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Excited Network Reporters Enter Scandal Mode on CIA Name Leak --9/30/2003


1. Excited Network Reporters Enter Scandal Mode on CIA Name Leak
The networks entered full scandal mode on Monday with the evening shows leading for a second straight night with the news of an investigation into who in the administration back in July told columnist Bob Novak a CIA operatives's name, though stories conflicted on the operatives actual job duties, the source of the leak and, despite Joe Wilson on Monday morning having specifically admitted he went too far in accusing Karl Rove, both CBS and NBC relayed Wilson's naming of Rove. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski offered this warning: "If tried and convicted, the leakers could get ten years in prison. But the political fallout could be much worse for the White House whose credibility on Iraq is already on the line." An excited Aaron Brown proposed at the top of Monday's NewsNight on CNN: "It seems like the good old days, doesn't it?"

2. U.S. Wins Iraq Battle, But CBS Portrays U.S. as Long Term Loser
Can't win for winning. After an all-day battle in Iraq, U.S. soldiers were victorious over some terrorists, killing an unknown number of them, taking over a dozen into custody and suffering just three injuries after one U.S. soldier was killed in an initial surprise attack which sparked one short and one long battle. But to CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, the U.S. came up the loser. "No matter how many Iraqi rebels were killed or injured," she warned, "the danger is for the coalition that this will be seen as a heroic battle and will attract fighters from all over the country or even across the border."

3. NBC Faults Kazan for Naming Communists, Raises Stifling Garofalo
Instead of portraying the late film director Elia Kazan as a hero for having provided names of those dedicated to undermining the U.S. and empowering our murderous, enslaving communist enemy, three NBC News stars condemned him. Tom Brokaw recalled how "in 1952 Kazan earned a much darker notoriety when he offered the names of colleagues he claimed to be communist to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many felt betrayed." Katie Couric asserted that "he'll always be remembered for what many call a betrayal." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann managed to link the supposed suppression of dissent by the Dixie Chicks, Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo with Kazan as he maintained that "2003 was not the first time dissent, the American virtue, the unique right of us Americans, suddenly became an ugly word."

4. Dan Rather Credits Tax Cut for Higher Consumer Spending
Miracle of the day: Dan Rather reported a benefit caused by the tax cuts. On Monday's CBS Evening News, Rather acknowledged: "Some evidence came today that the federal tax cut may indeed be encouraging Americans to spend...."

5. Now You Can Support CyberAlert and MRC Via PayPal
Support the MRC which makes CyberAlerts possible. And now you can do it through the safe and familiar PayPal service.

6. NBC to Air Law & Order Episode Inspired by Jayson Blair Case
"Ripped from the headlines," Wednesday's episode of NBC's Law & Order is inspired by the Jayson Blair case. A currently running promo promises: "Ripped from the headlines, a big time reporter fakes a news story. Now a man is dead. How could a fake news story lead to a murder? All new Law & Order, NBC Wednesday."


Excited Network Reporters Enter Scandal
Mode on CIA Name Leak

The networks entered full scandal mode on Monday with the evening shows leading for a second straight night with the news that the Justice Department was investigating who in the administration back in July told columnist Bob Novak a CIA operatives's name, though stories conflicted on whether the wife of Joe Wilson, the man who since July has been on a personal PR crusade to undermine President Bush's State of the Union line about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, was an "agent," an "operative" or a "covert" operative, whether the leak came from "senior administration officials," "top White House officials" or just "White House officials" and, despite Wilson on Monday morning having specifically admitted he went too far in accusing Karl Rove, both CBS and NBC relayed Wilson's naming of Rove.

The hype began Sunday night when CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts led the show: "The Justice Department tonight is investigating whether to launch a criminal probe of the White House after the CIA complained someone at 1600 Pennsylvania may have leaked the classified identity of an agency operative. If those allegations are true, whoever is responsible for the leak could be headed to jail for ten years."

Over on ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday, anchor Terry Moran intoned: "Tonight, the Bush White House is facing a potential criminal investigation. ABC News has learned the Justice Department has launched a preliminary probe into charges that top White House officials leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That's a serious violation of federal law...."

Fast forward to Monday night and NBC's Jim Miklaszewski offered this warning: "If tried and convicted, the leakers could get ten years in prison. But the political fallout could be much worse for the White House whose credibility on Iraq is already on the line."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann teased his Countdown show with the most derisive characterization of White House action: "The Washington Post reports not only did the White House out an undercover CIA agent as political revenge, but it tried six different reporters before it found one willing to help."

