Nets Never Touched
Arlington; But Some Admit Believability
1) The White
House scolded the media for highlighting the Arlington allegation, but
total broadcast network time totaled 18 seconds. CNN ran a story, but
it emphasized doubts.
2) Cokie Roberts
and Susan Page acknowledged that given all the White House lies it was
reasonable to buy the Arlington story.
Carlson insisted that the press is "addicted to scandal,"
but the networks haven't picked up on what the latest videotapes show
related to Hubbell and to the Indian casino.
>>>> MRC in the
Wall Street Journal. Friday's (November 21) Journal featured an op-ed
piece by the MRC's Brent Bozell and Tim Graham titled "An NRA
Victory? That's Not Fit to Print." If you subscribe to the WSJ
you might want to check it out, but it should be up on our Web site in
a few days.
As many of you let me know, Friday's CyberAlert mistakenly referred to
the multiple births in Iowa as sextuplets. They are septuplets.
Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry on Friday and some members of the
media over the weekend condemned both talk radio and the
"mainstream" media for relaying the Arlington Cemetery
allegation. But there's one big problem with blaming the mainstream
media for spreading the apparently disproved charge: The
broadcast networks, with one 18 second exception, never reported it
and three of the four most influential newspapers buried the story
Friday night on CNN's Prime News reporter Bob Franken reviewed how the
charge came forth and how Army Secretary Togo West refuted it at a
press conference earlier on Friday. Franken then noted that "The
White House is also incensed at the mainstream media." Franken
showed a soundbite from White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry:
"Shame ought to extend to people who failed to report and make
editorial judgements about whether they want to pursue stories before
they put them in print and put them on the air, too."
Franken concluded his story: "However,
the White House feels that the story it believes did not deserve to be
covered by CNN or the other media, nevertheless, needed to be brought
under control because, fair or unfair, it has touched some of the
nation's most fundamental emotions."
fact, while CNN did air a story Thursday night on the allegation, none
of the broadcast evening shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening
News and NBC Nightly News) ever touched it. Neither did NBC's
Today or CBS's This Morning. This 18 second item read by Good Morning
America news reader Kevin Newman during the 7:30am news update
represents the totality of broadcast network coverage through Friday
"The Chairman of the Senate Veteran
Affairs committee is calling on President Clinton to prove he didn't
sell burial plots at Arlington National Cemetery to political donors.
Republican Senator Arlen Specter says his office has been flooded with
calls for a probe of such charges. The Clinton Administration flatly
denies selling plots at Arlington."
was it for the networks. Of the four most influential dailies, on
Friday only the Los Angeles Times played Arlington on the front page.
And the LA Times had a local angle, a name revealed Wednesday night by
Washington's WJLA-TV, not talk radio. The LA Times lead: "M.
Larry Lawrence, the late owner of San Diego's Hotel Del Coronado and a
major donor to President Clinton, is a focus of a House panel's
investigation into whether the administration rewarded contributors
with burial plots in Arlington National Cemetery..."
Like Thursday, on Friday the Washington Post
kept the story in the "Metro" section, USA Today ran a piece
inside, and the New York Times again buried a short story inside on
page A28 under a headline favorable to doubters: "Army Secretary
Denies Political Tie to Burial at National Cemetery."
as noted above, CNN did air a story Thursday night. The November 21
CyberAlert suggested that CNN did not have time for an Arlington story
since a sextuplet -- just kidding -- a septuplet press conference went
through the time for Inside Politics and a special on the septuplets
replaced the World Today at 10pm ET. Well, I wrongly assumed the
special would last an hour. It only aired for a half hour and during
the shortened 10:30 to 11pm ET World Today CNN aired a piece from Bob
Franken. But while Franken did relay the key charge made by Insight
magazine, he heaped plenty of doubt on it and made sure viewers knew
the story came from a "conservative" and
the help of the CNN transcript Web page and MRC news analyst Clay
Waters, here's Franken's November 21 story:
Franken: "Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's hallowed
resting ground for heroes felled in battle. Generally, only highly
decorated military personnel, their families, and some very
distinguished civilians are permitted burial at Arlington. So
allegations made by a conservative magazine that the Clinton
administration is trading precious burial space for political
contributions has caused a political uproar, particularly on the
volatile radio talk show circuit."
Caller to liberal Joe Madison's WWRC-AM in
Washington talk show: "They don't have the depth of spirit to
understand what it means for a young military soldier to go out and
give his life in defense of this country."
Franken: "The story appears in Insight
magazine, owned by the right-leaning Washington Times. Citing mostly
unnamed sources, it charges, 'Clinton and company may have sold not
only burial plots for recently deceased but also future rights.'
Waivers from the usual tight restrictions at Arlington can be approved
by the Defense or Veterans Affairs Departments, under certain
circumstances. The magazine says the number of waivers has doubled
under the Clinton Administration. Among them, an exemption for Larry
Lawrence, who died while he was Ambassador to Switzerland. He was also
a major contributor to the Democratic Party and to the 1992 Clinton
campaign. The White House has defended that waiver, saying Lawrence
qualified by having served in the Merchant Marine. The President's
spokesman sharply attacked the story."
Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary:
"This is a story that appeared largely uncorroborated with
anonymous sources in a conservative right-wing publication. It was
picked up on the hate radio talk circuit and inflamed yesterday."
Franken: "News accounts of the increase
in waivers began appearing last summer, prompting at least one
congressional committee to promise an investigation. But Insight was
the first to make a direct political link, causing Republicans to
Senator Arlen Specter: "It is worth an
inquiry. We have had so many very surprising items arise on
contribution lines, that it is worth an inquiry."
Franken: "The responsibility for waivers
rests with Army Secretary Togo West."
Togo West, Army Secretary: "It's just
Franken: "West has been nominated by the
President to head the Department of Veteran's Affairs. A top official
of the Veteran's group AMVETS has sent a letter to Specter urging him
to use every means possible to block this appointment because of his
involvement in this 'disgusting, dishonorable event.' While thinly
sourced, and contradicted at the highest levels, this story comes at a
bad time for the White House. Democrats worry that skepticism over use
of the Lincoln Bedroom by political contributors could easily
translate into disgust, founded or unfounded, over the use of a
national symbol as powerful as the Arlington Cemetery. Bob Franken,
CNN, Capitol Hill."
The weekend chat shows also brought some surprises on the Arlington
front: ABC's Cokie Roberts and USA Today's Susan Page realized that
people were so willing to believe the worst about Clinton and
Arlington because the administration has lied so many times before.
the very end of ABC's This Week on November 23 Sam Donaldson and Cokie
Roberts reviewed how the Arlington story unfolded. Roberts concluded:
"The problem though Sam here is
interesting. This administration hasn't got much credibility. You had
instance after instance where they've said, 'no, no, no it's not true,
how could you dare suggest such a thing.' And then a few weeks later
they say 'oh well, yes, I guess it is true, but there's nothing wrong
CNN's Late Edition USA Today reporter Susan Page recalled another
"People were really ready to believe it.
It reminded me of that grocery scanner story with George Bush, which
was not true but which people believed because they thought he was out
of touch with people's daily lives. People are ready to believe that
President Clinton would sell things, like the Lincoln Bedroom, for
campaign donations. And that's what made this story really resonate
even though as it turns out it's not true."
difference between Arlington and the grocery scanner story: The
February 1992 scanner story first appeared on the front page of the
New York Times. And I don't recall any consternation about how a
"liberal" or "left-leaning" publication had first
publicized the tale.
Concluding her "Outrage of the Week" on the November 22
Capital Gang on CNN, Time columnist Margaret Carlson insisted that in
the Arlington cemetery story, "Republicans succeeded in spreading
this despicable lie because the press is as addicted to scandal as
wish. Some outlets, such as the Los Angeles Times and CNN, pick up on
credible developments, but the broadcast networks refuse to cover them
most of the time. Two examples from last week:
"Whitewater Prosecution Scouring White House Videotapes:
Investigators Seek Evidence of Clinton
Arranging Employment for Hubbell, a Target of Probe. Films Show No
Such Act, Spokesman Says," announced the headline and subhead
over a November 19 Los Angeles Times story. Reporters David Willman
and Alan Miller explained in their Wednesday piece:
"Prosecutors exploring why supporters of
President Clinton hired former Associate Atty. Gen. Webster L. Hubbell
for several lucrative private deals have obtained White House
videotapes showing Clinton conferring with one of Hubbell's biggest
"Administration officials confirmed that
independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr requested the tapes, which show,
among other things, Clinton visiting in the Oval Office with
Indonesian billionaire James T. Riady.
"The videotaped meeting occurred on June
24, 1994 -- about the same time Riady hired Hubbell through a Hong
Kong company for unspecified services -- and paid him $100,000...
"According to people familiar with the
Whitewater investigation, Starr's office is reviewing the videotapes
to assess conversations between Riady and Clinton that are audible and
to identify prospective witnesses...."
CNN caught the White House in another fib. On Friday's Inside
Politics, Bernard Shaw intoned: "Now, the latest release of White
House tapes. The videos don't seem quite as 'ho-hum' as the
administration suggests. Our John King reports on the connection to a
controversy involving Indian casinos and Democratic donations."
CNN White House correspondent King, in a
piece that also aired later that night on the November 21 World Today,
"It looks like just another campaign
Clinton in video: "I want to thank Tom
and Cynthia for opening their home."
King: "But this July 1995 event is of
interest to Senate investigators as they review a third batch of
Clinton/White House videotapes. Mr. Clinton's host is lobbyist Tom
Schneider. The next day, a group of Indian tribes represented by
Schneider scored big: the Clinton administration rejected a rival
tribe's plan to open a Wisconsin casino on the site of an old dog
track. The White House says the timing is coincidental. But Congress
and the Justice Department are now investigating whether politics
swayed Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's Indian gaming policies.
"The White House is withholding tapes of
44 events requested by Senate investigators on grounds they're not
relevant to the inquiry into 1996 fundraising abuses. Committee
Republicans aren't happy...."
Coverage: Nothing on either item on any broadcast network show last
Final note: The
November 21 CyberAlert said that the latest MRC Media Reality Check
fax report, on coverage of the Teamsters, could be read on the MRC Web
site. Unfortunately, it is not yet up on our site, but I hope it will
be by sometime Tuesday.