, carrying firearms during commission of seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce of violence, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, interference with interstate commerce by threats of violence. This morning, Mr. Jiminez, do you have any regret or remorse for the commission of those crimes?"
Jimenez expressed not regret but bitterness: "I think basically we have to know that what we were charged with, if it was anybody else, would have served much, much less time. Those sentences would have not been run consecutive the way they were. The number 90 would have never appeared, and I probably would have been home many, many years ago."
Russert: "Why did you commit those crimes?"
Jimenez: "We believed in Puerto Rican independence. We believed that Puerto Rican independence is a human right that has to be addressed. It is an international crime that United States has maintained Puerto Rico in its colonial status, and it refuses to recognize that conditions that Puerto Rico is in. It is now to 1997 that the United States Congress has said that Puerto Rico is a colony. United Nations has said Puerto Rico is a colony and, hopefully in 1997, when we also said that we were participating in the democratic process, we see an initiative by the United States to say that they will start dealing with the process of decolonizing Puerto Rico."
Russert: "You were a member of the FALN, which is an acronym in Spanish for the Armed Forces of National Liberation. Do you regret having been a member of FALN?"
Jimenez: "I think at no time has we officially have said that we were members of the FALN, but I have no doubt to sustain that I was part of a membership of the FALN. And if it's at the cost against colonialism, then it's a rightfully just stage, just like the United States to decolonize itself in the 1700s. And I'm pretty sure you're proud of George Washington. I'm definitely in that line in Puerto Rico, as they called me a freedom fighter for our country."
Russert gave him another chance: "The FALN, the terrorist group, took credit, responsibility in the '70s and '80s for 130 bombings, which maimed dozens of people, killed six. This morning, are you willing to express some regret, remorse, contrition for those injuries, those deaths, those bombings?"
Jimenez: "I think that we've always had in anything that has happened, the precaution that we've always taken is the preservation of human life. You know, we're deeply sorry that other things have happened contrary to that. Just as it happened, the repression that has happened in Puerto Rico throughout the years, the bombings that have happened in Puerto Rico, the assassinations that have happened in Puerto Rico by an agency that now is discredited completely, as you will see later on in your own show with the Waco situation, has been doing this in Puerto Rico for decades and decades, keeping secret surveillance of many, many, many people. And those things are very, very awful. I think both sides has to come to a recognition that that has to stop. Definitely it has to stop."

Russert went on to press him about apologizing to the family of a police offer killed. When Jimenez again insisted they had "no intentions of ever having cost human life directly to somebody," Russert countered: "If you, in fact, are part of an organization, support of an organization that sets off 130 bombs, isn't there a pretty strong possibility that innocent people are going to be hurt and killed?"

+++ See and hear Jimenez rationalize his past actions and crusade for his cause. Monday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post a RealPlayer clip of a portion of the Meet the Press interview. Go to:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The $300,000 loan by Bob Dole to Newt Gingrich upset the media, but a loan four times larger given to the Clintons by a political operative deep in fundraising scandals has yet to arouse media concern. Instead of exploring the ethics and propriety of Terry McAuliffe's loan to Bill and Hillary for $1.3 million so they could buy a campaign address, CBS This Morning co-host Thalia Assuras wondered if the Clintons will participate in town bake sales and ABC's George Stephanopoulos rejoiced at how Hillary will finally get the swimming pool she has long wanted.

Two leading liberal media figures acknowledged the bias of the media on this issue, but didn't suggest doing anything to correct it. On Inside Washington over the past weekend columnist Jack Germond asserted:
"She's going to start to get a little static from the Republicans on the Terry McAuliffe putting up the $1.3 million for their house. No other Senate candidate could do that and get away with it. If that were a Republican we'd all be screaming at the press. If one of Charlie's [Krauthammer] yahoo [conservative] friends were getting that kind of money we'd all be saying that's illegal."
NPR's Nina Totenberg corrected him, but agreed with the premise: "Well that's not illegal. We'd all be saying it smells."

On September 2 and 3 many network shows ran items on the Clintons buying a house in Chappaqua, New York and how former DNC fundraiser Terry McAuliffe would give them a loan, but none followed up after the Washington Post on September 4 raised ethical questions about the deal.

