Nets Bemoan "Reform" Loss; Gumbel Bombs; Liberal Sit-Coms
fundraising hearings led the three broadcast networks Tuesday
night, but they emphasized how Republicans killed the solution:
campaign finance reform. Rather: Republicans got
Today and GMA focus on how the videotapes do not show anything
illegal. CNN and MSNBC provided live coverage.
Gumbel's show bombed in the ratings last week. This week:
"sexually explicit filmstrips" shown to kids by
- Wednesday is
TV's liberal night with Gumbel plus CBS, ABC and WB sit-coms with
liberal or pro-Clinton themes.
1) The three
broadcast networks all led with the day's events at the Senate
Government Affairs Committee, but the three anchors were less upset by
White House actions on the videotape front than in how the Senate
failed to pass "campaign finance reform." Each anchor
introduced their top story by emphasizing how, as Peter Jennings put
it, the public was "thwarted" on "the first real
effort" to reform campaign finance. Dan Rather complained about
"hot talk and no action on campaign cash" and Tom Brokaw
worried that "the chances of real reform of campaign fundraising
are diminishing with every passing hour."
The subsequent opening
stories aired soundbites of Fred Thompson asking the President to take
responsibility, other Republicans denouncing Janet Reno, at least one
Democrat defending her, all before ending with a clip of Harold Ickes
either claiming the Democrats did nothing different than Republicans
did when they controlled the White House or blaming Congress for
causing confusion with vague campaign laws.
Here's a network by network
run down of Tuesday night, October 7, coverage. All quotes transcribed
by MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski who kept me company on the night
ABC's World News Tonight.
Peter Jennings opened the show by displaying his disappointment:
"Good evening. We
begin tonight with stalemate in the Senate. The majority thwarted.
Politics prevails. Campaign finance reform, which the public wants,
dead as a doornail, all of the above. After many months of talking
about it, the first real effort to reform how campaign for federal
office are financed, the push to get some of the big money out of
election campaigns has gone no where. And while the Senate was
grinding to a halt on that today, the White House was still under
siege about those videotapes of all the President's coffees. So we
start on Capitol Hill with ABC's Linda Douglass."
After the rundown from
Douglass on who said what in the Hart Building, Jennings turned to
John Donvan to explain the White House take on how no one recalled
sooner seeing a video camera at the coffees. Donvan noted:
- "It was not a
hidden camera, anybody who was there could see it plainly.
Including several past and present White House staffers. Former
aide Harold Ickes. Current chief of staff Erskine Bowles. Alexis
Hermann who is now Secretary of Labor and at least nine more
members of the President's team. Yet none of them, according to
the White House, ever volunteered to the President's lawyers
that these tapes existed...."
Donvan concluded by
portraying the White House lawyers as the victims and repeating the
line that the tapes vindicate Clinton:
"...Tonight, Peter, a
source says, the President's lawyers are kicking themselves that
they didn't ask more questions about those tapes. But officials are
also privately furious that so few people seem to believe their
story. Why, they ask, would we hide tapes that seem to show the
President didn't do anything illegal."
Jennings asked: "Well,
I wonder, John, why they're so furious given the history of the
White House to dribble out information when it's asked for?"
Donvan focused on White
House puzzlement: "I think what a lot of people would
remember are events, for example, like the legal records of the
First Lady from the Rose Law firm, that they said they couldn't
find, suddenly showing up on a table in private residence of the
White House. People remember that and it puzzles the White House
that people don't focus more on the hundreds of thousands of
documents that they say they've handed over this year."
Next, Jennings got to his
personal cause, asserting that "the system" had
"caused" the current problems:
"Now let's turn to
getting money out of politics. In the full Senate today campaign
finance reform never had a chance. Reformers have been trying to
change the system that many people think has caused so many of the
fundraising problems but the McCain-Feingold bill, as it's called,
one Republican, one Democrat, went down to defeat today. ABC's John
Cochran reports tonight, it was over before it started...."
CBS Evening News. Dan
Rather also led by portraying Republican anger at the White House over
the tapes as a distraction from what's really important -- more
Rather then turned to his
- "Good evening.
Legislation in Congress to reform campaign fundraising is dead,
at least for now. It was killed in key votes spearheaded by
Republicans today in the Senate. This happened as the political
rhetoric turned hotter and nastier with Republicans charging the
White House coffee videotapes are a grounds for a special
prosecutor. CBS's Phil Jones begins our coverage of hot talk and
no action on campaign cash."
- "It was a tone of
anger and frustration as the Republican Chairman, Senator Fred
Thompson, took his committee directly to the infamous
videotape," Phil Jones began as he explained that Thompson
asserted that the tape shows not all the coffees were held in
residential areas. "Janet Reno told Congress in a letter
last Friday, before she saw the tapes, the coffees were legal
because they were held in the White House residence."
"When all was
said and done on campaign fundraising reform in the Senate today,
all was said but nothing was done. CBS's Chief Washington
correspondent Bob Schieffer has that part of the story."
Schieffer assumed that more
regulation is the natural solution to violations of the current laws.
- "Dan, for all
the outrage at the hearings today, a few hours later Senate
Republican leader Lott went to the Senate floor and used
parliamentary tactics to prevent the Senate from voting on
campaign reform legislation. That, for all practical purposes,
killed reform for another year and the Democratic leader saw
some irony in that...."
After Schieffer, Scott Pelley
explained why many believe the White House deliberately delayed
releasing the tapes:
- "...The tapes
are the latest in a series of late admissions to the Senate
committee investigating campaign finances. The committee waited
six months for the e-mail of Harold Ickes. E-mail of other White
House staffers came after they testified. And the files of
former Democratic finance Chairman Richard Sullivan did not
appear until weeks after his testimony. Today, the President was
asked in light of these events whether it was hard for people to
identify him with campaign reform...."