CNN's Aaron Brown An excited Aaron Brown proposed at the top of Monday's NewsNight on CNN: "It seems like the good old days, doesn't it? Or perhaps the bad old days depending on your point of view." Brown explained: "There were calls in Washington today for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the White House." Brown conceded: "It is, of course, not likely to happen. The country seemed to have its fill of special prosecutors during the Clinton years but it is an interesting argument. Can the administration be trusted to investigate itself over the outing of a CIA agent? We suspect the answer, as it so often does, depends on who you voted for."

After "the Whip," Brown set up the first of three stories on the subject: "We begin tonight with a dark corner of a murky place with a lot to learn and a long way to go. There ought to be a better way of characterizing the affair brewing in Washington over the CIA operative, her husband, the White House and the war but there isn't not yet, certainly nothing quick and snappy like scandal or cover-up or anything with a 'gate' in it, though at the end of the day, one day it may turn out to be all of the above or nothing at all. So far we can only say two things for certain. There is clearly growing political dimensions to this and there are still far more questions than there are answers."

But reporters aren't letting the lack of facts get in the way of pursuing an exciting story.

As FNC's Jim Angle uniquely pointed out on Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume: "Now with all of the sound and fury on this today you would have thought there was some new development. There is not. This matter was handled routinely beginning back in July when it was first referred to the Department of Justice. Some news reports suggested erroneously that CIA Director George Tenet was suddenly pushing an investigation, but officials outside the White House say that -- another leak I suppose -- is flatly untrue."

Indeed, this round of stories was prompted by a front page story in Sunday's Washington Post by reporters Mike Allen and Dana Priest who stated that Tenet requested the probe: "At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday."

Later on Hume's show, Morton Kondracke noted how the Post story changed between Sunday and Monday. Sunday's story by Allen and Priest asserted that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's." But Monday's Post story, which carried the byline of only Allen, dropped the "top" modifier and referred to how "an administration official told the Washington Post on Saturday that two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists to discredit Wilson."

Unlike the Post's characterization of "top White House" or "White House" officials, however, Novak's July 14 column described his sources as "senior administrative officials." The Novak paragraph which set off a scandal two months later: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him." For Novak's July 14 column in full: www.townhall.com

Network stories have overlooked one an aspect of the story outlined in the Sunday Post story, how Novak characterized the CIA's request to not name Valerie Plame as a "weak request." The Post's Allen and Priest wrote:
"When Novak told a CIA spokesman he was going to write a column about Wilson's wife, the spokesman urged him not to print her name 'for security reasons,' according to one CIA official. Intelligence officials said they believed Novak understood there were reasons other than Plame's personal security not to use her name, even though the CIA has declined to confirm whether she was undercover.
"Novak said in an interview last night that the request came at the end of a conversation about Wilson's trip to Niger and his wife's role in it. 'They said it's doubtful she'll ever again have a foreign assignment,' he said. 'They said if her name was printed, it might be difficult if she was traveling abroad, and they said they would prefer I didn't use her name. It was a very weak request. If it was put on a stronger basis, I would have considered it.'"

For that initial Post story of September 28: www.washingtonpost.com

Back to the Monday night, September 29, stories on ABC, CBS and NBC:

-- ABC's Peter Jennings announced at the top of World News Tonight: "We're going to begin tonight with a matter of national security potentially, personal safety possibly and national and national politics without question."

Terry Moran ran through the charges and White House denials before Moran pointed out how "Wilson accuses the administration of trying to silence potential critics." After a clip from Monday's GMA of Wilson claiming the White House outed his wife in an effort to "intimidate others" into not speaking out about Bush misstatements on Iraq, Moran, unlike the CBS and NBC reporters, picked up fresh comments from Novak a few hours earlier on CNN's Crossfire: "And today, Novak denied White House officials had sought him out to plant the story."
Novak on Crossfire: "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this."
Moran concluded by lamenting a lack of Bush team zeal to get to the truth: "But while Novak says no one called him to leak this he admits two senior administration officials told about it in other conversations, so that leaves the question, who? Tonight a top aide quoted the President as saying he wants to get to the bottom of it, but Peter, there is no internal White House investigation. This very difficult leak investigation is all in the hands of the Department of Justice."