In a front page story on September 4, Post reporter Ruth Marcus wrote:

In a move that enables the Clintons to buy the house -- and Hillary Rodham Clinton to have a base for her New York Senate run -- the 42-year-old real estate developer and dealmaker pledged to put up $1.35 million in cash to secure a mortgage for the Clintons. Otherwise, swamped by more than $5 million in legal debts, the Clintons might have had difficulty obtaining the loan for the five-bedroom, century-old house.

Ethics law experts said yesterday that there is no legal difficulty with the Clintons' accepting McAuliffe's help, but some questioned the propriety of the President's accepting such a benefit from a private citizen.

"It's just plain wrong. It's dangerous. It's inappropriate," said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21. "This is a financial favor worth over a million dollars to the President."

McAuliffe is not actually giving any money to the Clintons. Rather, he will deposit $1.35 million in cash -- the full amount of their mortgage -- with Bankers Trust; the only risk to McAuliffe's money is in the unlikely event that the Clintons default.

The Clintons will put up $350,000 and pay an adjustable-rate mortgage set at one point over the London Interbank Offered Rate, a bank lending rate that is now 5.52 percent. The loan is "interest-only," meaning the Clintons pay only interest on the loan but do not reduce the principal during the five-year term.

Some mortgage bankers said McAuliffe's intervention either allowed the Clintons to obtain what might appear to be an otherwise risky loan or to secure a lower interest rate because the mortgage is fully backed by collateral. "They would definitely be in a better position to get a better rate with that deal," said Crestar Mortgage Corp. senior vice president Patrick Casey, incoming President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Metropolitan Washington....

END Excerpt

Last Friday both the Washington Times and Wall Street Journal, the MRC's Tim Graham alerted me, ran editorials questioning the propriety of the deal. What could Bill Clinton do as a favor to McAuliffe? The Journal suggested: "For starters, he could make it tough for the U.S. Attorney's office to get to the bottom of Mr. McAuliffe's oft-denied role in the sleazy 1996 'contributions swap' between the Democratic National Committee and the Teamsters union."

The September 13 Newsweek didn't portray anything wrong with the deal. As Tim Graham recounted in last week's MagazineWatch on the MRC Web site, Debra Rosenberg and Evan Thomas breezed through the financial details: "Real-estate and financial mogul Terry McAuliffe stepped in and supplied the bank with $1.35 million in collateral, to be paid off or refinanced in five years. McAuliffe has bailed out the Clintons before: he was the Democrats' chief fundraiser who built a surprisingly large $42 million war chest for Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. An amiable Clinton golfing buddy who, perhaps as much as any friend, stood by the President during the Lewinsky scandal, McAuliffe is also raising money for Hillary's Senate campaign. While unorthodox, McAuliffe's sugar-daddy role on the Clinton house appears to be perfectly legal."

For more, go to:

Instead of jumping on criticism of the deal as they did in April, 1997 with Dole and Gingrich, the network stars acted like hosts of real estate firm paid for shows.

On September 3 ABC's Good Morning America brought aboard George Stephanopoulos as its sole guest to discuss the matter. Co-host Elizabeth Vargas asked Stephanopoulos: "Why do you think the Clintons picked this house?" He replied: "Oh, I think it fits on a lot of different levels. It fits their personal taste, it's a nice traditional house, it's private, near a lot of golf courses for the President, and finally they've got a swimming pool."
Vargas: "That's a big deal for Hillary Clinton."
Stephanopoulos: "Hillary has wanted a swimming pool for a long time. She thought about trying to build one at the Governor's mansion in Little Rock and was advised that if you spent taxpayers' dollars on that, it would be a problem. Also in the White House. We had a brief moment very early on -- there used to be a pool underneath the White House press room. And they thought about restoring it. Again, there would have been a riot if that happened. Didn't happen. But she gets her pool now."

How wonderful.

