MediaWatch: November 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 11

Huaung Scored Better Than Thompson

Networks Helped Clinton

Not only were the Senate fundraising committee hearings buried by the deaths of Versace and Diana, but a new study from the Center for Media Public Affairs (CMPA) discovered that Democrats got much better press than Republicans. The CMPA story count matches previous MediaWatch studies which determined that network stories on Versace outnumbered ones on fundraising by six-to-one and pieces related to Diana outdistanced fundraising by seven-to-one.

CMPA looked just at the 35 days when hearings were held and found that on the broadcast network evening news shows in July "there were nearly twice as many stories on serial killer Andrew Cunanan (67) as there were on the hearings (37)." The second round "produced fewer than one fourth as many stories (19) as the death of Princess Diana (88)."

The President fared better than anyone else in the few stories which did air. CMPA "noted every positive and negative evaluation about all individuals involved in the controversy" whether from a reporter or in a soundbite in order to measure "each individual’s success or failure in getting the media to carry his/her side of the story."

"No one was more successful in this endeavor than Bill Clinton," the September/October edition of the group’s newsletter documented. "Just as we found in our 1994 report on the Whitewater controversy, the President fared better than either his political opponents or other members of his own administration in getting his side of the story out over the airwaves. Three out of every four evaluations of Mr. Clinton were favorable or supportive of his behavior, a far higher positive proportion than any other individual received."

In fact, Clinton collected the least negative press (at 25 percent) of all those measured. He rated far better than Fred Thompson who got 79 percent negative versus 21 percent positive press. Even John Huang did slightly better than Thompson: 69 percent negative to 31 percent positive. And Charlie Trie fared only a little worse than the Senator, as 17 percent of network assessments of the fugitive were positive. Al Gore went 50-50 and ex-Energy Secretary O’Leary garnered 36 percent positive press, 15 points better than Thompson.

As CMPA explained: "Democrats on the whole fared better than Republicans in defending their motives and behavior over the airwaves. Overall, members of the Clinton administration received nearly balanced coverage (46% positive to 54% negative)." In contrast, "evaluations of Republicans were 70 percent negative overall, and Republicans in Congress fared even worse — 74 percent negative."