CyberAlert -- 08/20/1999 -- Bush & Drugs a Big Story on Outlets Which Ignored Broaddrick

Bush & Drugs a Big Story on Outlets Which Ignored Broaddrick

1) The nets jumped on the Bush drug issue. NBC's Brian Williams called it "the question that will not go away," though it is reporters who are making it an issue. The ABC and NBC evening shows never ran stories on Juanita Broaddrick's rape charge.

2) All three morning shows looked at Bush and drugs. It led Today and GMA had George Stephanopoulos as its solo analyst as Charlie Gibson suggested Bush be asked if he ever committed a felony.

3) On FNC Gennifer Flowers demonstrated how Clinton scratched his head when he was high on cocaine, but Deborah Orin predicted no one will ask him about it. None have pressed him about Broaddrick.

4) "We are not talking about" Broaddrick today insisted MSNBC's David Gregory Thursday afternoon as he blocked the RNC's Cliff May from raising the issue of media hypocrisy.

5) The head of the FOP denounced Clinton's plan to pardon 16 terrorists: "Your claim that none of these people were involved in any deaths is patently false."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The George W. Bush cocaine story gained media momentum Thursday as he gave the networks a hard to resist story hook with his ever-changing denial time frame. All the networks featured full stories Thursday night as ABC's Charlie Gibson asserted "the question is dogging his otherwise smooth campaign." NBC anchor Brian Williams called it "the question that will not go away," as if the media are just creatures from Mars observing the process when in fact it's the media which are posing the questions the posing of which they then find so newsworthy.

There is no one accusing Bush of drug use and no evidence he actually has, but NBC Nightly News spent over five minutes on the subject and ABC's World News Tonight gave it three and a half minutes -- which is exactly five minutes and three and a half minutes more time than the two shows devoted in February or early March to Juanita Broaddrick's charge that Bill Clinton raped her. (WNT did give it a few seconds on March 19 in a larger story on a Clinton press conference, but ignored the February 24 Dateline NBC interview. Total NBC Nightly News coverage of Broaddrick so far: one end of show promo for that Dateline, but no actual news story. See items #3 and 4 today for more on the Broaddrick contrast.)

The CBS Evening News aired a piece for the second consecutive night Thursday on the drug issue, which means it has given twice as much attention to Bush as to Broaddrick since CBS ran one story on her back in February. Of course, the media have yet to pursue actual claims made by people that Clinton used cocaine, a charge made fresh again this week in a FNC appearance by Gennifer Flowers. See item #3 today for details.

Now to the coverage of Bush the last two nights. On Wednesday night, CNN's The World Today, FNC's Fox Report and MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams all jumped on Bush's lashing out at a questioning reporter. The CBS Evening News also picked up on the incident and ran a full story, the only broadcast network to do so.

Here's a rundown for Thursday evening, August 19. All led with the rescue efforts for earthquake victims in Turkey. (I missed CNN's the World Today, but since Bush/drugs led Inside Politics for the second day in a row I'd assume it was a big story at 10pm ET too.)

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charlie Gibson announced:
"The political issue today: Did Texas Governor George W. Bush ever use cocaine, or didn't he? The question is dogging his otherwise smooth campaign."
Gibson took 1:45 to run through Bush's evolving answer, from lashing out Wednesday, to telling the Dallas Morning News he has not used drugs in the last seven years to expanding that drug-free time frame to 15 years at a Thursday morning appearance to saying he could have passed a 15 year test when his father was President -- taking him back to age 28 in 1974.
Gibson ended by playing a clip of Bush in Columbus refusing to go further, saying only that he "did make mistakes years ago." Gibson wondered: "But can he really stick to that? He's had quite a day saying he won't talk about it and that's all he did: talk about it. And reporters keep asking even though there's no hard evidence he ever did use the drug."

Nonetheless, ABC then aired a 1:50 report from John Martin who played a soundbite of Bush from Iowa back on June 14: "There's a game in Washington, it's called gotcha. It's a game where we float a rumor and make a candidate prove a negative and I'm not playing the game."
Martin acknowledged the media's role: "It did not work then and it may not work now. In part, that's because the media keep pushing."
Martin spent the remainder of his story running comments on the controversy from Gerald Solomon, Orrin Hatch, Norman Ornstein and Eddie Mahe.

