Poetic Justice for Newt; Clift's Confusion
Inauguration Day coverage, CNN's Bernard Shaw and USA Today's Walter
Shapiro defend Clinton's attack on conservatives. One calls it
Washington Post and CBS paint Clinton as innocent victim in Democratic
jump on Gingrich, but as Clinton proposes new finance rules they've
failed to report many of his ethical breaches. And a network VP worries
about too much emphasis on Clinton scandals!
justice" is how Time magazine describes the punishment for Newt
Clift offers an unreliable statement on whether she compared Newt
Gingrich to Charles Manson.
McLaughlin Group regular analogizes Newt Gingrich to OJ Simpson.
Some notes from Inauguration Day coverage:
-- MRC analyst
Clay Waters caught this bit of generosity by CNN's Bernard Shaw at about
very special day for this President when you recall that our years ago he
came to this city he was expecting so much. His mother was at his side
there at the Inaugural. She passed away a year later. And when you look at
what was besetting the United States, a four trillion dollar deficit,
budget problems, foreign policy problems. The budget deficit now has
decreased. There seems to be relative peace in Bosnia. The Middle East,
the breakthrough of the Hebron agreement, a lot has gone on in four short
A while after
Clinton's address, in an exchange with guest commentator Peggy Noonan (a
former Reagan and Bush speechwriter), Shaw defended the President's
Noonan: "Some of the language seemed almost radical. He had a
sentence in there that said as each new wave of immigrants come into the
United States they become targets for hatred and persecution or something
to that extent and I thought Yowsa! That's a little bit hot."
Shaw: "Well some people would argue that those immigrants with dark
skins have been the object of discrimination rather than those immigrants
from Eastern European nations."
Noonan: "But targets! Read it to me, 'Wave after wave of immigrants
come and become targets of hatred.' That's just a little bit hot. I have a
feeling he went a little over the line in that section, in that
Shaw: "Well do you think he went over the line in view of the
campaign, the fire-hot, white-heat hot, if you will, rhetoric and debate
in the just-concluded presidential campaign. Immigration, a very visceral
issue in California and elsewhere?"
-- Over on NBC
before Clinton spoke, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed NBC News VP Tim
Russert relaying as fact the rhetoric of liberals opposed to welfare
children in this country, it is estimated, will fall below the poverty
line with the changes in the welfare reform bill. And Hillary Clinton is
going to take initiatives to try to bring some of those children into
programs which will help educate and feed and clothe them."
-- Monday night
Tom Brokaw announced on the January 20 NBC Nightly News: "The
President, it turns out, worked on his speech right up to the moment that
he delivered it and while it lacked great passion or memorable phrases, it
was filled with noble intentions."
In Tuesday's USA
Today (January 21) former Carter Administration official turned Time
magazine reporter turned USA Today news columnist Walter Shapiro also
found comfort in Clinton's attack on conservatives. Citing the same
passage that so upset Noonan ("Each new wave of immigrants gives new
targets to old prejudices. Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense
of religious or political conviction are no different") Shapiro
endorsed Clinton's take: "That last sentence was a fusillade against
aimed at California Gov. Pete Wilson and the Republicans like him who
dangerously fan the flames of discord with nostrums like Proposition 209,
which rolled back affirmative action."
Shapiro continued: "I doubt that Ralph Reed and the Christian
Coalition were cheering wildly as the President attacked 'prejudice and
contempt' masquerading as 'religious conviction.' But one stirring passage
does not a reborn President make."
Ignoring the jabs
at conservatives and emphasizing Clinton's call to end partisan bickering,
ABC's new White House reporter, John Donvan, concluded his World News
"...Tomorrow, of course, it is back to business. Another question,
however, is whether it will also be back to politics. If it is not, and if
the President's address today had anything to do with it, then that
speech, Peter, certainly deserves to go down in history."
Reporters continue to assume that President Clinton was some kind of
innocent bystander to Democratic fundraising tactics.
