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CyberAlert -- 12/10/1997 -- Notes Skipped by ABC; Koppel Disparages Warming Doubters

Notes Skipped by ABC; Koppel Disparages Warming Doubters

1. ABC Tuesday night ignored the newly released White House notes and NBC dismissed their relevance: "The notes don't contain much more than a few titillating details."

2. The ABC and CBS morning shows also skipped the delayed notes, but they led NBC's Today and Tim Russert considered them telling.

3. Nightline attacked the ads opposed to a global warming treaty. Ted Koppel says scientists, who don't buy the liberal mantra that man is causing warming, belong in the Flat Earth Society.

4. Letterman's "Top Ten Complaints of President Clinton's New Puppy."


1) The appearances of Janet Reno and Louis Freeh before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee led both the ABC and CBS newscasts Tuesday night, but not NBC's which put top priority on a press conference held by suspended NBA player Latrell Sprewell. NBC did, however, air a story on the delayed release of more White House notes, but dismissed their importance. CBS also looked at the notes, but not ABC.

Both CNN and MSNBC picked up the hearing live at about 9:45am ET and continued to 12:30pm ET. When Freeh appeared at about 3:45pm ET both networks again went live, cutting out just before 5pm, about 40 minutes before the hearing recessed.

Here are some highlight's from the December 9 shows:

ABC's World News Tonight. Reporter Linda Douglass began the first story of the show: "Much to the disappointment of Republicans, the Attorney General and the FBI Director presented a united front. Louie Freeh made a point of arriving at the hearing with Janet Reno even though he wasn't scheduled to testify until later in the day..."

Douglass showed clips of Chairman Dan Burton, Reno and Freeh. Then ABC went to Sprewell. Not a word about any newly released noted or how the White House had failed to cooperate with a subpoena for them.

CBS Evening News. Rather opened by mentioning both the notes and the House testimony. Up first: Bob Schieffer on Reno and Freeh. He began by showing Burton accusing Reno of protecting the President, adding: "Reno turned back most questioning by saying it was improper to comment on how an investigation is being conducted, but it got so heated at one point a Democrat said Reno's critics should see a shrink."

Viewers heard this from Democrat Tom Lantos: "In some cases only quick medical advice may be helpful in dealing with the degree of pathological hatred that permeates portions of this town."

Schieffer continued: "For all the invective from both sides, Republicans could not shake Reno who revealed little beyond the investigation continues..."

Next, Rather highlighted what ABC didn't find newsworthy. He introduced a full report from Scott Pelley:

"All of that was happening as some potentially damaging revelations about the Clinton camp were coming out, taken from its own words. These disclosures were in secret diaries just turned over to Congress. They contain blunt talk from private sessions before the 1996 elections."

Pelley noted that the White House was "holding onto these diaries for eight months" before their late Monday disclosure. Taken down by a secretary, Pelley explained, they were "edited heavily" but do reveal that two weeks before the election then White House chief-of-staff Leon Panetta asked about illegal foreign contributions. Pelley elaborated: "Later, Panetta describes a presidential fundraiser as 'another one of those events where people come through the back door.'" Pelley also relayed how the notes of meetings referred to "political coffees or money coffees." He concluded:

"Why were the diaries eight months late? Lawyers here say that the secretary didn't understand that Congress's subpoena also applied to her computer notes."

NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's top of the broadcast tease: "Latrell Sprewell, the banned basketball star, says he's sorry for the attack on his coach, PJ Carlesimo. Was there a rush to judgment?"

After the first ad break NBC got to the notes, but treated their delayed disclosure as just routine. Brokaw asserted:

"At the White House tonight, a familiar scenario. Documents demanded months ago by congressional investigators, looking into campaign financing, have suddenly surfaced..."

NBC's Claire Shipman explained that the White House put out 200 pages of computer notes. After a soundbite from Burton denouncing the delay, Shipman noted that White House counsel Lanny Davis called the problem a "misunderstanding."

No big deal anyway, Shipman implied, explaining:

"The notes don't contain much more than a few titillating details -- discussions of the difference between 'political' and 'money' coffees, a former chief-of-staff wondering why convicted felons were given access to the White House. But the real problem this time around isn't the substance, it's the now tattered White House reputation. Behind the scenes aides admit that though they believe it this explanation for the delay does seem flimsy. As one staff member put it, 'it's another screw up and it sure doesn't make us look very good.' Tom."

Well, if they believe it I guess that means it's good enough for everyone else. NBC did not run a full story on the House hearing. Instead Brokaw showed a soundbite each from Reno and Freeh.


2) Tuesday morning only NBC's Today told viewers about the notes released Monday night which showed that high-level staffers referred to the coffees as "money coffees" and that Leon Panetta knew unsavory types were invited to DNC fundraisers with the President. Though the December 9 Los Angeles Times showcased the note release in a front page story headlined, "White House Forwards More Donor Records," neither ABC's Good Morning America or CBS's This Morning mentioned them, reported MRC news analysts Gene Eliasen and Steve Kaminski. The New York Times and USA Today included the notes in page one stories on Freeh and Reno refusing to release Freeh's memo to Reno on an independent counsel.