Next, Kate Snow looked at how President Reagan in 1982 signed a law making it illegal to divulge the names of CIA agents and she played this clip from former President Bush in 1999: "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned on his broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Under increasing pressure, the FBI and the Justice Department counter-espionage division now say they are investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name, a federal crime that could endanger the agent and compromise her contacts. CBS's John Roberts at the White House reports there are politically explosive accusations about who might have leaked that name and why, and growing calls for an independent investigation."

Roberts referred to Plame as a "covert" operative: "It was columnist Robert Novak who first published the leak in July, naming the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson as a covert CIA operative. He says the information came from two senior administration officials. Joe Wilson claims the leak was retaliation after he debunked the President's claim in the State of the Union that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa. The trail, he believes, goes right to the President's top political advisor, Karl Rove."
Joe Wilson, former Acting U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: "I have a very reputable source who told me that, that all of this had been condoned by Karl Rove himself or, at a minimum, not stopped by him for a, for a full week after the story was circulating."

Roberts continued: "The first President Bush called people who leak such information 'the most insidious of traitors.' Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner says they put at risk the entire network of contacts an operative has established."

Roberts concluded: "Both the Justice Department and the CIA today played down the significance of the probe, saying it was one of some 50 leaks they chase down every year. But Democrats today said the high profile nature of this one demands a thorough and independent review. The White House today rejected calls from several ranking Democrats to appoint an outside counsel to look into the matter, saying the Justice Department was the appropriate place for the investigation. And they stood behind the President's political advisor, saying that the idea that Karl Rove was somehow involved was quote, 'ridiculous.'"

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw led by proclaiming: "In Washington tonight, the big question ricocheting through the halls of Congress, the White House, the CIA, the Justice Department and newsrooms is this: Did administration officials deliberately blow the cover of a CIA agent as a measure of revenge against her husband?"

Jim Miklaszewski asked: "So, who leaked the information? Wilson has suggested White House political director Karl Rove at least encouraged reporters to spread the information about Wilson's wife."
Wilson, August 21 on a panel at a Democratic Congressman's "Inslee Issue Forum" forum in Seattle: "It's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

But on Monday's Good Morning America, Wilson had backed away from the very hostile statement which Miklaszewski highlighted, telling Charles Gibson: "In one speech I gave out in Seattle not too long ago I mentioned the name Karl Rove. I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment. I don't have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak, but I have great confidence that at a minimum he condoned it and certainly did nothing to shut it down."

Speaking of a morning show, they have been much more restrained than their evening colleagues. Monday's Today barely mention the subject and on Tuesday held itself to an interview segment with Senator Charles Schumer and a top of the hour story. Tuesday's Good Morning America ran a story but offered no interview segment after running the interview Monday with Wilson.

For perspectives on the "scandal" not touched by the networks, check out a couple of National Review Online postings:

-- Marc Levin opined in a September 29 piece: "When I first heard about Wilson's wife, my immediate thought was: Wilson created the very circumstance he now complains about. He voluntarily drew attention to himself and, by extension, his family. He interjected himself into an intense international policy dispute regarding the war with Iraq....While I'm all in favor of investigating national-security-related leaks, we'll never know if foreign-intelligence agencies, among others, had already learned of Plame's position thanks to the attention her husband drew to himself by taking the Niger fact-finding assignment in the first place. Like it or not, Wilson bears some responsibility for his wife's predicament." See: www.nationalreview.com

-- Cliff May explored Wilson's left-wing political advocacy in a piece titled, "Was it really a secret that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?" May recalled how "Wilson had long been a bitter critic of the current administration, writing in such left-wing publications as The Nation that under President Bush, 'America has entered one of it periods of historical madness' and had 'imperial ambitions.'" For May's piece: www.nationalreview.com

U.S. Wins Iraq Battle, But CBS Portrays
U.S. as Long Term Loser

Can't win for winning. After an all-day battle in Iraq, U.S. soldiers were victorious over some terrorists, killing an unknown number of terrorists, taking over a dozen into custody and suffering just three injuries after one U.S. soldier was killed in an initial surprise attack which sparked one short and one long battle. But to CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, the U.S. came up the loser. "No matter how many Iraqi rebels were killed or injured," she warned, "the danger is for the coalition that this will be seen as a heroic battle and will attract fighters from all over the country or even across the border."

Palmer showcased a crowd of Iraqis: "With planes and helicopters roaring overhead, the people of Khaldiyah remain defiant. They are pro-Saddam, they say, but most of all they're anti-American."

