McConnell No Hero to NBC; CBS's Schieffer Blames His Bias on GOP
- Friday night
Peter Jennings was pleased that Senate "finally" got to
reform, NBC looked at the "one man wrecking crew"
blocking that "reform," and only CBS noted an eyewitness
to Clinton's calls.
- CBS's Bob
Schieffer admitted that he approached the IRS hearings with an
anti-GOP bias because "the Republicans sent out some fairly
odious, in my view, fundraising letters."
"Top Ten New Allegations Against Al Gore."
Los Angeles Times reported that Harold Ickes admitted he witnessed
President Clinton make phone calls from the White House, but of the
broadcast networks only CBS mentioned the news, and for only 21
seconds. Meanwhile, Peter Jennings told viewers that the Senate had
"finally" begun debate on campaign finance reform and NBC
profiled Senator Mitch McConnell, who Tom Brokaw described as "a
one man wrecking crew when it comes to campaign finance reform."
"Ex-Aide Details Clinton
Calls From White House" announced the headline over the front
page LA Times story. The subhead for the September 26 story declared:
"Harold Ickes tells federal investigators he heard President
phone donors in '94, Times learns." The thrice bylined piece, by
reporters David Willman, Alan Miller and Ronald Ostrow, opened:
"Telephoning from the
White House, President Clinton solicited money from several major
Democratic contributors in 1994, according to new information
provided to federal investigators by a former White House aide, The
Times has learned.
"Clinton placed the
calls within a month of the 1994 midterm elections, when the
Democratic National Committee was trying to preserve the party's
control of Congress and was seeking the money to pay for a
television advertising campaign. Harold M. Ickes, the former aide,
has told federal authorities that he was present when Clinton made
the calls from a room in the residence quarters, according to people
familiar with the investigation.
"The account, provided
during questioning this week, is the first corroboration that
Clinton personally solicited political donations from within the
White House. The propriety of such solicitations is the subject of
confirmation that Clinton personally solicited donors from the White
House could inflame criticism that he and Democratic campaigners
stretched the limits of propriety and abused the Executive Mansion
for partisan purposes...."
Also on Friday, the
Washington Post carried a story by Bob Woodward headlined "Gore's
Staff Routinely Discarded Call Sheets: Justice Dept. Probe May Be
Extended if Record of Fundraising From White House Is
Friday morning, all three
morning shows skipped both developments in favor of multiple pieces
and interviews about the Marv Albert case.
Here are the highlights from
the September 26 evening shows, all of which ignored the Gore
ABC's World News Tonight.
Anchor Peter Jennings made clear how tired he had become of the focus
on Democratic wrongdoing. Leading into soundbites from Senators Tom
Daschle (in favor) and Mitch McConnell (against) on the McCain-Feingold
bill, Jennings intoned:
"In Washington today,
after a summer full of committee hearings on fundraising scandals
the full Senate has finally begun to debate a campaign finance
reform bill. The bill's most important feature is a ban on so-called
soft money, contributions that are supposed to only help political
parties but often go to the candidates. Opponents of the bill say
this violates free speech, but those in favor say action is needed
CBS Evening News was the only
one of the three to mention Ickes. Substitute anchor John Roberts
delivered this 21-second item, complete with White House spin:
"Former top White
House aide Harold Ickes reportedly told Senate investigators that
President Clinton made several phone calls from the White House in
1994 to solicit campaign contributions. Mr. Clinton has said he
doesn't remember making any calls and the President's White House
counsel said today even if Mr. Clinton did make those calls they
were, quote, 'entirely legal.'"
NBC Nightly News ignored
Ickes and Gore, but managed to report a Barbour development and
portray McConnell as an impediment to good government.
Leading into the first ad
break, Tom Brokaw offered this plug:
"Up next, action of a
sort in Washington on reforming money and politics. But one Senator
continues to just say no."
Before getting to McConnell,
Brokaw told viewers:
tonight there's word that the former Chairman of the Republican Party,
Haley Barbour, is now being investigated by a federal grand jury about
a one and a half million dollar loan to the GOP from a foreign
Brokaw rolled right into a
profile of McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. NBC could have portrayed
him as a hero of the First Amendment, standing up for the civil rights
of the average guy. But they didn't. Instead, after the Barbour item,
"And over at the
Senate today debate started on campaign finance reform but Trent
Lott, the Senate Republican Leader, made it clear from the beginning
he doubts anything will come of it. And tonight NBC's Gwen Ifill
tells us about a Republican Senator who is a one man wrecking crew
when it comes to campaign finance reform and he's proud of it."
If only McConnell were
arguing for the right to burn the flag or for the right of Penthouse
to be available in high school libraries, then he'd be a media hero.
Following Ifill's profile of
the "unabashed fundraiser," Brokaw made an independent
expenditure for a rich liberal, announcing:
"There was a challenge
today to the members of the Senate committee who have been looking
into the Democrat's campaign fundraising habits. In an ad in the
Washington Post Sol Price, the founder of the Price Clubs, says
he'll offer $100,000 to a charity chosen by the first committee
member who vows he or she has never given access to a campaign
Normally the press ignores
moronic ads placed by rich guys with too much free time and money to
burn spouting off, so maybe NBC agrees with this one. Why exactly
should a donor have any less chance for access than anyone else?
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning Bob Schieffer's stories on the IRS
hearings all emphasized how the hearings had a partisan taint because
Trent Lott signed a fundraising letter critical of the agency. On the
September 24 This Morning for instance, Jane Robelot asked him:
Robelot: "Bob, you
say that these hearings are real crowd pleasers. Are they
"Republican leaders in the Senate have sent out fundraising
letters soliciting donations by saying, 'Your support will help us
to end the reign of terror of the IRS.' So, while it's true there
are certainly some reforms needed in the IRS, I think because these
fundraising letters have been sent out, a lot of people think these
hearings are suspect."
Well, on Sunday's Face the
Nation Schieffer conceded that he approached the hearings with a bias,
a prejudice against the Republican position fueled by his disgust at
their attacks on the IRS. He asked Senator Orrin Hatch:
"I think one reason
that a lot of people in Washington, and I include myself in that
group, did not take these hearings all that seriously in the
beginning is that the Republicans sent out some fairly odious, in my
view, fundraising letters where they said, you know, send us ten
dollars and we'll help bring pressure to get rid of the IRS. And I
think people, in some cases, saw these hearings as just a part of a
Republican fundraising effort. I'm going to also add, after we heard
the testimony from these witnesses, in my mind anyway, it gave a lot
of credibility to these hearings. But do you think it's not such a
good idea in retrospect to be, trying to raise money on the idea of
eliminating the IRS?"
And I always thought
reporters were adamant that their personal views never influenced
By the way, Schieffer's
question took 40 seconds to ask. That's twice as much time as Friday's
Evening News item on the Harold Ickes revelation.
3) The Top
Ten New Allegations Against Al Gore, from the September 23 Late Show
with David Letterman. Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants Incorporated.
10. Has been
covering up the fact that Janet Reno is his identical twin brother
9. Made hilarious prank fundraising
calls under the name "Jerky Al"
8. Before Cabinet meetings, always
gets, like, really baked
7. Has thirty pounds of plastic
explosives taped to his body at all times
6. Uses White House phones to run
service called "1-900-HOT-VEEP"
5. Leaves Big Macs all around Oval
Office in hope that President Clinton will eat himself to death
4. During campaign, spread rumor
that Dole was old, when in fact he's only 36
3. On the night of March 12, at
approximately 8:15 PM, he blinked
2. According to Tipper, he's not
nearly as stiff as everyone thinks
1. He's the real father of Michael
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