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Celebrity News Still Wiping Out Politics

Scoops on O'Leary, Gore, Espy, and Brown's Son Skipped or Downplayed In Week Before Hearings

The recess between Senate fundraising hearings show that without the hearings' news hook, the networks do very little to advance the story. Only NBC broke the mold in August in their interview with Johnny Chung, especially his revelation that he bought access to then-Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary with a $25,000 contribution to her favorite charity. Despite media admissions that Chung's story could trigger an independent counsel, CBS and ABC have yet to breathe a word of it on their morning or evening news shows. Newer developments also show network neglect:

Vice Al Gore. While the August 27 World News Tonight and CBS Evening News both aired full stories on how the White House admitted Gore made dozens more fundraising calls than previously claimed and the DNC acknowledged that not all were charged to the DNC, NBC Nightly News did not air a word about the concessions. CBS This Morning also reported nothing.

Yesterday morning, The Washington Post developed a new angle. Bob Woodward reported that while Attorney General Janet Reno had claimed Gore broke no laws since he was only raising soft-money contributions, the DNC transferred several of the Gore-prodded contributions into their hard-money accounts, prompting the Justice Department to announce a preliminary inquiry into a special counsel.

But last night, only ABC's World News Tonight told viewers about Woodward's hard money/soft money disclosure. In a two-minute interview on NBC Nightly News, Tim Russert discussed today's hearings and the Justice probe. CBS Evening News gave the Justice probe a 17-second anchor brief - one third of the 48 seconds CBS didn't devote to the Diana story.

This morning, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today corrected that lack of hard/soft money distinctions in full stories at 7 am. NBC also aired an interview with Russert. CBS This Morning aired no segment on Gore, but did include a small Gore anchor brief in a first-hour optional newscast for CBS affiliates.

Mike Espy. On the 27th, Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz indicted former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy on 39 counts of taking illegal gifts and witness tampering. All four networks reported one story, but only CBS failed to underline that Smaltz's inquiry has cost $9 million. None noticed print reports that Smaltz's probe also led to more than $3.5 million in fines. Since Espy resigned in October 1994, the Smaltz investigation drew only two full stories and five anchor briefs on all the network news shows combined.

Michael Brown. On the 28th, the Justice Department announced Michael Brown, the son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, pleaded guilty to improperly donating $4,000 to Sen. Ted Kennedy's 1994 re-election campaign. ABC aired an anchor brief, but CBS and NBC ignored it. While the guilty plea might seem like a small story, Ron Brown business partner Nolanda Hill alleged on ABC's June 18 Prime Time Live that Gene and Nora Lum, the first fundraising culprits indicted in the Justice probe, paid Ron Brown $60,000 while he was Commerce Secretary by funneling money through his son. Why not more about the Brown family business? - Tim Graham & Brent Baker