Yawning At Thompson; Nets Less Interested Than Public
decision got just a few seconds on ABC and CBS. NBC insisted hearings
failed because GOP "leaders opposed outlawing the huge
contributions that helped create the scandal."
declare public uninterested, but reporters aren't interested in
informing them. Last week: 15 seconds of morning show coverage. More
tapes and news on the database front skipped.
The networks treated Senator Fred Thompson's Friday announcement that
he had decided to end public hearings the same way they approached the
hearings all along: two networks gave the news a few seconds and the
third blamed the mess on Republicans for not passing campaign finance
"reform." Only one bothered to mention what the committee
had uncovered or illuminated. All three broadcast evening shows Friday
night led with multiple stories on the au pair murder conviction and
sentencing. Here's how the October 31 shows greeted Thompson's
ABC's World News Tonight. About half way through the show substitute
anchor Forrest Sawyer gave 19 seconds to the development:
"Political news. In Washington today
Senator Fred Thompson announced he is suspending the hearings on
campaign finance abuses. Thompson conceded he had not proven his
charge that the Chinese government tried to influence the American
elections. But he did say the public learned a valuable lesson about
the role of money in campaigns."
Evening News. Dan Rather allocated almost 30 seconds to Thompson's
decision and not only failed to mention any achievements of the
committee, but asserted that "some" Republicans called them
a failure. Rather declared:
"On Capitol Hill a sudden turn in the
Senate investigation of sleazy campaign money. Committee Chairman Fred
Thompson suspended the hearings and said he doesn't plan any new ones
because he doesn't have the votes, not even among Republicans, to keep
going. Some Republicans say the hearings produced no bombshells, did
not draw huge public interest and could wind up hurting them instead.
In any case, while the Senate investigation may be over, the Justice
Department criminal investigation is still under way."
-- NBC Nightly News was the only broadcast
network to run a full story, a nearly two-minute piece from Lisa
Myers. Here's a full transcript of her story in which she managed to
both cite some accomplishments and blame Republicans for Democratic
illegality because GOP leaders "opposed outlawing the huge
contributions that helped create the scandal."
Myers began: "Today, the most heralded hearings since Watergate
ended with a thud. Chairman Fred Thompson admitted he's simply run out
Senator Fred Thompson: "And I'm not
going to have hearings just for the sake of having hearings."
Myers then listed what ABC and CBS avoided:
"There were some high points: money laundering by Buddhist nuns,
a businessman admitting that he gave $300,000 to buy access to
President Clinton. And without this investigation the public might
never have seen documents detailing sleep overs in the Lincoln bedroom
or videotapes of the President with his arm around fundraiserss who
have fled the country or are taking the Fifth."
Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21:
"These are the most important, most valuable hearings we've ever
had in documenting the widespread corruption that exists in our
campaign finance system."
Moving to the down side, Myers continued:
"Still, after 70 witnesses, 1.2 million documents and spending
$2.6 million dollars, the hearings fell well short of expectations,
especially where it matters most: with voters."
Man on street: "I think it's a lot of ta-do
Second man on street: "But I don't think
you're going to ever take money out of politics."
Woman on street: "Have we ever really
believed politicians, I mean really."
Myers then blamed lack of reform: "It
didn't help that while Republicans railed about misdeeds of the
Clinton Administration, their leaders opposed outlawing the huge
contributions that helped create the scandal. And few believe these
hearings will really fix anything."
Claibourne Darden, Atlanta pollster:
"Well maybe brain dead would be a good way to put it if you
really believe they're going to clean up the system on
Myers concluded: "In fact, even some
Republicans joined Democrats to bring the hearings to an end. Many
fear that more horror stories might actually force the public to say
enough is enough, let's fix the system, the same system that got every
one of them elected."
Of course the public might have known more about the issues involved
and illegalities committed if the networks had committed themselves to
thorough coverage. Several examples from last week prove the lack of
media interest in informing the public:
Blind to Clinton call eyewitness. Last Wednesday, October 29, the
Senate committee heard from Richard Jenrette who recounted how
President had personally called him, an activity the White House had
refused to acknowledge. The committee also quizzed three White House
lawyers about delays in the release of documents and the videotapes.
Coverage: Nothing on ABC's World News
Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. Nor anything in the
More video ignored. An October 29 Associated Press dispatch by Larry
Margasak revealed: "Some 60 videotapes of President Clinton
attending campaign fundraising events have yet to be provided to
Senate investigators, Senate aides said today."
Coverage: Still waiting. Nothing last week on
any of the broadcast network morning or evening shows.
Morning wipe-out. The appearance Thursday of Bruce Babbitt, the
highest ranking official to testify, generated stories that night on
ABC, CBS, NBC as well as CNN. But nothing in the morning Thursday or
Friday. In fact, neither CBS's This Morning or NBC's Today uttered a
word about fundraising at any time last week. The totality of morning
coverage: one 15-second item on Thursday's Good Morning America on how
Clinton asked Jiang Zemin if China sent money to U.S. campaigns.
Clinton wanted to improperly use database. Or, White House obstructed
justice by withholding key memo. Competing Friday headlines gave the
networks a choice of angles to pursue, but they didn't bother with
"Clinton Wanted Database Shared"
announced an October 31 Washington Times headline. Reporter Paul
Bedard began: "President Clinton wanted to share a
taxpayer-funded database of 300,000 names with the Democratic National
Committee, possibly in violation of rules barring the political use of
the list, according to a just-discovered White House memo."
"Lawmaker Suggests Obstruction in Late Delivery of Memo on White
House Database" declared the Washington Post headline. Reporter
Guy Gugliotta's lead: "A key House investigator said yesterday he
suspects the White House counsel's office of obstructing justice by
withholding a memo suggesting that President Clinton wanted to share a
taxpayer-funded database with the Democratic Party, a violation of
"Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), who has
been leading an investigation into the 'White House database' for more
than a year, said the counsel's office had had the memo since
September 1996, but that 'somebody, a senior official at the White
House, made a decision not to give it to us.'"
Coverage: Still waiting. Nothing Thursday or Friday on ABC, CBS or NBC
morning or evening shows.
hard for the public to know what's going on when the networks don't
even try to inform them.