Hsia Shunned; "Gun Control Roaring Back"; Jay Nicer Than Dave?
2) Fresh shootings are bringing "gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country," insisted NBC anchor Brian Williams. Andrea Mitchell pointed out: "Among the states with the most lenient gun laws...George Bush's Texas and John McCain's Arizona." CBS's Dan Rather held the "gun lobby" accountable for the latest deaths.
3) Good Morning America commiserated with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy about the failure of Congress to pass more gun laws. NBC's Today gave Bill Clinton a live forum to push his gun agenda, but Katie Couric challenged him several times from the right.
6) Al Sharpton got the first question at a Democratic debate. "What would the press do if there were a debate at Bob Jones University, and Bob Jones III...got the first question?" Fred Barnes answered: "They'd riot."
A federal jury convicted Maria Hsia on Thursday on five counts related to the illegal funneling of over $100,000 to Democrats and the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. Recalling how she directed the infamous Buddhist temple money laundering event featuring Al Gore, CNN's Charles Bierbauer suggested that "may be an albatross on" Gore's "campaign neck." Well, if it does become one it won't be because of network TV news.
While CNN's The World Today ran a story and a half of Hsia and her ties to Gore and FNC's Fox Report gave it half a story, following a full one on Special Report with Brit Hume, ABC's World News Tonight allocated a piddling 19 seconds and the CBS Evening News devoted a mere 23 seconds to the story. But at least ABC and CBS noticed the verdict. Not a syllable about it appeared Thursday night on the NBC Nightly News or MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams.
Instead, NBC's newscast ran full stories pushing gun control, on flooding in Mozambique and explaining "phased retirement" in which workers toil part time and simultaneously get a pension and a paycheck. MSNBC's hour featured six minutes of the "God Squad," and full stories on the late night appearances by McCain and Bush and John Rocker's return. Plus, an eleven minute re-run of a Dateline story on how two murderers were inspired by hate Web sites.
Here's the totality of March 2 broadcast network coverage:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings took 19 seconds to tell viewers: "In Washington today, Maria Hsia, a key figure in the fundraising abuses in the 1996 Democratic campaign, has been found guilty of lying to prosecutors about more than $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Much of it came from the famous campaign event which Al Gore attended at a Buddhist temple in 1996."
-- CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather consumed 23 seconds in relaying: "A federal court jury in Washington today convicted Democratic Party fundraiser Maria Hsia on all five felony counts of funneling illegal donations to Democrats, including the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. Hsia is a long-time friend and political supporter of Al Gore. Asked for comment the Vice President said it was, and I quote, 'A sad day' for his friend and supporter."
Another shooting, another media effort to push gun control without regard to whether any of the proposed new regulations would have had any impact on preventing the latest tragedies. On Thursday morning and evening the broadcast networks promoted the cause high on the liberal agenda, though ABC's evening story approached balance. (See item #3 below for details about the morning shows.)
Picking up on how Clinton "blamed the current stalemate on heat from the NRA," CBS's Dan Rather blamed the NRA for three shootings, asserting "the heat being reflected back on the gun lobby now includes" three killers he cited. CBS reporter Jim Stewart highlighted the idea of banning handguns before lamenting that like after past shootings, there will be a close vote in Congress, "but there won't be any new gun control laws passed." CBS played a taped interview with Clinton in which Rather painted the NRA and gun owners as the impediment to rational action.
NBC anchor Brian Williams insisted the latest shootings are bringing "gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country." Andrea Mitchell asked and answered: "Why won't Congress act? Critics say the NRA outspends gun control advocates fifty to one." Mitchell tied the story to the campaign, gratuitously asserting: "And among the states with the most lenient gun laws, gun control supporters say George Bush's Texas and John McCain's Arizona."
