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CyberAlert -- 10/17/1997 -- Small COLA Bad; Admiring Hillary's Liberalism; Skipping Video News

Small COLA Bad; Admiring Hillary's Liberalism; Skipping Video News

1) The Social Security COLA news is "bad" for seniors, all three broadcast networks insisted. It "will amount to peanuts this year."

2) CBS ran a story applauding Hillary Clinton's liberal speech: While the President "was accepting the keys to the city she was unlocking a debate for women in all the Americas."

3) In the videos Clinton boasted of subverting the hard money limits by misusing the DNC ads, but the networks passed, even CNN.


1) An AARP survey on how too few have saved enough tomaintain the same living standard in retirement led the three broadcast networks Thursday night. Each also emphasized, as ABC anchor Lisa McRee put it, "bad news for those who are already retired" as Social Security recipients will get the smallest cost of living hike in a decade. Other than a mention of a U.S.-Japan dispute over port fees, the ABC and NBC evening shows were free of any political stories. CBS aired a fawning review of how Hillary Clinton wowed an Argentine audience "with a passionate plea for women's rights and birth control."

None uttered a word about the videotapes or any aspect of fundraising even though a Thursday Washington Post story detailed how the tapes show that Clinton knew the party-paid soft money ads were designed to circumvent hard money limits. See item #3 below for more on this disclosure which was picked up by CNN's Inside Politics.

Here's a rundown of the Thursday, October 16 shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Substitute anchor Lisa McRee opened with the AARP survey which found "too many workers counting on Social Security and other investments to bail them out." After a story on the poll and another on how people have a mental block against retirement planning, McRee got to Social Security:
"And some bad news for those who are already retired. The government says next year's cost of living increase for Social Security checks will be just 2.1 percent. Now that's the smallest rise in a decade because of the low rate of inflation.

" Bad news? The cost of living index may not be exactly accurate, but it is meant to match inflation. So the elderly are really no better or worse off whether the hike is 1 percent or 8 percent. Either way it just matches inflation. Of course, even within the network perspective of dollar amount equals good or bad news, no network looked at the issue from a taxpayer's point of view, that taxpayers won't have to cough up so much more next year.

-- NBC Nightly News broadcast from Seattle. Tom Brokaw also portrayed the Social Security hike as bad news, opening the show:
"Good evening from Seattle. These are prosperous times in the state of Washington and across America, maybe the most prosperous ever. But tonight, there are some stark warnings about that time almost everyone looks forward to: retirement. It is going to be very expensive and the current safety nets simply cannot keep pace. All of this came out on a day when the Social Security Administration had some jarring news for senior citizens -- their Social Security cost of living increases will amount to peanuts this year, just 2.1 percent, that's the lowest in a decade. More on the retirement crunch from NBC's Lisa Myers tonight."

NBC didn't have time for a White House videotape update, but Nightly News dedicated the "In Depth" segment to an update what has happened to all those involved in the "Baby Jessica" rescue of 1987.

-- Dan Rather started the CBS Evening News by plugging the AARP report, but first went to Eric Engberg for the Social Security news. Engberg called the cost of living increase "the smallest in a decade" which "was unwelcome news for many of the 44 million people who receive benefits." Of the three network reporters, only Engberg found any upside to the small hike, concluding his piece: "While the small size of the benefits increase may crimp people living on Social Security it's also a sign of reduced inflation which is good news for the overall economy."

2) Hillary the Great. In a top of the show tease Thursday night, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather announced: "In Argentina, no tango but Hillary Clinton wows her audiences with a passionate plea for women's rights and birth control."

Scott Pelley filed his report from Buenos Aires, providing a laudatory review of how she heroically took on the Catholic church and pushed her liberal views as she enters a new stage in her life. Here's the full story. (Note how about half the story is made up of soundbites from Mrs. Clinton nicely set up by Pelley, who found no critics.) Scott Pelley: "In the old Opera House, the First Lady of the United States said what politicians do not say in Argentina. Listen to the reaction to her message of contraceptive freedom among a people 90 percent Catholic, in a nation where abortion is illegal."
Hillary Clinton: "Access to quality health care, especially family planning and reproductive health services...[audience applauds]...is also crucial to advancing the progress of women."
Pelley: "She recalled a visit to a Brazilian hospital and family planning clinic."
Hillary Clinton: "The result of a program like that was that rates of maternal mortality, and importantly of abortion decreased because women received the health care that they needed in a timely manner. For the first time, poor women received the same heath services that rich women have always been able to receive for themselves."
Pelley: "Mrs. Clinton has delivered straight talk before -- a tough human rights speech in China for example. A First Lady often has more freedom to speak than her husband. And her friends say there will be more of this as she reaches a turning point in her life. Mrs. Clinton turns 50 this month, but it was taking her daughter to college that caused her to reassess her life and expand her work. On a day her husband was accepting the keys to the city she was unlocking a debate for women in all the Americas."
Hillary Clinton: "In too many countries, my own as well, too many rights are still denied and too many doors of opportunity still remain tightly closed."
Pelley: "Mrs. Clinton is said to be thinking about opportunities for herself after the White House and an identity apart from her husband's. For the First Lady it is perhaps the beginning of the second act. Scott Pelley, CBS News, Buenos Aires."

