Nets Neuter Newt, Puff and Enrich Hillary

- A February 1995 MediaWatch study found 27 network evening news stories on the Gingrich book deal from December 22, 1994 to February 2, 1995 - seven each for ABC, CBS, and NBC, and six on CNN's World News. The networks first reported the book deal on December 22. "We'll hear more about this one," CBS reporter Bob Schieffer promised. Schieffer was still hammering Gingrich about it in July (see box).

- Now Simon and Schuster has announced an $8 million book deal with Senator-Elect Hillary Clinton. Simon and Schuster is now an arm of the CBS conglomerate. Will CBS and the other networks show the same ethical ardor in suggesting that Hillary's book deal looks like "buying influence with politically connected authors," and demand she forego any advance, and then despite that move, continue to demand more congressional investigations until every conversation between Mrs. Clinton and her corporate benefactors is parsed for every possible political impact? Don't count on it.

-CBS news reader Julie Chen touched tangentially on the topic on December 15: "Book publishers are lining up to pay millions for Hillary Clinton's White House memoirs. Some say that creates an ethics problem for the future senator. Members of the House were barred from accepting book advances after then Speaker Newt Gingrich got a big money book deal six years ago."

- Reporters pounced on the Gingrich because he tried for months to get the media to cover a September 24, 1997 Washington Post story on Speaker Jim Wright's book deal, which led to Wright's resignation in 1989.

- Of the 27 book deal stories, six mentioned the case of Speaker Wright, either by comparing Democratic attacks on Gingrich to Gingrich's attacks on Wright, or by noting that both stories involved book deals. Gingrich's comparison of his deal to Al Gore's $100,000 advance for Earth in the Balance made it into only two stories.

- For CBS, what goes around comes around. When Gingrich gave up his advance, CBS Face the Nation fill-in host Rita Braver asked Bob Dole on January 1, 1995: "You don't think he'll be called The Four-and-a-Half-Million Dollar Man anymore?" The man behind Hillary's book deal is agent Bob Barnett, Braver's husband. - Tim Graham