Thursday night, March 2, ABC, CBS and NBC all put gun control into their news agenda, but their coverage ranged from balanced on ABC to one-sided liberal advocacy on NBC with CBS somewhere in between:
-- ABC's World News Tonight followed the liberal
agenda in running story on the status of gun control, but at least provided a
comparatively balanced report with soundbites in favor of gun control by
two-to-one. As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, John Cochran
Cochran then outlined how Clinton wants to make
manufacturers provide trigger locks, ban the importation of large capacity
ammunition clips and impose background checks for purchases at gun shows, all
proposals bottled up in Congress. Cochran continued:
-- CBS Evening News. With an on-screen graphic declaring
"Armed America," Dan Rather opened the show:
Stewart began: "The dead aren't even buried yet in the nation's latest gun tragedies and already the same urgent cries are being heard in Washington. President Clinton today said he would call a congressional summit meeting at the White House next week to try to get some sort of gun control legislation passed while Republican leaders insist many on both sides see no need for any new laws at all."
Stewart played a clip of Congressman Henry Hyde saying
laws don't stop gun violations and a soundbite of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre
complaining that the Clinton administration won't enforce current laws.
Stewart ran through Clinton's proposals before he took on Clinton from the
From Capitol Hill Stewart concluded by lamenting the uphill struggle for gun control: "Every time a co-worker goes crazy or someone shoots up a schoolyard they have that debate up here and every year the vote to tighten up gun control laws gets a little bit closer. And most experts believe that's what will happen again. It will be close but there won't be any new gun control laws passed this year either."
CBS then played a tape of Rather interviewing Bill
Clinton. Rather's three questions:
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams trumpeted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The killing of the six-year-old by another first grader, yesterday's shootings spree in the state of Pennsylvania, it's all combining to bring gun control roaring back as a big issue in this country."
Reporter Andrea Mitchell complained: "Polls
consistently show a strong majority of Americans want gun control, but for
eight months legislation has been stuck in Congress going nowhere. After the
latest tragedies, the President this morning on the Today program."
Mitchell tied the debate to the campaign, citing the two
leading Republican candidates: "And among the states with the most
lenient gun laws, gun control supporters say George Bush's Texas and John
McCain's Arizona. McCain today."
Just the opposite from Thursday evening, Thursday morning NBC offered the least imbalanced coverage while ABC delivered one-sided advocacy for gun control. Though NBC's Today gave Bill Clinton a forum to promote his gun control lobbying effort, dedicating all of the 7am half hour after the news update to a live interview with him, at least Katie Couric challenged him several times with anti-gun control arguments.
ABC's Good Morning America, in contrast, gave itself over to a gun control advocate, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, making her their only guest on the subject. Charles Gibson fretted: "What does it say about the United States Congress and your colleagues that you can't even pass childproof locks on the guns?"
-- Good Morning America, March 2. Previewing the 7am
half hour, co-host Diane Sawyer anguished over how Congress won't pass more
Setting up the subsequent interview, co-host Charles
Gibson, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, promoted McCarthy:
Gibson offered up a mild challenge: "If the laws of Michigan had been fully enforced, that gun that the young boy picked up on Tuesday and took to school and shot that little girl, that gun wouldn't have been there for him to pick up. So do we need new laws or just work on the old ones?"
GMA held her through the 7:25am break, with Gibson posing this leading question as his only one in the 7:30am segment: "There have been so many shootings by children of other children in a series of schools that culminated in Columbine, that terrible tragedy there; then on Tuesday, a six-year-old boy kills another. What does it say about the United States Congress and your colleagues that you can't even pass childproof locks on the guns?"
-- NBC's Today. Interviewing President Clinton in the 7am half hour, co-host Katie Couric actually challenged his assumptions on several occasions. Here are the questions she posed, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"Let me ask you first of all when you heard the
story of a six year old boy in Michigan, a first grader, bringing a gun to
school and shooting to death his six-year-old classmate, what was your
Couric went back and forth with Clinton for a bit over whether the Republican presidential candidates favor trigger locks. Her last substantive question: "An NRA spokesman actually told us last night that this isn't about making guns safer it's about prosecuting criminals and that your Justice Department hasn't done enough in that area."
-- CBS's The Early Show brought aboard Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. As noted by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, co-host Jane Clayson treated him as a hostile witness, demanding:
"In light of these two shootings this week, isn't
there a point when you must admit that stricter gun control would help put an
end to this violence?"
