CyberAlert -- October 21, 1996 -- GOP Shut Government

Three items today:

1. ABC's Cokie Roberts reported that Newt Gingrich and the House freshmen "shut down the government."

2. The Sandinistas were just "socialists" according to Peter Jennings. And ABC's Beth Nissen relayed that Daniel Ortega's theme song is Beethoven's Ode to Joy and his TV ads portray him as a "Latino Gandhi."

3. The networks ignored the pardon issue for weeks and have yet to report anything about Craig Livingstone's assistant Mari Anderson contradicting his story on the FBI files, but Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz thinks a panel of reporters would have raised the topics in last week's debate.

1) On Friday's World News Tonight (October 18), ABC's Cokie Roberts explored whether Democrats might take back control of the House. When conservatives complain that the media are misinforming the public about Medicare cuts and how the Republicans closed down the government, reporters counter that they are only reporting what "Democrats say." Well, Roberts said they "remind voters" of how Republicans caused the shutdown, as if no responsibility for the shutdown can be placed on Bill Clinton. Here's the beginning of her piece:

"To take back the House of Representatives the Democrats need 19 seats. And as of today it looks like they could win them. Democrats are taking special aim at the Republicans elected in 1994. They're endangered in part because their leader is so unpopular. With the help of millions of dollars from organized labor, Democratic challengers constantly remind voters that these freshmen supported Newt Gingrich and that together they shut down the government...."

2) Later on Friday's World News Tonight, ABC previewed Sunday's election in Nicaragua. Peter Jennings announced: "Under the heading of 'Whatever Happened To' we go to visit a man who a decade ago was a very big thorn in the American side. The United States sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Nicaragua to defeat the Sandinistas and Daniel Ortega was their commander. Ultimately the socialist programs of the Sandinistas and Mr. Ortega fell out of favor. But there is a presidential election in Nicaragua this Sunday and Daniel Ortega is back."

Reporter Beth Nissen found that "Daniel Ortega has changed his tune. Literally, from militaristic Sandinista songs, to Beethoven's Ode to Joy." And, she told viewers how "The new Daniel is portrayed in his campaign ads as contemplative, reverent, a man who cares deeply about the poor, a kind of Latino Gandhi."

3) In a Friday piece reviewing Wednesday night's presidential debate, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz noted how the "average citizen" questioners didn't help Dole by asking about Clinton's ethics. Kurtz then wrote: "If reporters had been asking the questions, you can bet there would have been aggressive demands to know whether Clinton planned to issue any Whitewater pardons and who had hired Craig Livingstone and why Dole was raising the 'character' issue and so on."

Hello. Has Kurtz been on Mars the past few weeks? Print reporters, maybe. But which of the broadcast TV network reporters who have yet to report the six month gap in the log book of who accessed the FBI files, the fact that Livingstone's assistant said he knew he was improperly obtaining Bush administration files, and who never mentioned the pardon issue for more than a week after Clinton raised the subject on the NewsHour, did Kurtz expect to suddenly be interested in Clinton scandals?

-- Brent Baker