Dan Rather set up the September 29 CBS Evening News story from Iraq: "This was an especially violent day in the ongoing battle for Iraq. U.S. forces engaged in a major extended battle with ferocious firepower on both sides against enemies west of Baghdad. Exactly who was in the enemy force is unclear. This followed ambush attacks that killed another American soldier, the 309th to die since the war began. As CBS's Elizabeth Palmer reports from Khaldiyah, today's big major battle was only one element in an effort to root out a myriad of various enemy forces in Iraq."

Palmer began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "America rolled out the big guns backed up by fighter planes and helicopter gun ships in a battle that lasted most of the day. In the hostile area west of Baghdad, two separate attacks on U.S. convoys killed one soldier and wounded three more. In the town of Habaniyah, a mine exploded as a humvee drove past. Just minutes earlier, a few miles west, a bomb wounded soldiers in a U.S. patrol. Witnesses say when the Americans tried to evacuate them, rebels hiding in nearby houses opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades. The prolonged fighting in the village of Khaldiyah drove many people to seek cover. One local woman was injured and several houses were destroyed. The military says 14 Iraqis were also detained."
Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Swisher, 34th Armored Division: "We are a well-trained and disciplined force, and we will respond when attacked."
Palmer: "The fight in Khaldiyah went on for hours. And no matter how many Iraqi rebels were killed or injured, the danger is for the coalition that this will be seen as a heroic battle and will attract fighters from all over the country or even across the border. Talid Khalif (sp?) says he saw Arab fighters in the village just before today's attack. 'They were from Qatar,' he says. 'We brought them food, and they said they had come to fight the Americans.'"
Palmer over video of a chanting crowd: "With planes and helicopters roaring overhead, the people of Khaldiyah remain defiant. They are pro-Saddam, they say, but most of all they're anti-American. In an all-out effort to break the back of this resistance, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police joined forces in a sweeping series of raids across northern Iraq and in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit. Ninety-two Iraqis were arrested. But in the end, all but four were released. Numbers like that show the U.S. military will have to intensify its search if it's to destroy such an elusive enemy. Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, Khaldiyah."

But even when they win, CBS portrays them as losing, so they can't win.

NBC Faults Kazan for Naming Communists,
Raises Stifling Garofalo

If someone disclosed that people he knew were neo-Nazis he'd be treated as a hero by the media, but not if in the 1950s he revealed the affiliations of those with an affinity for communism, then an active worldwide campaign to enslave, murder and oppress millions. Instead of portraying the late film director Elia Kazan, who passed away on Sunday, as a hero for having provided, to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, names of those dedicated to undermining the U.S. and empowering our enemy, three NBC News stars condemned him.

Tom Brokaw recalled how "in 1952 Kazan earned a much darker notoriety when he offered the names of colleagues he claimed to be communist to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many felt betrayed." On Today, Katie Couric asserted: "Elia Kazan directed some of America's most enduring films and plays yet he'll always be remembered for what many call a betrayal."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann managed to link the supposed suppression of dissent by the Dixie Chicks, Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo with Kazan as he maintained that "2003 was not the first time dissent, the American virtue, the unique right of us Americans, suddenly became an ugly word." Olbermann insisted that "when we talk about the death of Elia Kazan, overshadowing his work was the time he unreluctantly and unremorsefully identified eight of his personal friends as communists during his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee."

More details on those three stories aired on Monday, September 29:

-- Today: Katie Couric, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, set up a profile of Kazan's life: "One of the most critically acclaimed and controversial directors of the 20th century died Sunday at the age of 94. Elia Kazan directed some of America's most enduring films and plays yet he'll always be remembered for what many call a betrayal."

James Hatori reported: "In 1952 Kazan was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He eventually named colleagues with whom he associated while a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s. Much of Hollywood scorned him then and some still did in 1999 when the Academy presented him with a lifetime achievement award. While many there stood to applaud others sat on their hands."

Amongst those shown not applauding: Nick Nolte and Ed Harris.

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw went through his film achievements before turning sour: "In 1952 Kazan earned a much darker notoriety when he offered the names of colleagues he claimed to be communist to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many felt betrayed. Some never forgave him. When he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999 a few refused to acknowledge his accomplishments."

Brokaw did at least conclude: "But in the end, it is the art of Elia Kazan, much more than the controversy, that endures."