NBC Nightly News. Tom
Brokaw at least opened with what the committee members said, but
quickly linked that to failure on campaign finance reform:
- "Good evening.
It was showdown time on Capitol Hill today on the issue of
campaign fundraising. There was a sharp escalation in the
personal and political attacks, the kind of language we have not
heard in Washington for some time. Words and phrases like
presidential responsibility and cover-up. Challenges to the
integrity of the Attorney General. At the same time, the chances
of real reform of campaign fundraising are diminishing with
every passing hour...."
Following David Bloom's story
on what happened in the committee room, Brokaw followed the same theme
as Bob Schieffer had on CBS:
- "For all the
rhetoric and the outrage about what happened in the '96
campaign, a bill that would overhaul the system was all but
killed off today in a partisan battle. It was sunk by two
procedural votes. One of which was a Republican amendment
requiring labor unions to poll their members before making
campaign contributions. Democrats saw that as a deliberate
attempt to kill reform...."
Finally, NBC did provide an
exclusive story on how the Clinton Administration traded policy for
money. Brokaw announced:
- "With all that
you've been hearing about fundraising and reform now all but
dead, tonight we have an exclusive report on what appears to be
a very direct link between money for the Democrats in this case
and a high level policy decision in favor of those who gave.
NBC's Lisa Myers tonight on the competing interests of Indian
Tribes, casinos, and cold hard cash."
Myers explained how a poor
Indian Tribe in Wisconsin tried to turn a struggling dog track into a
casino. Federal officials in area supported the new casino, but richer
tribes that gave money to the Democrats didn't want to the new casino
competition. They set out to kill the new casino by meeting with
Clinton and top Demo officials. They sent a letter to Ickes, saying
tribes wanting the new casino were Republicans, those opposing were
Democrats who gave substantial money to the DNC. Two months later,
Bruce Babbitt killed the casino project, overruling local officials
for first time ever on such a case.
2) The tapes
may look bad, but they help the White House legal case. At least
that's what Tuesday morning show viewers learned. And CNN and MSNBC
both provided live coverage.
From the October 7 Today, as
caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
Matt Lauer: "Scale
of one to ten. Ten being very damaging, one being not so damaging.
How bad are the coffee videotapes that came out from the White House
"Public relations, a ten. A disaster. Legal, legal culpability,
right now there is no evidence of any solicitation and therefore
have not hurt the White House."
On Good Morning America
Charlie Gibson discussed he situation with Cokie Roberts, Bill Kristol
and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson did demand of Stephanopoulos:
- "You know, I
know, everybody near the White House knows that the White House
communications people tape or film the President's meetings. Now
doesn't it strain credulity that the White House could say it
forgot that this happened and couldn't find these tapes for so
But to Kristol, MRC analyst
Gene Eliasen noted, Gibson endorsed the White House spin:
- "Bill Kristol,
in fairness, what George says is correct, these tapes don't show
any direct solicitation on the part of the people there for
contributions to the President. Somebody from the administration
is quoted in the papers this morning as saying, 'Only this
administration could be blamed for covering up exculpatory
material.' It does seem to support their case."
Both CNN and MSNBC provided
live coverage most of the morning, though both went to analysis when
some of the less well known Senators spoke. And both returned to live
coverage at about 3:15pm ET to show the opening statement from Harold
Ickes. (The MRC does not get FNC, but I assume they continued their
promise of live coverage as did NET, the "Political News Talk
Network." Plus C-SPAN on tape sometime after 11pm ET)
3) Public Eye
with Bryant Gumbel gets its second airing Wednesday night at 9pm ET/PT
on CBS. It didn't do too well in its October 1 premiere. "The CBS
newsmagazine debuted as the least- watched program on any of the four
major networks that night," The Washington Post's John Carmody
reported last Friday. It earned a 7 rating and 11 percent audience
share. That's about half the number of people who watched ABC's Prime
Time Live an hour later. PTL got a 13.3 rating and 23 percent audience
What's on for the second
show? Here's a promo CBS has been running:
- "They're just
kids, but they've been watching sexually explicit filmstrips.
And guess who's showing the pictures? The church. Public Eye
with Bryant Gumbel. Wednesday."
of the CBS Wednesday night line-up, Murphy Brown has a political story
line this season. In fact, here's a look by MRC entertainment analyst
Melissa Caldwell at a few Wednesday night prime time shows with a
Murphy Brown, the
television program that has become synonymous with "liberal
bias" reinforced it's pro-Clinton slant when, in the episode
which aired last Wednesday, Murphy gave up her job at FYI for a job as
a media advisor in the Clinton White House.
The pro-Clinton bias is
definitely pervasive on other network programs as well.
On the WB's Wayans
Brothers, the walls of the family restaurant are covered with
pictures of the family patriarch with Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter, and
other notable liberal political figures.
On ABC's new Wednesday family
hour sit-com Dharma and Greg, Dharma's lovably wacky liberal
parents attack Republicans, "Give me one good reason I ought
to attend a wedding reception at some Fascist Country-club, run by a
bunch of morally bankrupt fat-cat Republicans that care more about
capital gains than starving children."; and constantly mock
traditional values, like marriage: "Listen Dharma, when Larry
comes back out, let's say the two of you are living together...he's
opposed to marriage. He hates that natural love has been co-opted by
the fascist state'."
Come to think of it, Bryant
Gumbel fits in well with the politics of prime time.