Morning Blackout; 2 of 3 Skip Immunity; Newt's "Asinine" Idea
The MRC's new fax reports, Media Reality Check: A Daily Report on the Media's Coverage of the Campaign Finance Scandal Hearings, can now be read from the MRC home page or directly from: http://mediaresearch.org/archive/realitycheck/archive1997.asp 
1) The morning shows have acted as if there are no hearings or developments on the fundraising front. As noted in yesterday's CyberAlert, the Tuesday night broadcast network shows ignored the debate over immunity for the Buddhist monks and Senator Fred Thompson's declaration that he no longer had "confidence" in the "Justice Department's ability to carry out a credible investigation." (CNN's The World Today, MRC analyst Clay Waters observed, did air a full story Tuesday night.)
The morning show producers agreed with the news judgment of their nighttime colleagues. For the third morning this week, the Wednesday, July 23 Today, Good Morning America and This Morning all failed to mention any aspect of the fundraising scandal. CBS This Morning hasn't mentioned the hearings or fundraising since July 9 -- that's two weeks and numerous revelations ago. On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Charles Gibson led a discussion among Cokie Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Bill Kristol. But, as MRC analyst Gene Eliasen pointed out, they never moved beyond talking about turmoil in the House Republican leadership.
On Wednesday the Senate committee, including all the Democrats but Joseph Lieberman, voted to counter the Justice Department's wishes and grant immunity to four Buddhist monks and a Charlie Trie associate who donated $12,000 while earning $22,000 annually at her job. In the afternoon the committee called the lawyer for the Hong Kong businessman who loaned/gave money to the RNC-affiliated National Policy Forum.
CBS put a priority on informing viewers about the day's developments, placing the story #2 in the newscast. Dan Rather intoned:
"The Senate hearings on campaign fundraising shifted gears today to focus on possible, if not probable, abuses by Republicans. And then there's the matter of obtaining witnesses for the hearings. On that score, the State Department revealed that Secretary Albright now has asked China to help locate Democratic fundraiser, Charlie Trie. The Administration hasn't been nearly as accommodating as far as some other witnesses are concerned, so the Republicans took some action of their own today, as CBS's Bob Schieffer reports now from Capitol Hill."
Bob Schieffer, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson, began:
"In a clear rebuff to the Justice Department, the committee voted immunity from future prosecution to a group of Buddhist nuns, who attended that now infamous fundraiser featuring the Vice President at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. The committee decided it was the only way to find out what really happened at the event, where it turned out questionable campaign contributions from unknown sources were funneled to Democratic coffers. Justice Department officials argued the immunity grants might interfere with future prosecutions, but Republicans suspect Justice is just trying to spare the Vice President future embarrassment, and they're hot about it."
Following soundbites from Senators Sam Brownback and Fred Thompson, Schieffer soon shifted to Republican transgressions:
"As for the nuns, whatever they know, Chairman Thompson now hopes they can tell it all to the committee next week. In the meantime, committee Democrats called in the lawyer of a Hong Kong businessman, hoping to show the Republican Party had been getting questionable campaign donations, too."
Sen. Carl Levin: "It's so obvious that the money, which it got, originated in Hong Kong, and under the law, that kind of source is not permitted."
Schieffer concluded: "Republicans claim the donation was legal because it was made through the Hong Kong company's U.S. subsidiary, but former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour will be questioned further about it tomorrow. Bob Schieffer, CBS News, at the Capitol."
I bet that will perk up ABC and NBC's interest.
-- ABC's World News Tonight hasn't mentioned fundraising since last Friday. Wednesday night they didn't bother with the developments CBS found newsworthy. Instead, ABC led with three stories in a row on the search for Andrew Cunanan. The rest of the show:
-- NBC Nightly News also couldn't find time for fundraising, but did manage time for four Cunanan stories and a piece on another murder -- JonBenet Ramsey. The line-up for the July 23 edition:
3) The National Endowment for the Arts can depend on some enthusiastic backers in the media and Hollywood. A Washington bureau chief thinks NEA funding should be increased while a movie star used a TV news magazine piece to impugn NEA critics.
MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught a bit of big government advocacy from James Warren, Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune. On the July 13 Capital Gang Warren argued:
"I think you can make a very strong case for dramatically increasing the amount of money they get. If you leave it to the free market, you're not going to necessarily be enriching the imagination sensibilities. They are folks in the uptown area of Chicago who get taught classical music precisely because of NEA grants, which are then able to parlay into private contributions. There are renaissance choral music groups in rural Gales Burring. In the South Bronx, one of the most squalid areas of the country, there is a Bronx Museum of Art, which is there precisely because they get about ten percent of their budget from the NEA and have been able to parlay that with the cachet that corporate America respects of the NEA's dollars."
Two days later Dateline NBC's Josh Mankiewicz explored the liberal vs. conservative debate over the NEA. Here's an except from the July 15 story:
Mankiewicz: "What about some Hollywood money? If big name celebrities want to support the NEA, House Speaker Gingrich says they should start their own endowment."
Gingrich: "If the people who come to lobby us, who are famous and rich, would simply dedicate one percent of their gross income to an American endowment for the arts, they would fund a bigger system than the National Endowment for Arts."
Alec Baldwin: "That's one of the most asinine suggestions I've ever heard in my life."
Mankiewicz: "Baldwin says Hollywood stars already donate plenty to the arts and pay plenty in taxes. All of this, he says, isn't about the politics of art; it's about the art of politics."
Baldwin: "We live in a country, now, where the leadership, the political leadership in this country is saying, 'Look, don't look into your hearts, don't look into your souls, look into your wallets!'"
Aren't Baldwin and his wealthy Hollywood buddies looking into everyone's wallets? They financially back Democrats who refuse to cut taxes, especially on rich people like them. Maybe if the liberals they supported would get out of the way, everyone could get a tax cut and then Baldwin would send less to Washington and could implement Newt's idea.
-- Brent Baker