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CyberAlert -- 10/06/1997 -- CNN & "Scandal;" NBC's Tribute to Anita Hill

CNN & "Scandal;" NBC's Tribute to Anita Hill

  1. CNN to air a two-hour special on fundraising but the man producing it won't let CNN staffers say "Clinton scandal."
  2. NBC's Jane Pauley portrayed Anita Hill as the victim of enemies who "fought dirty," but Hill had the "courage" to make her charge.
  3. CNN refuses to air ads against a global warming treaty because the polar ice caps melted and ruined Ted Turner's private beach.

1) Can you do a two-hour show on Clinton's 1996 fundraising and not use the word "scandal"? We'll soon find out. Tuesday night from 7 to 9pm ET CNN will air a "Money Trail" special on the fundraising....shall we say, difficulties. Last Wednesday USA Today's Peter Johnson reported that new CNN President Rick Kaplan will personally produce the special. As you may recall, the Washington Whispers section of the September 15 U.S. News & World Report revealed:

"While many credit him with 'energizing' the news operation, Kaplan raised a few eyebrows by telling CNN staffers to limit their use of the word 'scandal' in reporting on Clinton's campaign fundraising woes. A long time Clinton friend, Kaplan has stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom."

Maybe Kaplan could provide a first-hand, eyewitness account of the Clinton fundraising, oh what shall we call it, the Clinton fundraising strategy.


2) Sunday night Dateline aired the first of a very sympathetic two part interview by Stone Phillips with Susan McDougal. Part two airs tonight (Monday) on Dateline. In part one Phillips portrayed her as the victim of a witch hunt directed by Ken Starr. More on that in a future CyberAlert, but before too much time goes by let's review last week's Dateline salute to another persecuted woman. In this case, Anita Hill. (See the October 2 CyberAlert for details on Hill's appearance on Today.)

Here are some highlights of Jane Pauley's tribute to Hill, a tribute that never raised any of the contradictions and disparities in her stories uncovered by David Brock in his book, The Real Anita Hill. To NBC Hill is and was the victim, not Clarence Thomas.

From part one on September 29 of NBC's stories prompted by publication of a new book by Hill, Speaking Truth to Power. MRC intern Rebecca Hinnershitz helped transcribe much of this.

Jane Pauley opened by putting the burden on the Senators:

"It had been such a searing public spectacle. No one who watched it could stay on the sidelines -- the Senate Judiciary Committee's conduct in the confirmation hearings for then Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas. At the eleventh hour there was a bizarre accusation of sexual harassment. Everyone felt compelled to take a position, and immediately after the hearing, most people concluded that Anita Hill had lied. But within a year public opinion did a flip, and now six years later, according to a Dateline NBC News poll, more people think she was telling the truth, but an awful lot of people still don't know what to think."

Pauley continued:

"Speaking Truth to Power, Anita Hill's just released autobiography tells how the thirteenth child of a poor black Oklahoma farmer came to face fourteen white Senators and an audience of millions on a weekend in October few will ever forget...."
After reviewing Hill's childhood, Pauley painted Hill's charge as a courageous move:

Pauley: "....But still she graduated first in her high school class, went to Oklahoma State University, then on a full scholarship this farm girl arrived at Yale. One year out of law school she had accepted a senior staff job at the Education Department with Clarence Thomas, a friend of a friend from Yale. She had liked the work and got on well with her boss until, she said, he started pressuring her for dates and when she declined began to torment her with crude and suggestive remarks. Ten years later, she waited for Senate investigators to track her down as reporters already had. She agonized over what she'd tell them. [to Hill] Courage came slowly, didn't it?"

A few minutes later NBC showed this sequence of soundbites which portrayed Hill as the mistreated victim:

Pauley: "Though her charges were explosive and potentially fatal to Clarence Thomas' career, it was Anita Hill who faced the firing line." Senator Alan Simpson in 1991: "She will be injured and destroyed and belittled and hounded and harassed -- real harassment different than the sexual kind, just plain old Washington variety harassment which is pretty unique in itself."

