CyberAlert -- 11/14/1997 -- Chung Chopped Off; Jones' Backers; Five Forgotten Facts

Chung Chopped Off; Jones' Backers; Five Forgotten Facts

1. Johnny Chung hot for Hillary? ABC, CBS and NBC ignored Maggie Williams' testimony to the House committee. ABC more concerned about baldness and CBS about the birth rate for sea turtles.

2. Wednesday night CBS and NBC skipped Clinton and Gore interviews with the FBI; ABC focused on conservatives behind Paula Jones.

3. The MRC's Free Market Project has just published a special report titled "The Forgetten Five: Important Economic Facts Missing in the News."

1) Thursday night the broadcast networks and CNN's World Today all led with multiple stories on Iraq and all included pieces on the FBI's determination that the TWA crash was not caused by an outside act as well as stories on the Nichols trial. ABC and CBS briefly noted that, as Dan Rather put it, Bill Lann Lee was "put in a kind of confirmation limbo" by the Senate Judiciary Committee as Democrats managed to block a vote on his nomination to be Assistant Attorney General for civil rights.

While CNN's The World Today carried a full story on the appearance of Maggie Williams before the House investigating committee, the broadcast networks skipped the testimony from the First Lady's chief-of-staff about Johnny Chung's donation delivered at the White House. This means that World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News viewers have yet to hear a word about any of the House hearings held since early October. ABC, CBS and NBC did find time, however, for some other less than pressing developments in the world. Here are some notes on the November 13 shows:

ABC's World News Tonight ran a full story on an FDA panel's analysis of a new drug which slows hair loss in men. Anchor Peter Jennings ignored the House hearing but did find time to note that the House approved production of a new dollar coin. A "Cutting Edge" segment looked at how computer chips can be used to make life easier, such as having a chip in milk cartons to tell you when you need to buy more, and the show ended with a story on North Dakota farmers giving away cattle to those who lost their animals in the blizzard or flood.

CBS Evening News. The Eye on America segment looked at Gothenberg, Nebraska a town where it is illegal for teens to possess tobacco. So the police set up surveillance on teens and if seen smoking, the teens are fined $56. The show also featured its usual "El Nino Watch." Dan Rather alerted viewers that El Nino has cut into the birth rate of Pacific Sea Turtles living on the coast of Nicaragua. Then he announced: "Tomorrow, a new El Nino weather forecast for the nation -- it will be out here on CBS. It's a forecast for the coming winter. Some regions of the country, it turns out, may get a lot more snow than previously thought. CBS will have the details for you tomorrow on our Friday El Nino Watch."

Is this the CBS Evening News or the Action News at 11 Guaranteed Five Day Forecast?

NBC Nightly News. First up after Iraq: the danger airplane of collisions on runways. NBC ended with two stories related to an 11-year-old Minnesota boy with epilepsy. First, efforts to treat his condition. Second, a whole story on how dogs, such as the one owned by the boy's family, was taught to recognize and warn of impending seizures.

CNN's The World Today. About 20 minutes into the November 13 show CNN re-ran a story by Brooks Jackson carried earlier on Inside Politics. Jackson explained:

"Johnny Chung's story has been told and retold -- of a hustling businessman who gave $366,000 to the Democrats and got into the White House nearly 50 times; once to see the president with six Chinese associates. House Republicans say it's a story of a Democratic White House for sale, but their star witness told a different version. Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief of staff painted Chung as a socially clumsy outsider with an almost schoolboy crush on the First Lady..."

After a bite from Williams, he picked up: "She said her staff found Chung an irritating nuisance and made fun of his halting English..."

Time Out! Isn't this just the kind of cultural insensitivity that got Senator Sam Brownback in trouble back in July? Then, ABC devoted a whole story to his inflection.

Jackson also noted how "Democrats documented that Chung got political access to Republicans, too."

2) Babbitt investigation goes forward and Clinton and Gore interviewed by the FBI about their calls. ABC briefly mentioned the calls Wednesday night, but CBS and NBC skipped both developments.

In one minute and 15 seconds, near the end of the November 12 Prime News, CNN anchor Joie Chen rattled off updates on four political items. First, that the Justice Department staff had recommended to the Attorney General that the probe of Bruce Babbitt move to "the next step." Second, that former Democratic Congresswoman Lindy Boggs had been sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican (with video of daughter Cokie of ABC News by her side as Gore did the honors). Third, news that Paula Jones had been deposed on Wednesday by Clinton attorneys in Little Rock. Fourth, how Clinton and Gore and been interviewed for a couple of hours each earlier in the day by the FBI about their fundraising calls. (CNN replaced Wednesday's 10pm ET World Today with an Iraq special.)

The last item took Chen 15 seconds. ABC gave it three more. Peter Jennings took 18 seconds to read this as the next to last story on Wednesday's World News Tonight: "The White House announced today that both President Clinton and Vice President Gore were questioned yesterday by investigators looking into campaign fundraising violations. Attorneys for both men said only that they answered all the questions before them. Attorney General Janet Reno has until December the second to decide whether to appoint and independent counsel."