The January 19
Washington Post ran the transcript of its interview with Clinton. Here's
the campaign finance questions:
"There's been a lot of talk lately, as you know, printed and so
forth, about the Lincoln Bedroom and the people who stay here. And
obviously a lot of them are your friends. And I don't think anybody would
begrudge somebody having guests in their own house. Some of them, though,
it seems apparently you didn't know quite as well. And we're wondering if
you might feel let down a little bit by your staff or by the DNC in their
zeal to raise funds?"
On Monday's CBS
Evening News reporter Rita Braver noted that while the President was being
sworn in, "White House aides were putting the finishing touches on
the plan he'll propose tomorrow in the wake of he controversy over
Democratic fundraising. The President will also announce new rules
tightening up contributor's access to the White House."
It's as if these
guests showed up unannounced and Clinton was forced to accommodate them.
Tuesday night the broadcast networks highlighted the ethical breaches of
Newt Gingrich, but the word "ethics" didn't pass their lips in
stories on Clinton's proposed campaign finance rules.
Dan Rather opened
the January 21 CBS Evening News:
"Good evening. The mood in Washington changed dramatically overnight,
from celebration to castigation. The House of Representatives voted today
to reprimand and fine Speaker Newt Gingrich for low ethics. Specifically,
using money from tax-exempt foundations to fund his partisan college
course. And, a pattern of giving investigators inaccurate, incomplete and
CBS didn't mention a word about Clinton's campaign finance proposal.
As a "Day of
Dishonor" chyron was displayed, Tom Brokaw opened NBC Nightly News:
"Newt Gingrich, who came to power after all preaching a higher
standard in American politics, a man who brought down another Speaker on
ethics accusations, tonight he has on his own record the judgment of his
peers, Democrat and Republican alike. By an overwhelming vote they found
him guilty of ethics violations."
Introducing the second story of the night Brokaw emphasized how Clinton
was solving a problem:
"For his part, President Clinton tried to take the high road today on
political money, just when Gingrich was caught in the headlights. But, of
course, Clinton has his own troubling record on campaign contributions. We
have more tonight on how he's trying to get beyond that now from NBC's Jim
Miklaszewski noted that "in the last campaign it was the Democrats
who took questionable foreign contributions. As of today, no more. The
Democratic Party will no longer take political money from foreign firms or
individuals, no longer accept more tan $100,000 from any single donor per
year. And White House access for campaign contributors will be tightened.
But the new rules do not apply to individual Democratic candidates and
President Clinton will still invite big contributors to sleep in the
After a clip of Common Cause's Ann McBride saying voluntary rules aren't
enough, Miklaszeski announced:
"But the President claims no matter what mistakes Democrats have
made, Republicans are worse."
Clinton: "They raise more money, they raise more foreign money, they
raise more money in gig contributions and we take all the heat. It's a
Stop the tape. "...and President Clinton will still invite big
contributors to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom." Huh? NBC viewers must
have asked. That story broke December 15, but that was its first mention
on NBC Nightly News.
On ABC's World
News Tonight Peter Jennings told viewers:
"The Democrats have had their own highly embarrassing problems, as
you know, with campaign contributions during the presidential race, have
tried today, to get some of the problems behind them. New rules for who
may give and under what circumstances."
Stop the tape.
"As you know..." How would World News Tonight viewers know about
major developments in the Democratic fundraising scandal. They have yet to
mention the Lincoln Bedroom as Motel 6 news. As noted in the January 16
and 17 CyberAlerts, NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight have
failed to report several recent revelations, including:
-- Last week Vice
President Al Gore admitted to the AP that he used "a poor choice of
words" when he insisted an April 1996 fundraiser at a Buddhist Temple
was nothing more than a "community outreach" event. The AP noted
that three days before the event the DNC sent Gore a memo explaining how
he should "extend appreciation for participant support and inspire
political and fundraising efforts."
-- The day after Christmas the Democratic National Committee released a
huge pile of documents on their fundraising activities. The papers showed
how foreign donors to the DNC got special access to the White House and
Clinton. The New York Times ran a big piece on the December 27 front page.