The unknown lefty reporter. Waiting to appear on MSNBC just after 9:30am Thursday morning to discuss coverage of John McCain, the MRC's Tim Graham watched MSNBC's live coverage of a press briefing being held by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in which he commented on gun control. Before MSNBC cut away Graham noticed that they broadcast the first question from a reporter at the Justice Department table.
Actually, more than a question. The reporter, whose face
was not shown and whose name was not displayed, offered some policy advice on
how to scare Congress into passing gun control:
Certainly a frustrated liberal.
On the presidential campaign front Thursday night, CBS held its coverage to a brief item by anchor Dan Rather on what the candidates did during the day followed by a forecast from Bob Schieffer about which states McCain and Bush are favored to win on Super Tuesday.
On the NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers provided a story on how Bush is pushing his education plan in order to show a contrast with McCain while McCain is angry at a Bush radio ad in New York on how McCain opposed funding breast cancer research. She confirmed that McCain's Web site lists two research centers as pork barrel recipients he opposed, but she countered that he voted for major breast cancer research funding bills. Myers ended by showing an ad, which attacks McCain's environmental record, from a "mysterious new group" named Republicans for Clean Air.
Anne Thompson got about a minute to look at how McCain's aides admit he's gotten off message as he's received a backlash from his attacks on the Religious Right.
ABC's World News Tonight ignored the day's events and marveled at the hold Ronald Reagan still has on Californians. Peter Jennings announced: "It is sad, in a way, that former President Reagan is so ill that he can't enjoy all the flattery that he's getting from this year's Republican candidates. John McCain and George W. Bush are practically trying to morph themselves into Ronald Reagan, too, because they know, as California does, that in that state, riding the Reagan legacy can be powerful stuff."
Jim Wooten showed how McCain and Bush are both claiming Reagan's legacy, concluding: "Bush enjoys broad popularity among Latinos and Asians. And his firm grip on Republicans who see more of Ronald Reagan in him than in Senator McCain puts California well within the grasp of Governor Bush. For the moment here, the Gipper still counts for something."
The media did not react with outrage at how Bill Bradley and Al Gore, in responding to a question from Jeff Greenfield at Wednesday's Democratic debate, defended the character of Al Sharpton. But on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on the Fox News Channel, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes pointed out the media's bias when it comes to condemning racial extremists linked to each party. (See the March 2 CyberAlert for Greenfield's question and excerpts of how Gore and Bradley responded.)
Barnes wondered: "What would the press do if there
were a debate at Bob Jones University, and Bob Jones III, the President of Bob
Jones, got the first question."
Commenting on Gore's defense of Sharpton at this week's debate, Barnes argued: "When Al Gore talks about redemption, it's fine to give redemption. This guy hasn't asked for redemption. He hasn't apologized. He hasn't said he was sorry. He hasn't apologized to that, those police in upstate New York who he knowingly accused of raping a woman, knowing that they didn't do it, in the Tawana Brawley case. He hasn't apologized for any of that stuff."
Did McCain receive softer treatment from Jay Leno on Wednesday night than Bush got from David Letterman? At the end of Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume FNC showed a video contrasting how each were treated the night before by the two hosts. "There have been charges the media have been soft on McCain and tough on Bush," Hume observed, challenging viewers: "See if you think that's true when it comes to the late night TV hosts."
Judge for yourself. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post, in RealPlayer format, the video of clips from both shows compiled by FNC. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
In Thursday's CyberAlert I described Bush's Late Show appearance as "painful" to watch. New York Times critic Caryn James came to the same conclusion. "Bush Muffs Letterman's Late-Night Opportunity," read the headline over her March 2 review.
Letterman's staff realized it didn't go well and
like me attributed some of the problem to Bush appearing via satellite. In the
Thursday edition of The Wahoo Gazette on the Late Show Web page, a daily
chronicle about Letterman's show, Michael Z. McIntee admonished:
Indeed. -- Brent Baker 
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