MediaWatch: August 10, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 13


Sticking to Sex.
As if the Monica Lewinsky story was the only scandal in Washington, TV reporters missed chances in July to expand the Clinton scandals beyond "just sex."

The Washington Post published two bombshells July 10. Bill Miller reported a federal judge ordered the FEC to review Judicial Watch’s allegations that the Clinton administration and the DNC offered spots on overseas trade missions in exchange for donations. George Lardner disclosed that Al Gore fundraiser Howard Glicken pleaded guilty to soliciting and laundering $20,000 in foreign money in 1993 for Democratic Senate campaigns.

On July 11, the Post and The Washington Times reported Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the Defense Department to seize and search the computer of Pentagon official Clifford Bernath, who admitted to leaking Linda Tripp’s security clearance form. Lamberth ordered the seizure after Bernath deleted documents from his computer.

Nine days later, The Washington Times added to the Tripp story with a Bill Sammon report that Tripp was among the nearly 1,000 names on a revised list of FBI files obtained by the White House. TV coverage of all these? Zero.

Grand Old Losers.
"Nelson Rockefeller. Jacob Javits. Mac Mathias. Lowell Weicker. All once proud and powerful members of the Republican Party. And all Northeastern moderates." On the July 21 Inside Politics, CNN’s William Schneider pushed the media belief that power lies in the center for the GOP: "With conservatives controlling the GOP leadership, moderate Republicans have become marginalized in their own party. Do they have a future? We tracked them down in their native habitat: Connecticut."

After quotes from local Republicans about how most Americans are pro-choice, and oppose the NRA and the religious right, he concluded: "If the Republicans lose Congress and the White House in 2000, it could provoke a showdown in the GOP. The experience of losing election after election might teach the Republicans the same lesson that it taught Democrats: power lies in the center."

But if "moderates" win in Connecticut, why did Weicker lose? In fact, in 1988, his last year in office, Weicker, earned an American Conservative Union ranking of 4 on a scale of 100. His Democratic opponent, Joseph Lieberman, multiplied that score by eight in 1989. But Schneider’s thesis conflicts with reality: when Northeastern Republicans controlled the party it was in the minority for close to 50 years until the 1994 conservative Republican revolution; or that in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan ran as a conservative he was overwhelmingly elected twice.

Roman Roadblock.
Peter Jennings found the newest health problem on the July 21 World News Tonight: Catholic hospitals. Jennings asserted: "When a Catholic hospital is the only one nearby are patients losing some of their options? We’ll take A Closer Look....This is not about cost. It’s about ideology. What happens when a Catholic hospital is the only one around."

Michele Norris investigated what happened when the Catholic hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire entered into a partnership with another city hospital, "a partnership formed to help cut costs, but because of the Catholic church’s rules about birth control and abortion, there have been severe consequences for patients."

Norris ran two soundbites from Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice and a clip from an upset doctor, but just one soundbite from the head of the Catholic Hospital Association. Norris warned: "In many cases the merger leaves the Catholic hospital with a virtual monopoly on hospital care. Anyone who wants access to one of the restricted services has no choice but to go elsewhere. That’s the dilemma that patients now face in 76 communities across 26 states."

Then Jennings talked to medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, who suggested there was nothing wrong with a hospital owner running it as they see fit. But Jennings countered: "A cynic on the other hand might say that here is the Catholic church trying to get around the abortion laws in the country and force its will on an increasingly larger number of people. What do you say to that?"