Media Reality Check

A s the Clinton presidency winds toward an end, reporters seem determined to banish scandal from the lame-duck era. The Cox Report drew only two stories on the NBC Nightly News, while ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News aired three. Since then, their inattention has only grown. A new MRC Special Report comparing coverage of the Cox Report's release on May 25 to the congressional Iran-Contra report's release on November 18, 1987 identifies four network methods in deflating the Chinagate story, which stand in stark contrast to their coverage of Iran-Contra. 1. When forced to include the story,... continue reading
T he night before the House and Senate Iran-Contra committees released their final report in 1987, ABC's Ted Koppel noted "the central question has been that echo from Watergate: how much did the President know and when did he know it?" That question has been anything but central in media accounts of the Chinese espionage scandal as Clinton's line has evolved: March 19: Clinton was first forced to respond to press conference inquiries about Chinese espionage, and he denied having any knowledge that espionage occurred on his watch. [See box.] April 8: Clinton met the press with Chinese premier Zhu... continue reading
F ox News Channel airs the slogan "We report, you decide." On the Chinese spy scandal, FNC has been doing the reporting, while the other networks have offered almost nothing to help people make a decision. FNC's Carl Cameron is all alone on the TV China beat. June 3: Testing a Second Missile. Cameron reported: "This has caught U.S. military and intelligence officials off guard. China now plans to move up its development timetable and later this year will test not one but two new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. The second is particularly surprising because it... continue reading
T his week may signal the official media kickoff of Campaign 2000 and the arrival of Bill Clinton's lame-duck status. But it also marks the start of the national media's quadrennial attempt to drive conservative influence out of the GOP. Compelled in part by impressive early poll ratings, reporters have praised George W. Bush's first outings. But will he pass the media's litmus tests? So far, reporters suggest Bush's "compassionate conservatism" slogan makes him sound like the Un-Reagan, but will he go further to repudiate his party's conservative base? On ABC's Good Morning America Monday, co-host Charles Gibson asked Michael... continue reading
A BC signaled the kind of week it would display on Good Morning America last week by replacing ill co-host Charles Gibson on Tuesday with George Stephanopoulos. (One can only imagine the liberal spit takes if ABC's conservative pundits George Will or William Kristol filled in as the "objective" co-host.) But the highlight of the week was the Friday morning show, which featured 45 minutes of air time for Bill and Hillary Clinton's live town meeting with teens on the topic of school shootings - without commercial interruption. If Hillary Clinton runs for Senate, would ABC be willing to allow... continue reading
H ow do theorists who insist the media have "hammered" Bill Clinton explain the ongoing pattern of network omissions of negative stories on Clinton's foreign policy? Last Thursday, ex-President Jimmy Carter lashed into Clinton's Kosovo policy in The New York Times, writing, "our destruction of civilian life has now become senseless and excessively brutal." The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows never covered that. After years of network omissions on Chinese donations and espionage, surely the media that enjoys "hammering" Clinton would obsess for days on the bipartisan Cox report, which concluded that Chinese espionage is a serious and ongoing... continue reading
T oday, a special House task force on Chinese espionage chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) will issue its report. Will the networks advance this story - or will they continue to bury it? 1. Fumbled First Report. The Cox committee's first report on December 30, 1998, drew next to nothing on the Big Three networks. The first report noted the bipartisan finding that national security was harmed when the American companies Loral and Hughes Electronics gave the Chinese missile technology while assisting in satellite launches. That night, ABC gave it 22 seconds, NBC 26. CBS did a full story,... continue reading
T he Gore campaign drew little media attention with their May 11 announcement of a new campaign chairman: ex-Rep. Tony Coelho, a media darling before he resigned in 1989. The Washington Post found Coelho failed to report on his financial disclosure forms a $50,000 loan from S&L executive Thomas Spiegel to buy $100,000 in junk bonds from Drexel Burnham Lambert. As head of the Democrats' House campaign committee, Coelho specialized in soliciting corrupt S&L barons. CNN reporter Brooks Jackson's book Honest Graft noted Coelho had free use of the yacht of top S&L crook Don Dixon with free food and... continue reading
F riday's morning shows continued the pattern of avoidance in reporting the latest New York Times scoop on Chinese espionage, the Dong Feng missile. ABC's Good Morning America had two sentences, NBC's Today had two sentences, and CBS This Morning did nothing. Here's the last week of evasions: May 7: The Los Angeles Times reported a preview of what Johnny Chung would tell the House Government Reform panel. Chung said he was told China had funneled $500,000 to ex-White House aide Mark Middleton's firm; that Charlie Trie approached the Chinese asking for $1 million to donate to the Democrats; and... continue reading
Read the MRC's Special Report: Network Apathy Toward Chinese Contributions and Espionage T om Brokaw interviewed President Clinton for last night's NBC Nightly News . Unlike Dan Rather's syrupy 60 Minutes II Q&A on March 31, he actually asked a question about Chinese espionage: "Your critics say the Clinton doctrine is we bomb the small countries, Iraq and Kosovo, but when the big countries begin to give us trouble we turn the other way. China and nuclear secrets is the most recent example of that. Isn't that a bigger risk really to the long term history of the United States... continue reading