But, that's 18 seconds more than allocated by the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, MRC analysts Steve Kaminski and Geoffrey Dickens informed me. Both ignored the FBI interviews as well as the Babbitt news. ABC also skipped Babbitt, but unlike CBS and NBC, did pick up on Jones. MRC analyst Gene Eliasen observed that ABC used the Jones interviewing as an introduction to a rather disparaging look at her supporters and lawyers.

Peter Jennings began:
"In Little Rock, Arkansas, today an important stage in the sexual harassment case against President Clinton. Paula Corbin Jones faced a round of questioning from the President's lawyers on her claim that she was sexually harassed by Mr. Clinton in 1991. The President's defense is being handled by a major Washington attorney, Bob Bennett, been in the news a lot. ABC's Jackie Judd reports tonight on the people providing the most support for Paula Jones."

I don't recall ABC ever airing a story on the controversial clients who have retained Bennett's law firm, but ABC's story made sure viewers learned how Jones is backed by conservatives and highlighted the most controversial stands they have taken.

As transcribed by MRC intern Karen Sajines, Judd asserted:
"Paula Jones arrived in Little Rock for her first face to face session with the President's lawyers flanked by her representatives and backed by organizations associated with conservative causes. On Jones' left, Donovan Campbell, a Texas lawyer known for his defense of the state's sodomy law describing homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Rutherford Institute in Virginia has signed on to finance the lawsuit. It's known for defending religious rights activists and abortion protestors. It recently mailed sixty thousand fundraising letters appealing for money, quote, 'to keep fighting for the truth.'...

Between video of an ad, Judd noted: "And commercials inviting women to call a toll free number if they've been victimized by Mr. Clinton...And then there is Jones spokeswoman, some say her svengali, self described conservative feminist, Susan Carpenter Macmillan. Is this about getting Bill Clinton?"

Carpenter Macmillan denied the charge. Judd continued:
"The President's supporters see some value in Jones being backed by conservative activists. They say it proves that this is not about sexual harassment but about politics and damaging Mr. Clinton. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a presidential historian."

She claimed that all this will backfire on conservatives before Judd concluded:
"But Jones' team is charging ahead, judging by who they're depositing. Next up on Friday is Jennifer Flowers. The woman who claims that she had a long term affair with the President. Jackie Judd, ABC News, Little Rock."

Judd used the term "conservative" three times in under a minute and a half. When's the last time ABC ever uttered the word "liberal" with such frequency?

(Thursday's morning shows all ignored the FBI interviews, Babbitt, Jones and failed to preview the House hearing. But, ABC's Good Morning America found time to interview Dominick Dunne about his OJ novel and NBC's Today devoted the 7:30 half hour to Katie Couric's interview with Marv Albert.)

3) On Thursday the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) released a special report, The Forgotten Five: Important Economic Facts Missing in the News. Here's the cover page for the report with a brief summary of the five fallacies frequently forwarded by foolish reporters:

According to the National Council on Economic Education, 79 percent of Americans get their information about the economy from television. When the network news shows fail to provide context in economic stories or simply leave basic economic facts out of their reports, most Americans remain uninformed. Timothy Lamer, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, identified five important economic facts that network reporters routinely ignore:

1) *The wealthiest Americans pay most of the federal income taxes.*

Reporters often repeat claims that tax reform will mainly help the wealthiest in society, without providing context -- specifically that the top one percent of earners pay 29 percent of all income taxes, and the top 10 percent of earners pay 59 percent of all income taxes.

2) *Government can harm the environment; free enterprise can help it.*

Reporters seem to have a set formula when it comes to environmental stories: The free market is always bad and government is always good. In fact, some federal programs encourage environmental destruction and some entrepreneurs preserve the environment.

3) *Domestic social spending continues to soar.*

Many reporters claim that the recent budget deal between the White House and Congress imposes fiscal discipline on Washington. In fact, domestic social spending has increased more under the GOP Congresses than it did under Democrats, and will continue to do so.

4) *Social Security, as currently structured, will bankrupt future generations.*

Many stories about the federal budget assume that Social Security problems can be ignored without causing serious economic problems in the near future. But some economists estimate that the payroll tax will have to double to keep the system solvent into the next century.

5) *Government health care mandates increase the number of uninsured Americans.*

While reporters often call the number of Americans who lack health insurance a "crisis," they rarely look into its causes. One recent study concludes that government-mandated benefits raise the cost of insurance as much as 30 percent, causing many employers to drop coverage.

To read the report, with examples of media bias on each topic and the real facts that reporters often skip on each, go to the MRC's home page where MRC Web manager Joe Alfonsi has a link to it displayed up at the top. Or, go directly to:

Following Marv Albert's lead, I think I shall enter "a period of curiosity" this weekend. Transvestites, here I come.

-- Brent Baker