Three days after the Washington Post story raised questions about the deal, CBS's This Morning dedicated a segment to the house purchase, but ignored McAuliffe's role. On the September 7 show co-host Thalia Assuras introduced the segment:
"The President of the United States and his wife have done something they have never done before: they have bought a house. President and Mrs. Clinton have put the peaceful town of Chappaqua, New York, in the national spotlight. But how is such a small place dealing with all this new attention? The town supervisor just happens to be named Clinton Smith. He joins us from Chappaqua this morning."
After talking about working with the Secret Service and asking Smith questions like "Do you think it's going to change your lives, though?" and "Do you expect that real estate values may change because of the Clintons moving in?," Assuras bore in, wondering: "Do you expect them to participate in, oh, let's say, stoop sales and bake sales?"

(Smith did point out to Assuras that he's the town manager of New Castle, which includes Chappaqua as Chappaqua is not a town.)


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Contrary to earlier claims by PBS officials, PBS stations only rented or bought lists from Democratic groups for direct mail fundraising, but you wouldn't know that from the Washington Post story which ignored that conclusion nor would you have learned that from ABC's World News Tonight which had relayed PBS's bi-partisan spin back in July.

Washington Times reporter Barbara Saffir opened a September 10 front page story on Friday:

An audit that shows WETA and 52 other federally funded TV stations swapped their donor lists exclusively with Democratic organizations is inflaming a debate over federal funding for public broadcasting.

A six-week long audit by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general found that:

-- "Virtually all of the exchange or rental transactions of station membership/donor names were to apparently Democratic organizations."

-- Public broadcasting officials incorrectly told Congress that stations also rented from several Republican groups but the "organizations" typically turned out to be names of donor lists dubbed by the list brokers who compiled them.

END Excerpt

The same day the Boston Globe's Anne E. Kornblut similarly reported that "an inspector general's report concluded that stations had officially shared donor lists almost entirely with Democrats. When the practice of list-swapping was disclosed earlier this year, many station officials claimed the effort was bipartisan, with lists being shared with both political parties to find new donors.
"And in fact, some stations did share their donors' names with groups that sounded like Republican organizations, according to an investigation by the inspector general of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But the investigator found that the vast majority of those groups were not connected to the Republican Party, and that it now appears the Democratic Party was mostly involved."

The same day CPB released the report CPB President Ervin Duggan resigned. In her Washington Post story on that development reporter Lisa deMoraes included a few paragraphs on the fundraising lists but decided the determination that PBS did not use Republican lists was not newsworthy:
"Duggan's resignation came the same day that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general's office put out the final version of its report on the political donor-list flap.
"The report found 'no evidence that public broadcasting stations intended to benefit any political organization' by trading donor lists, CPB President and CEO Robert T. Coonrod said in a statement yesterday. The inspector general also reported that the exchanges occurred at 9 percent of the stations 'and were therefore not a widespread practice,' Coonrod said.
"Though PBS did not come under fire for the list swapping, Duggan and other PBS officers were called before the House telecommunications subcommittee to explain why 30 stations -- including WGBH, WNET and WETA -- shared their membership lists with political groups. Some of the public TV stations involved had said that the swaps were a nonpartisan fund-raising tool, but conservative critics blasted the practice as further evidence of public broadcasting's liberal bias...."

When the controversy erupted in July, of the broadcast evening shows only ABC's World News Tonight aired a story. On July 16 reporter Bob Woodruff began by explaining how the issue came to light after a Massachusetts mother complained that a donation to Boston's WGBH in the name of her young son, Sam, prompted a fundraising letter to him from the DNC. Woodruff got to the big picture:
"For years PBS and its member stations have been arguing they are not the liberal broadcasters that conservatives have long charged. That effort was dealt a setback with the news that WGBH swapped Sam's name, and 32,000 others, with the Democrats over six years. A congressional committee had been considering increasing PBS's federal funding. Now that is in doubt."
Woodruff later added: "Other public television stations, including New York and Washington, now say they also shared lists, some with both Democrats and Republicans."

We now know that is not accurate, but no correction aired Thursday or Friday night on ABC.

For the September 10 Media Reality Check fax report the MRC's Tim Graham recalled some of the assurances by PBS and CPB officials that they used lists from groups affiliated with both parties, and how some media outlets bought the claims. The fax report, "Misleading Congress: A New Habit for PBS? CPB Inspector General Revealed That Public Broadcasters' July Congressional Testimony Was False," is now online. Go to: -- Brent Baker


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