Network producers might have dismissed it as a repeat. But the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee called White House lawyers in to demand answers to what Chairman Dan Burton called "an unprecedented stonewalling of investigations." (Before folding last week, the Senate had a similar hearing.) Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills admitted she and former Counsel Jack Quinn decided to withhold (for a total of 15 months) a White House staffer's memo suggesting President Clinton wanted the newly created White House Office Data Base (WHODB) shared with the Democratic Party.
The House hearing drew no TV coverage, but that's not surprising. The networks ignored The Washington Times on June 6, 1996, when Insight magazine editor Paul Rodriguez first revealed the WHODB.
Seven months later, when Time and the Los Angeles Times "discovered" the story, ABC still ignored it, but CBS and NBC did one lone story on January 30. Dan Rather noted: "Republicans have again attacked the White House for using a database containing 350,000 names. The Republicans say this was a blatant fundraising operation and that taxpayers got stuck with a $1.7 million tab to create it. Correspondent Rita Braver reports why that could be a problem for President Clinton." But it wasn't. The networks ignored a front-page USA Today story on February 7 noting White House documents showed the database had been used for political purposes since its inception in 1994.
The networks also skipped yesterday's story of Whitewater documents found in a tornado-damaged Mercury Marquis, including a $27,000 check made out to Bill Clinton, raising questions of perjury. All four networks led with Iraq.
Evening news, November 6:
ABC's World News Tonight featured a Linda Douglass story promoting Clinton's liberal nominee to head the Justice Department's civil rights division, quota advocate Bill Lann Lee of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Sen. Orrin Hatch was outnumbered four-to-one by Sens. Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Joe Biden, and Karen Narasaki of the liberal Asian Pacific American Consortium.
CBS Evening News followed CBS This Morning by covering the Senate hearing on violent rock and rap lyrics.
NBC Nightly News ran a long piece on how Florida seniors don't think doctors understand their medical needs.
CNN's Inside Politics didn't even carry a brief on the Burton hearing, and neither did The World Today, which did cover the rock and rap hearing.
Morning shows, November 7:
ABC Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee promoted the liberal Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Project in an interview with Betty DeGeneres, Ellen's mom, and HRC leader Elizabeth Birch.
CBSThis Morning warned about herbal diet remedies called "herbal Fen-Phen."
NBC's Today carried a Lisa Myers interview with Sen. Fred Thompson in the first half hour. Some questions were liberal-media standards [See box]. But Myers also asked if the President was involved in a coverup, knowingly accepted illegal contributions, or did anything improper. She began by noting the cost and 33 witnesses who refused to appear, and concluded with the first network mention that the committee may seek perjury charges against Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and former DNC Chairman Don Fowler. - Tim Graham and Brent Baker