But unlike Claire Shipman who dismissed the disclosure by claiming "the notes don't contain much more than a few titillating details," on Today earlier in the day Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Tim Russert took them quite seriously. Lauer opened the December 9 Today:

"Good morning. The White House released dozens of campaign fundraising documents last night after saying for months they didn't exist. With more congressional hearings scheduled for this morning the White House has some explaining to do today, Tuesday December 9th, 1997."

Couric chimed in: "And I'm Katie Couric. It looks like members of the Clinton administration might be in the hot seat again today. They handed in their homework late, again."

Tim Russert appeared a few minutes later and, as transcribed by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, told Couric of their importance:

"What they show Katie is that people at the White House were very aware that they were raising money off of political coffees and in fact were taking advantage of campaign finance loopholes. Leon Panetta, the former White House Chief of Staff kept saying, 'Well what if there is an investigation by the Federal Election Commission? What will happen?' 'Oh don't worry. We'll get the results of that after the election.'"

Couric: "And then for him to say, Tim, 'This will move campaign finance reform forward.' Ouch!"

Russert: "Absolutely an acknowledgment that there were abuses or at least taking extreme advantage of loopholes and Katie also the acknowledgment that there were quote, 'Criminals running through the White House. Or people coming in the backdoor.' This was not an innocent bunch of folks who were saying, 'Gee we were taken advantage of by these grubby fundraisers.' Those folks were invited into the White House."

Later, Couric inquired: "Alright, so will these matters prove embarrassing, highly embarrassing perhaps or illegal?"

Russert replied: "Embarrassing. And the timing Katie. You know once again it is the White House dribbling this out after the evening news shows on the night before Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh are going before Congress."

Russert added that "they're trying to tuck it in under the wave of Reno and Freeh, hoping it's a one day wonder story and it all goes away. They can't explain why these records were delayed in terms of being turned over. There is no explanation."

When Russert said "they hope we're gonna focus on Janet Reno and Louis Freeh today and this story will be over," Couric declared: "Well obviously we are not letting them do that. And much of the media won't."

But much already have, including ABC's World News Tonight and GMA, to say nothing of Today which didn't bother mentioning the Senate hearings most days over the summer.


3) Tuesday night Ted Koppel devoted Nightline to discrediting an anti-global warming treaty ad campaign. Koppel also jumped on a conservative guest, equating scientists who don't buy into liberal claims that man is causing warming with those who once didn't realize the Earth was not flat.

Running clips from those on both sides of the global warming debate, Koppel opened the December 9 Nightline by calling it "the Chicken Little, sky is falling approach being adopted by both sides in the debate." But Nightline only wanted to discredit one side, specifically those behind television ads opposed to a global warming treaty. Reporter Chris Bury asserted in his set-up story:

"The people running the ads call themselves the Global Climate Information Project, special interests from car manufacturers to oil companies to coal miners. Their $13 million dollar commercial campaign glosses over the science of the global warming debate to focus on two things: fairness and fear."

Clip of an actor playing a businesswoman in the ad: "I worked hard to build my business, but now a proposed UN climate treaty could put me out of business by raising the cost of natural gas, electricity and gasoline by 25 to 50 percent."

Bury spent the rest of the piece giving the Sierra Club's Carl Pope a forum to denounce the ad point by point. Though Bury allowed the ad's producer to speak a few times, his purpose was clear: tear apart the ad's claims. Indeed, in contrast to Koppel's top of the show promise, Bury did not cast any doubt on liberal claims.

For the rest of the show Koppel interviewed Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund and Karen Kerrigan of the Small Business Survival Committee, a sponsor of the ad. At one point Kerrigan dared to insist:

"To say that the science in conclusive, maybe from a bunch of those elitist scientists over in Kyoto, but certainly there are plenty of scientists here in the United States -- those who actually have expertise in this area who say that the conclusivity is actually bunk."

Koppel immediately pounced on Kerrigan, talking over Oppenheimer. As soon as Oppenheimer was quiet and viewers could hear him the ABC anchor countered Kerrigan, telling her:

"I was just going to make the observation that there are still some people who believe in the Flat Earth Society, too, but that doesn't mean they're right."

Before she could reply Koppel went to an ad break. As pointed out in a recent Special Report from the MRC's Free Market Project, a Gallup poll determined that "only 19 percent of the members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union think that the climate change of the 20th century has been the result of greenhouse emission."

If you are more interested in learning what scientists believe than is Koppel, check out the special report titled "Facts Frozen Out: Network News and Global Warming." It's featured at the top of the MRC Web page:

http://www.mrc.org/specialreports/sr120197.html.


4) From the December 9 Late Show with David Letterman, before it has even been posted on the cbs.com/lateshow Web page, the "Top Ten Complaints of President Clinton's New Puppy." Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10.

Whenever you bury a bone, President digs it up and eats it.

9. Late night walks always end up at local Hooters.

8. Much too easy to mistake Al Gore for a tree.

7. Keep getting yelled at for "fetching" Sam Donaldson's hairpiece.

6. When President says, "roll over," he's usually talking to his date.

5. Roger hogs all the best chew-toys.

4. If you so much as look at Janet Reno, you get an ass full of size-13 pump.

3. Leash not as nice as the one Hillary uses on Bill.

2. Unfair having to get "fixed," when Clinton's the one who really needs it.

1. Fighting with Bill over the last snausage.

Not even a cute puppy can save Clinton from late night comedy's focus on his appetites.

-- Brent Baker