-- Last Thursday three newspapers uncovered new aspects in the John
Huang/Democratic fundraising saga: Thursday's Washington Post front page
headline: "Guest Lists at White House Didn't Include Rap Sheets: Some
at DNC Fund-Raising Coffees Ran Afoul of Law." The Los Angeles Times
front page: "Papers Show Huang's Policy Role at Commerce: Documents
Contrast with Assertions that Figure in Democratic Fundraising Scandal Had
Minimal Duties." The Boston Globe's page one headline declared:
"Clinton Policy Shift Followed Asian-American Fundraiser."
ABC's John Donvan
did conclude his piece by noting: "...The new rules look like serious
reform. The only question is how good the Democratic Party will be at
enforcing them after a 1996 campaign when millions in illegal and improper
contributions reached the party coffers and had to be sent back."
Miklaszewski was the only one to report that "The Democrats problems
are far from over. The Republican Chairman of the House Rules Committee
sent a letter to the FBI today asking it to investigate whether some of
those foreign contributions may have been a part of espionage against the
Sounds like a
good subject for an investigation by NBC News, or at least an explanatory
story. But don't count on it. In a January 17 USA Today story reporter
Martha Moore relayed the perspective of NBC's Russert: "The test
facing the media may be to not spend all its time covering scandals. 'Do
we just become totally overwhelmed with the news of scandal, and forget
that all the things we talked about during the campaign -- Medicare,
balanced budget and Social Security -- are still going on?' asks NBC's Tim
Russert. 'The scandals will eventually be resolved,' but the issues 'will
have a lot more impact and consequence.'"
Time magazine decided to equate Newt Gingrich with former House Speaker
Jim Wright who used royalties from bulk book sales to pocket money and
circumvent honoraria limits. Richard Lacayo concluded his piece in the
current (January 27) issue:
"The New Republic points out this week that the book [To Renew
America] leans heavily on copyrighted materials developed for Newt's
college course by the tax-exempt group that is at the center of his
"That could well be a violation of IRS rules that prohibit tax-exempt
organizations from transferring assets to private individuals. It also
calls into question Gingrich's claim that he's no Jim wright -- the
Democratic Speaker whose ouster he spearheaded -- because he never sought
to line his own pockets. After taxes, his royalties would have stuffed his
pockets with something like $300,000 -- the amount of his fine. Maybe he
should hand it over. If nothing else, it would prove that even when you
can't count on the rule of law in Washington, there's always poetic
Back on January 3 MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham debated Eleanor
Clift on MSNBC about coverage of scandals. Here's one exchange in which
Clift was not fully forthcoming:
Tim Graham: "What's worse, Eleanor, is you coming on this program and
pretending you're not a partisan, that you can go out on the weekends on
the press and compare Newt Gingrich to Charles Manson and than say you can
be an observer--"
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek: "I have never compared Newt Gingrich to
Graham: "McLaughlin Group."
Clift: "In fact, I wrote a book called War Without Bloodshed
published earlier this year in which Newt Gingrich is one of the
characters. He provided the title for the book. I believe I have fairly
covered Newt Gingrich, and I think he would answer that well."
Let's go to the
videotape. On the November 18, 1995 McLaughlin Group Clift declared:
"Newt Gingrich teaching manners is like Charles Manson teaching
Speaking of bizarre analogies, we normally don't follow Morton Kondracke
of Roll Call since he's not with a major news outlet, but here's his
argument on how Gingrich's punishment was too soft, as expressed on the
McLaughlin Group this past weekend:
"Now, as to Newt Gingrich, this is thoroughly in keeping with the OJ
Simpson case, for example. OJ Simpson may have committed murder, but he
gets fined as a result, he has to pay money. By this theory you get
$300,000 for this offense, whatever it is, big fine, Richard Nixon instead
of being impeached should have gotten a $5 million dollar fine, maybe. And
Jim Wright should have paid $50,000 bucks?"
Well, at least
it's not as bad as Sam Donaldson comparing Mr. Newt to Lenin.