-- MSNBC's Countdown. Keith Olbermann, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, used Kazan's death as an opportunity for a lengthy commentary railing against Bill O'Reilly and defending Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. Olbermann's rant is lengthy, but it's worth reading in full for its mendacity:
"Before we get to the top of tonight's Countdown, a story that kind of sets it up. The lawsuit against Al Franken has popped back into the news tonight. Commentator Bill O'Reilly told Time magazine that he now doesn't regret pushing Fox to sue Franken, which is interesting because right after the lawsuit failed, O'Reilly had denied pushing Fox to sue Franken, and because the title of Franken's book is 'Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.' O'Reilly went a little further, though, than merely doing a 180 on his responsibility for clogging America's courts with another frivolous suit. He said that Franken, quote, 'is being run by some very powerful forces in this country, and we need to confront it.' And, 'President Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet between his eyes.' We'll skip for the moment the topic heading 'paranoia' and the entire subject of just how Mr. O'Reilly knows what Andrew Jackson would have done and whether Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet through Mr. Franken's head -- or Mr. O'Reilly's.
"Let's skip all that and talk instead about dissent. This has been a year in which dissent, especially taking an unpopular or minority political opinion, has been attacked by people like Mr. O'Reilly. In the last year, it has not been enough just to disagree with dissenters. Many of us have decided it is necessary to silence them. Which is really kind of ironic since it is political dissent that created this country and sustained it and improved it. But ask the Dixie Chicks about how well this year we Americans kept our pledge to be tolerant of dissent, our delight in disagreeing with your opinion but being willing to fight to the death to protect your right to express it.
"Or ask the Janeane Garofalos of this world who are being told to shut up because their political opinions have no merit because they're merely on television, told to shut up by people who express their own political opinions merely to try to get ratings on television. Or the Al Frankens who wind up getting sued by the Bill O'Reillys of this world, and when the suit gets literally laughed out of court, the Bill O'Reillys of this world decide Al Franken is the tip of some conspiracy to get them and in some other era would have been shot through the head by the President. Uh-huh. Earth to Bill? Come on home, your porridge is getting cold!
"I've done this long preamble to the number one story as a way of letting recent history remind us of not-so-recent history. 2003 was not the first time dissent, the American virtue, the unique right of us Americans, suddenly became an ugly word. Happens every few decades, like when they passed the Alien and Sedition Acts around 1800. Hell, in a way, the Civil War was about stifling dissent. The laws said slavery was just fine. The people who changed that were dissenters. And you have your Palmer raids in the '20s and your communist blacklist in the '40s and '50s, and there's the tip of tonight's number one story.
"All the witch hunts against political contrarianists in our history have ended the same way. The American political system was strong enough to prevail against mistaken ideologies. When the dissenters were wrong, the country got stronger. When the dissenters were right, the country got stronger. And everybody who ever tried to shut the dissenters up wound up hated and reviled, their accomplishments overshadowed by their lack of faith in freedom of speech. The people who arrested them, trashed them, sued them, testified against them.
"There's the number one story. We should be talking about the accomplishments of a 94-year-old movie maker of 'Streetcar Named Desire' and 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.' Instead, when we talk about the death of Elia Kazan, overshadowing his work was the time he unreluctantly and unremorsefully identified eight of his personal friends as communists during his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Our number one story, NBC's James Hattori now on the life of Elia Kazan."

Kazan is best-known for the movies East of Eden (1955), On the Waterfront (1954) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). For a bio of Kazan and a picture of him, see his page on the Internet Movie Database: us.imdb.com

Dan Rather Credits Tax Cut for Higher
Consumer Spending

Miracle of the day: Dan Rather reported a benefit caused by the tax cuts. On Monday's CBS Evening News, Rather acknowledged:
"Some evidence came today that the federal tax cut may indeed be encouraging Americans to spend. The government says after tax income rose about one percent in August [0.9 percent] and Americans increased their spending almost as much [0.8 percent]."

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NBC to Air Law & Order Episode Inspired
by Jayson Blair Case

"Ripped from the headlines," Wednesday's episode of NBC's Law & Order is inspired by the Jayson Blair case.

A currently running promo for the show, which revolves around New York City police detectives and prosecutors, promises: "NBC's Wednesday Law & Order is all new. Ripped from the headlines, a big time reporter fakes a news story. Now a man is dead. How could a fake news story lead to a murder? All new Law & Order, NBC Wednesday."

"All new" as opposed to just plain "new."

Law & Order airs after The West Wing at 10pm EDT/PDT, 9pm CDT/MDT. NBC's Web page for the show: www.nbc.com

Of course, the real Blair case did not lead to anyone getting killed, just top editors Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd losing their jobs.

# Scheduled to appear tonight, Tuesday night, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Howard Dean.

-- Brent Baker