The New York Times and other media outlets reported this morning that the Justice Department has opened a preliminary investigation into whether Al Gore solicited Texas trial lawyers for six-figure contributions in 1995 with the understanding that President Clinton would veto a Republican tort-reform bill in exchange.

NETWORK COVERAGE? Zero on today's morning shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. All the shows covered the Hillary Clinton-Rick Lazio debate, and ABC and NBC devoted full stories to how Gore friend Tom Downey mysteriously received Bush debate preparations and turned them over to the FBI.

Two days ago, The New York Times recycled a two-week old story on the word "rats" being visible in one-thirtieth of a second in a Republican ad.

NETWORK COVERAGE? The "rats" complaint drew full stories on CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today, while ABC's Good Morning America asked George Stephanopoulos and liberal advertising critic Bob Garfield to analyze it. On Tuesday night, the complaint topped evening news shows on ABC, CNN, and MSNBC, and attracted full news stories on CBS and NBC. Yesterday, NBC's Today treated as newsworthy the PR gimmick of two Democratic Senators saying they will ask the FCC to investigate the "rats" claim. The show also brought aboard Newsweek's Howard Fineman to point out how the media-generated controversy is blocking Bush from getting his message out.

"The message from the networks is not so subliminal," declared Tim Graham, MRC Director of Media Analysis. "Anti-Gore allegations are not worth repeating."