Maybe she could get a job as a network reporter. She'd fit right in and her colleagues certainly like her political agenda: a true liberal unlike her husband who keeps moderating too much.

3) "On Tape, Clinton Links Lead in Polls, Issue Ads" announced a front page Washington Post headline on Thursday. Post reporters Susan Schmidt and Lena Sun explained how the tapes raised the possibility of an illegal funding move:
"President Clinton can be seen on a newly released fundraising videotape telling a group of major Democratic Party donors last year that a nationwide campaign of televised issue ads was boosting his standing in the polls. The tape seems to support the assertions that the ad campaign was intended not simply to promote issues important to the Democrats but to strengthen the President's reelection campaign and bypass strict spending limits imposed on federal candidates."
"'Many of you have given very generously and thank you for that,' the President told party donors invited to he May 21, 1996 White House lunch recorded on the tape. 'The fact that we've been able to finance this long-running constant television campaign...where we're always able to frame the issues...has been central to the position I now enjoy in the polls,' said Clinton."

The Post reporters later emphasized the relevance of Clinton's remarks: "While the legal rules on the subject are murky, Clinton's comments could add new fuel to arguments that the advertising was a blatant end-run around the spending restrictions and offer a sharp contrast to party officials' repeated public statements that the advertising effort was not focused on Clinton's reelection."

Thursday afternoon CNN's Inside Politics picked up on the angle. Judy Woodruff reported that "some Republicans say that they see something illegal in the videos showing President Clinton talking about TV ads financed with soft money." CNN's John King explained:
"It is the pictures that capture the eye, but investigators poring over 100 hours of White House videotapes are more interested in the President's words -- words like these."
Clinton in video: "Now on the media front, let me just say that I want to thank everybody who's done so much work already to help do that. One of the reasons this campaign is winning today is that between 25 and 45 percent of the country nearly every week for more than six months now has heard what we think the message is." King: "Mr. Clinton is referring to the millions of dollars spent by the Democratic Party on TV ads last year." Clip of DNC ad: "The Oval Office -- if it were Bob Dole sitting here, he would have already cut Medicare $270 billion."
King: "What interests Mr. Clinton's Republican critics is that large contributions raised at these events is called soft money. It is not supposed to be spent directly to help a federal candidate. Senate investigators plan to use the new videotapes to explore whether Mr. Clinton used these party ads to avoid the campaign spending caps. Sources tell CNN this is one of the areas Justice Department investigators are exploring, too, now with the tapes as exhibits...."

Other coverage: Zilch. King's story did not even run on CNN in prime time. Thursday night's The World Today skipped it and did not air anything about fundraising. The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows went fundraising-free Thursday night, October 16.

Similarly, the morning shows ignored the angle:

-- During the 7am news Today ran a re-edited version of the same piece by Pete Williams that ran on Wednesday's Nightly News. The three topics explored in the 7am half hour interview segments: Baby Jessica, the nanny murder trial in Massachusetts, and the anniversary of 1987 crash. At 8am news reader Ann Curry went to David Bloom in Buenos Aires for a report on how the Clinton team is upset that the trip is being "overshadowed by the flap over fundraising."

Of course, instead of airing White House complaints, Today could have used the time to talk about fundraising AND what Clinton is doing policy-wise in South America.

-- Good Morning America ran two stories with nothing new, a 7am piece from Karla Davis and another at 8am from Linda Douglass who emphasized how the tapes showed nothing unusual. When news reader Kevin Newman asked "shouldn't we be surprised" by a President so actively fundraising, Douglass reassured him that everybody does it:
"President Clinton was more active in the fundraising effort than any President has been before him. His aides cleared his schedule so that he could spend hours and hours on end interacting with donors. But the fact is this is what goes on in Washington eery day. Members of Congress routinely spend hours with their donors, they're on the phone with them raising money. The fact is that if you pay you will get access to a politician."

Case closed. End of scandal. Clinton did what everybody does all the time.

Coming Monday: a special MRC 10th Anniversary edition of Notable Quotables: A Decade of Bias. It's a four page issue with some of the most biased quotes since 1988.

-- Brent Baker