LaBella Ignored by 2 of 3 Nets; New Press Secretary an ABC & CNN Vet
2) Charles LaBella, the man Janet Reno picked to probe Democratic campaign fundraising, concluded an independent counsel must be named. He's ignored by two of three broadcast nets in the morning and evening.
Dramatic differences in news judgments by the networks Thursday night. CBS topped its Evening News with an exclusive story by Scott Pelley on how a Secret Service officer testified "about one weekend day when the President could not be accounted for for several minutes." Several minutes into NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers told viewers about the overlap between Monica Lewinsky's late night visits to the White House and nights when Hillary Clinton was out of town. CNN and FNC also ran full reports on the day's courthouse activities, but without the unique information delivered by CBS and NBC. ABC's World News Tonight, however, did not utter a syllable about the Starr investigation or any Clinton scandal matter.
FNC's David Shuster noted that Starr employed two grand juries to help churn through the Secret Service officers and ran a soundbite from agent Larry Cockell's attorney, John Kotelly, on the courthouse steps observing that in Cockell's one hour before the grand jury "He did not have to invoke a privilege for any of the questions that were asked." But after all the ominous warnings last week in the media about how calling Cockell meant Starr was trying an end run around attorney-client privilege, only CNN's Bob Franken, on The World Today, pointed out the false alarm, as lawyers for the agents "said agents were instructed to not answer any questions about conversations between the President and his attorneys and those questions, they went on, were not asked."
The anchors of the ABC, CBS, FNC and NBC evening shows all took a few seconds to note the announcement that Press Secretary Mike McCurry will depart the White House this fall and that Joe Lockhart will replace him. Only CNN offered a full story. Though Lockhart once toiled for ABC News and CNN, neither network mentioned his media experience. (See item #4)
No one recalled for viewers McCurry's admission to the Chicago Tribune that on Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, "Maybe there'll be a simple, innocent explanation. I don't think so, because I think we would have offered that up already." Blitzer came closest, noting that McCurry told "the Chicago Tribune the President's relationship with Lewinsky was quote, 'a very complicated story.' It didn't take long for him to regret those remarks..."
Here's what CBS and NBC reported Thursday night, July 23, on the Monica front in the East coast feed. I noticed that the 9pm ET The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC opened with a revised piece by Lisa Myers which included the major revelation from CBS's Scott Pelley, so I assume the West coast feeds of the ABC and NBC evening shows may have offered new material.
-- CBS Evening
News. Dan Rather refrained from claiming Starr is probing Clinton's
"personal life" and went right to the big CBS scoop. Scott
Pelley disclosed what a Secret Service officer has already testified to
The man Attorney General Janet Reno picked to run the Justice Department's campaign finance probe told her that she must appoint an independent counsel for the matter, disclosed a front page New York Times story Thursday morning. That prompted two brief mentions in news updates on NBC's Today, zilch on ABC or CBS Thursday morning.
During her weekly 10am ET press conference Reno replied to a question about the story, thus providing the networks with video they could use Thursday night. Nonetheless, neither ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News uttered a word about the subject. FNC's Fox Report gave it a few seconds. Only the CBS Evening News and CNN's The World Today treated it as a serious development as each ran full stories.
Reno Urges a Counsel Over Donations," announced the July 23 front
page New York Times headline. Reporter David Johnston revealed:
-- Morning show coverage, July 23: A 23-second item during the 7am news update on Today read by Ann Curry and another 18-second mention at 8am, MRC news analyst Mark Drake observed. Not a word on ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Clay Waters documented. Zilch on CBS's This Morning, but MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that news reader Hattie Kauffman made time to announce the results of a CBS News poll which found 47 percent think Clinton should never offer a greater explanation of the Lewinsky matter and 59 percent believe the investigation should be dropped.
-- Evening shows on July 23: As noted above, zilch on ABC and NBC, full stories on CBS and CNN. Instead of covering Reno, ABC's World News Tonight opened with a "revolution with sight," how a FDA panel has approved a surgical procedure to make glasses unnecessary for people who can't see well up close. ABC's Tom Foreman reported on "Tobacco Road" stores in Indiana and how the "chain of convenience stores is causing an uproar with new commercials" that push cigarette sales by saying they can't tell what they sell. One ad just shows video of kittens. Their slogans: "Gas and cheap prices on, well, you know" and "Gas and cheap prices on stuff we can't mention here." Plus, pegged to Al Gore's visit to Chernobyl, how robots can go into radioactive areas to do what human used to have to do.
NBC Nightly News couldn't find time for Reno, but did allocate time for "In Depth" stories on "the dangerous down side of the building boom: construction accidents." Plus, how some in Andrews, North Carolina, home of bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, are torn because they share his anti-government and anti-abortion views, as well as a "Living Longer" piece on four men over 70 participating in a cross-country bike race.
On the CBS Evening
News Dan Rather hesitatingly declared: "Pressure, not all of it from
Republicans, is building on Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint yet
another independent counsel, this one to investigate political fundraising
abuses, alleged abuses, in President Clinton's 1996 re-election
CNN's The World Today ran a full report from Pierre Thomas, who added that LaBella argues in his report that "key Democrats and White House officials may have conspired to break campaign finance laws..."
Thomas reminded viewers that last week at a hearing with Reno Senator Fred Thompson had highlighted a memo from Freeh declaring the need for an IC. That's the first network mention of the Thompson/Reno exchange since all the networks ignored it last week.
The language of abortion. Thursday night ABC referred to "so-called" partial birth, FNC explained how each side of the issue wishes to be described and an hour later CNN used the term preferred by the liberal side.
-- Peter Jennings announced on World News Tonight: "The House of Representatives today overrode President Clinton's veto of a bill to ban so-called partial birth abortions. The bill now goes to the Senate where Republicans may not have the votes for an override."
-- Todd Connor, anchor of FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report, informed viewers how "Supporters of the procedure call it late term, opponents call it partial birth..."
-- Barely an hour later, on the 8pm ET The World Today, CNN anchor Joie Chen adopted the language of supporters: "The House today voted to override President Clinton's veto of ban on certain late term abortions. The vote was ten more than the two-thirds majority needed...."
Peter Jennings announced on ABC's World News Tonight on Thursday, over video of Mike McCurry with Joe Lockhart next to him but lower because of the camera angle: "At the White House today President Clinton announced that the man who has been his spokesman through thick and thin will be leaving. Press Secretary Mike McCurry will step down this fall. He doesn't say what he'll do next. He will be replaced by the Deputy Press Secretary, that's him down there, Joe Lockhart."
Jennings didn't bother telling viewers how Lockhart used to work for ABC News. In a full story for CNN, Wolf Blitzer also skipped over Lockhart's time at the cable network.
Lockhart bio, as described in the March 1996 MediaWatch "Revolving
After the campaign he assumed the Deputy Press Secretary position at the White House.
Bernard Shaw did acknowledge Lockhart's previous life at CNN. On Thursday's Inside Politics offered this tribute: "I recall Joe Lockhart when he worked at CNN. He was outstanding. We'll see how he performs at the White House."
An advantage Democratic Presidents have: the option to pick media veterans, still admired by their old colleagues, to spin their policies.-- Brent Baker 
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