Campaigning for Campaign Reform; MSNBC Priorities
1) For the first time since September 4 stories on testimony from nuns on the Buddhist temple event, Thursday night the three broadcast network evening shows all aired full reports on the fundraising hearings. The testimony from Roger Tamraz topped the ABC and NBC shows.
But, instead of focusing on wrongdoing and who did what, both ABC and CBS skipped over the details so they could emphasize how the testimony demonstrated the need for campaign finance reform. A former Energy Department official and a current Energy Department official also testified about who said and did what to Sheila Heslin in an effort to get Tamraz into the White House. All three networks skipped their testimony and since only NBC covered Heslin on Wednesday night, ABC and CBS viewers have no idea about the dispute over pressure put on Heslin.
ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the September 18 show by focusing on a corrupt system:
Reporter Linda Douglass began:
Douglass showed an exchange between Michigan Democrat Carl Levin and Tamraz about how he gave solely to gain access. She went on to explain that when blocked from getting in, Tamraz turned to fundraisers who got him into the White House four more times. Asked if he got his money's worth, Tamraz told Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman that he'd give $600,000 next time.
Next, instead of informing viewers of who in the Clinton team may have violated which law, a subject many Senators spent much of the day exploring with the Energy officials (and with Tamraz about what CIA official "Bob" did), Peter Jennings portrayed the Republicans as out of touch on the need for campaign reform:
Reporter John Cochran
explained that Senate Republicans are working on bill to ban soft
A not very subtle message from ABC News to its viewers.
The CBS Evening News led Thursday night with a story on how the Justice Dept. is about to declare war on Mexican drug gang. Second, a report on how the FBI recovered $18 million in North Carolina from biggest ever armored car robbery. Third, CBS got to the hearings.
Reporter Bob Schieffer opened by contending that Tamraz proved the need for "reform" instead of by telling viewers which of the current laws were broken:
Schieffer also played the Lieberman/Tamraz exchange about how he would donate more next time. Tamraz labeled that "the American system."
Schieffer concluded with this perversely twisted spin:
Instead of showing how the system needs reforming maybe the Tamraz testimony points to who needs to be prosecuted for violating current laws, or at least who in the Clinton administration violated standard ethics rules.
NBC Nightly News, like ABC, put Tamraz at the top of the broadcast. But unlike the other two networks, NBC refrained from liberal advocacy of more regulation and free speech restrictions.
Tom Brokaw opened the show:
Reporter Lisa Myers showed the Levin/Tamraz exchange in which Tamraz admitted buying access to Clinton followed by Tamraz explaining how hard it was to actually talk to Clinton because of all the ladies swooning around him.
To learn if any of the Friday morning shows mentioned Tamraz, check Friday's Media Reality Check fax report. It will be posted Friday afternoon on the MRC Web site.
Sound familiar? Check the August 20 and August 21 CyberAlerts. NBC Nightly News first reported the allegation from Johnny Chung about trading money for a meeting. It came in an interview with Tom Brokaw excerpted on the August 19 Nightly News and Dateline. But, it quickly died. In fact, it never went anywhere as ABC, CNN and, until this Thursday night mention, CBS ignored the charge. Even NBC's own Today show never bothered to tell morning viewers about it. So, the CBS Evening News has now given more time to NBC's scoop than has Today.
As usual, the morning shows on Thursday all ignored the hearings.
As noted by Tim Graham in the September 18 Media Reality Check fax report, introducing a September 17 World Today story on the testimony of Sheila Heslin, anchor Leon Harris labeled it "shocking and emotional." But, neither ABC or CBS aired a story that night. Catching up with CNN, MRC news analyst Clay Waters also reports that though CNN's World Today was bumped on Tuesday night, Prime News made time for a full report from Candy Crowley on Karl Jackson's testimony.
CNN went live to Roger Tamraz at about 10:20am ET Thursday and stayed with him with only a few interruptions through to the lunch break shortly before 12:30pm ET. The few interruptions were for an Air Force ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, analysis from Brooks Jackson and for local cable ad breaks. CNN dropped its regular ad schedule.
Adding Thursday's two hours to last Tuesday's 1:40 of live coverage for Don Fowler and CNN is approaching the amount of time (four and a half hours) it devoted July 24 to Haley Barbour.
MSNBC really makes you appreciate CNN. MSNBC, which allocated more than four hours to live coverage of Barbour, but which skipped Fowler, on Thursday again failed to provide any live coverage of testimony. MSNBC did have a few updates from Joe Johns. Instead, while CNN viewers saw Tamraz, from 11am to 12pm ET MSNBC spent the entire hour interviewing Kitty Kelley.
When I flipped over at about 11:30am Kelley was in the middle of explaining how most of the Windsor men are bi-sexual. If Fred Thompson could add a little something about bi-sexuality to the hearings maybe MSNBC would become interested.
-- Brent Baker