Pauley: "Did you interpret that as a threat?"

Eventually Pauley got to the soundbite of Thomas calling the spectacle a "high-tech lynching," but even here she managed to portray Thomas as out of place.

Pauley asked Hill: "Did that have the effect of isolating you from your own community?"

Pauley continued, after Hill's answer: "A bitter irony for Hill who grew up hearing of a great-uncle who was lynched and whose grandparents left Arkansas to settle in Oklahoma because of a lynching threat. But it worked. By the narrowest margin in history, 52 to 48, Clarence Thomas won a seat on the Supreme Court. The intervening years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of women who file sexual harassment claims. Anita Hill counts that as her victory."

The next night, September 30, Dateline offered another dose of sympathy for Hill. Pauley got right to it:

"Whether you believe her or him or like many people still don't know who or what to believe, the casualty for Anita Hill was not just her privacy but her trust in government."

Pauley to Hill: "If George Bush had been re-elected you seriously considered leaving the country?"

When Pauley finally got to a Hill critic it was not to describe problems with Hill's story or the role of liberal activists, but to highlight how friends of Thomas had mistreated her. Pauley told Hill that Senator John Danforth "says there was a mission of destruction, but you weren't the victim he was thinking about, Clarence Thomas was."
Pauley aired Hill's reaction before asserting: "Danforth never wavered in his support of Thomas but now admits he fought dirty and that his connivings to disseminate the dirt about Hill even months after the hearings went too far...."

Back to the 1991 videotape Pauley went to show the hostility Hill had to overcome, noting that there were questions "about her sanity, that she suffered from erotomania. Senator Orrin Hatch reportedly was not persuaded by the erotomania theories. He had one of his own."

Senator Hatch, at the 1991 hearing: "'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?' On page 70 of this particular version of the Exorcist, 'there appeared to be an alien pubic hair floating around in my gin.'"

During part one, Pauley had relayed Hill's anger that her parents, who attended the hearing, had to sit through attacks on their daughter. Pauley returned to that thought when she concluded part two of the Dateline stories:

"Some of the profits from Hill's book are going to a scholarship fund for survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing, but it will certainly open some old wounds. While former President Bush said, 'I have absolutely no comment of any kind regarding the allegations of Miss Hill,' former Senator Danforth, Justice Thomas' Senate sponsor said, 'I make no apology for trying to defend my friend. He went through a wretched ordeal. Never again should we allow this to happen in America.' In fact the thing Anita Hill wants most is an apology, but not to her -- to her parents."


3) As you may have heard over the weekend, last Thursday CNN abruptly ceased airing ads from the Global Climate Information Project which opposed the proposed UN treaty on global warming. These are the ads which show a pair of scissors cutting up a world map in order to illustrate how many big countries would not be forced to comply.

In the October 3 Washington Post Howard Kurtz reported: "Ben Goddard, the Los Angeles ad man who created the spots, said a CNN sales executive told him yesterday he was acting on orders from Turner," as in Ted. CNN spokesman Steve Haworth claimed that "it has been our policy for years not to run ads on controversial news stories we are covering." But CNN had carried the ads for about a month. And Goddard reminded Kurtz that CNN never refused to air the "Harry and Louise" ads against Clinton's health care plans.

Promoting liberal scaremongering about global warming, and blocking information that may hurt that quest, is a bit higher on Turner's list of concerns. As you may recall from an earlier CyberAlert, after Turner's September 18 announcement of his gift to the UN, this exchange occurred in an interview with Larry King:

Larry King

: "Global warming, you were very strong on that tonight, and you said 'everybody knows' that there's global warming."

Ted Turner: "That's right, haven't you been outside lately? It's hotter than Hell out there. The polar ice caps are melting. I got a island, and I know that the ocean's rising because I watched my beach get washed away."

-- Brent Baker