Babbitt Battles the Nanny; Where's Trie?; MRC on CNN
1) Thursday night the three broadcast network evening shows all ran stories on Bruce Babbitt's testimony, but buried well into the newscasts. NBC's Tom Brokaw insisted that both parties are equally emersed in the "swamp without end" of campaign finance investigations. ABC led with Iraq, CBS with "turmoil in the world financial markets" and NBC started with Jiang Zemin's visit. (See the October 28 CyberAlert for background on the Babbitt/Ickes/ Indian casino controversy.) Here's what the October 30 shows offered:
-- ABC's World News Tonight started with Saddam Hussein giving U.S.
members of the UN Commission a week to leave country. Second, ABC got
to Jiang Zemin's day visiting Congress. Peter Jennings introduced the
Following an ad break ABC carried stories on the end of the Roby,
Illinois standoff with a woman and on the jury picked for the trial of
Terry Nichols. After another ad, Jennings delivered a quick wrap on
Wall Street's day before arriving at the fundraising hearings and
ABC's first ever mention of the Wisconsin Indian tribe matter. Peter
Douglass explained the topic explored Thursday by the committee,
reporting that Babbitt was asked about denying a small Wisconsin
Indian tribe the right to open a casino. Larger tribes that gave big
bucks to the DNC opposed the application. Babbitt denied White House
influence, but long time Babbitt friend Paul Eckstein, a lobbyist
hired by the small tribe, told the committee that Babbitt told him
Harold Ickes didn't want the decision in favor of the larger tribes to
be delayed. Babbitt denied that version of events in letter to Senator
John McCain, but Douglass noted that "now Babbitt has changed
that story" though "Babbitt stubbornly insisted his first
story wasn't a lie."
-- CBS Evening News. Neither ABC or NBC treated Thursday's Wall Street performance as anything special, but Dan Rather topped the show by ominously intoning: "The turmoil on world financial markets is not over. After a sell-off in the Asian markets overnight, Wall Street put on a slide show of its own today. The two-day old recovery came to an end, the Dow stocks lost 125 points, 1.6 percent of their value..." Rather's dramatic intro led into a story by Ray Brady on victims of Monday's downturn: small investors who couldn't get through to their brokers.
Second, CBS discovered another crisis overlooked by both ABC and NBC. Correspondent Bob Orr explained: "It is a crisis on America's rails. The nation's largest railroad, Union Pacific, already plagued by an unparalleled series of accidents, is now drawing fire from federal safety investigators..."
Third, CBS went to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a live update from Kristin Jeannette-Myers on the nanny murder deliberations. After an ad break Rather made quick mention of the Iraq situation and offered a few seconds of summary on Jiang Zemin's visit to Capitol Hill. The sixth story of the night: a full report on the Septuplets due an Iowa mother and questions about the ethics of how fertility drugs are used.
Finally, 15 minutes into the show and following the second ad break,
Dan Rather declared:
One of the most important days of the hearings, but in the CBS hierarchy that puts it after nothing happening in a murder trial as the jury deliberated and the future birth of septuplets.
Schieffer summarized the case of how a rival tribe that was a big
donor "enlisted White House help to block the project"
proposed by the smaller tribe. Paul Eckstein had urged Babbitt to
delay the decision but, Eckstein recalled, Babbitt said Ickes wanted
an immediate decision that day. Babbit first denied saying that, but
at the hearing conceded he might have to get Eckstein out of his
-- NBC Nightly News began with a critical review of Jiang Zemin's
views as expressed during his second day in Washington. Andrea
Mitchell opened her story:
Next, NBC ran an In Their Own Words segment featuring Congressman
Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) narrating home video he took during a recent
trip to Tibet. Brokaw then briefly noted the Iraq situation before
shifting to a story on Paula Jones:
Immediately after the first ad break NBC got to Babbitt, the earliest
of the three networks. But Tom Brokaw portrayed both parties as
2) A verdict in the nanny murder trial finally came Thursday night, but until then it seemed that the more nothing happened as the jury deliberated the more CNN and MSNBC found excuses to focus on the trail. During the day Thursday, MSNBC skipped Paul Eckstein's morning testimony. MSNBC went live with Bruce Babbitt at 2:30pm ET, but stuck with it for just 45 minutes, cutting out at about 3:15pm for a one hour discussion of the nanny murder trial.
CNN carried Eckstein's testimony live from just past 10am ET until dropping out at 11:30am ET for CNN & Company which focused on, you guessed it, the nanny murder. CNN picked up with Babbitt at 2:30pm ET and remained with it until shortly before 4pm ET with analysis from Brooks Jackson and Candy Crowley.
3) The leader of the country implicated in funneling money into U.S. elections comes to America. Several figures in the fundraising scandal, including Charlie Trie, flee to his country in order to evade subpoena's. Naturally, a major topic for the news media to jump on. Or so you'd think.
But neither topic was raised by reporters in Wednesday's joint news conference. And news that Clinton asked Jiang Zemin about funneling money into the U.S. generated exactly one 15 second item on one broadcast network news show. During the 7:30am news update on October 30, MRC analyst Gene Eliasen observed, Good Morning America news reader Kevin Newman reported: "Was there a China connection to Democratic Party fundraising? The White House says President Clinton asked that question of Chinese President Jiang Zemin yesterday. Jiang reportedly said China was not involved in any illegal donations and that China will cooperate with U. S. investigators."
That was it on Thursday's morning shows. Today's Matt Lauer interviewed National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, but didn't raise anything related to fundraising. In fact, other than Newman's brief item, Thursday's morning shows avoided fundraising.
Wednesday night, however, Ted Koppel did press Berger on whether the President really asked Jiang Zemin to help the investigation into fundraising. Here's a bit of the October 29 interview:
Koppel: "I just want to ask you about what President Jiang's
reaction was when the President raised the issue of trying to buy
influence in American elections? How forcefully was the issue raised
and what was Mr Jiang's reaction?"
In other words, the President really didn't push for cooperation with investigators. If only a few more reporters were as persistent and Koppel.
saluted on CNN. I usually watch CNN's Sunday morning Reliable Sources
show. But on the one I missed they featured a nice plug for the MRC
that MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught. In the end of the program
"The good, the bad and the ugly" awards John Podhoretz, the
only conservative allowed on the show, praised the MRC:
Thanks. We appreciate the vote of confidence. At the MRC we all wish John success as he moves from the Weekly Standard, where he's been Deputy Editor, to run the New York Post editorial page.
-- Brent Baker