-- CBS Evening News. Anchor Bob Schieffer intoned:
"In the presidential campaign, if Texas Governor George W. Bush thought his responses yesterday would end the questions about past drug use, it certainly didn't turn out that way. There were more questions today everywhere he went."

Eric Engberg opened with a clip of Bush telling kids drugs are not cool. Engberg picked up: "As for whether Bush ever used cocaine or other drugs, his plan to refuse to reply directly to such questions has been modified on the fly as the press and opponents pursue the issue."
Engberg ran through his expanding drug-free time frame, explaining: "In stages and under repetitive questioning, the candidate who said he would not play the game of responding to allegations about his past has denied any drug use after the age of 28."

Schieffer then noted how Gore and Bradley admit to using marijuana, while Gore has denied using cocaine, and Republicans Bauer, Buchanan, Dole, Forbes, Hatch, Keyes, McCain and Quayle all say they have never used illegal drugs.

-- FNC's Fox Report. Carl Cameron uniquely pointed out how Bush calculated dates in his head on the fly in deciding whether he could have passed his father's background check in 1989:
"Bush clearly appeared to be checking dates in his head, when he was asked if he could have truthfully denied illegal drug use for the 15 years prior to his father taking office in 1989."
Bush: "Ah, let's see here. [pause] Ah, yes I could have."

-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams teased the broadcast: "Drugs, politics, rumors and the race for the White House. The question that won't go away, what George W. Bush says is his final answer."

Introducing the story, Williams again stressed how the questions won't go away when it was NBC's own David Bloom who pressed the most: "It followed him from Texas to Ohio today, the question that will not go away everywhere George W. Bush goes. Is there illegal drug use in his past? It got its start as a rumor. It has become a rather large and nagging news story and now the question: Is his strategy of giving partial answers perhaps making it worse."

From Columbus, Ohio, where NBC had parachuted in its star White House reporter for a day, David Bloom relayed: "The questions would not go away, so Governor Bush first tried to defuse the controversy over whether he used illegal drugs by telling the Dallas Morning News he could pass a federal background check, which Bush thought only asks about drug use within the past seven years."
Bloom went through Bush's 15 years/1975/28 years old answer and how Bush says he could pass the current White House clearance form. But, Bloom countered, that's a problem because the form used by the Clinton White House asks applicants to go back to their 18th birthday.
Bloom then played his exchange with Bush: "Governor, with all due respect, you said last night to the Dallas Morning News, 'within the seven years that I believe that the background check covers, I didn't use illegal drugs.' You said today that within the 15 years the Bush administration covered, I didn't use illegal drugs."
Bush: "True."
Bloom: "Why would you then not answer a question if the current standard is from your 18th birthday on?"
Bush replied that he hopes voters appreciate a candidate who says enough is enough.

Now three minutes into NBC's coverage the network moved on to a second story. Pete Williams delivered an overview of the background check process and how the public is more tolerant now of drug use than when Reagan picked Ginsberg for the Supreme Court. He concluded by pointing out that a President does not have to complete a background check as he answers only to voters.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The three morning shows focused on the Bush drug issue Thursday morning, even before he had expanded his drug-free years beyond seven. ABC's Good Morning America brought on George Stephanopoulos as its solo analyst on the issue and he helpfully pointed out cocaine use is a felony, prompting Charlie Gibson to suggest Bush be asked if he ever committed a felony. In contrast, GMA has yet to devote an interview segment to the Broaddrick charge. (One morning two questions about her were posed to Paula Begala in a larger interview.)

Today's opening take on the top news highlighted Bush and the show aired a pre-taped interview with him in which he was asked about drug use. CBS's This Morning, which has yet to mention Broaddrick's name, held its coverage to a news item read by the news reader, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted.

-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson wrapped up his discussion about Bush and drugs with George Stephanopoulos by highlighting: "Well, the press did glom onto it yesterday and you do raise an interesting point, that cocaine use is a felony. It'd be interesting if somebody said to him, have you ever committed a felony?"
Stephanopoulos: "We'll see what the answer is."
Gibson: "That question, I'm sure, will come up very soon."

I'm sure a lot sooner than any reporter will ask about Broaddrick's charge or allegations about cocaine use by Clinton.

-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer opened the show: "Good morning. After sidestepping the question for months GOP presidential frontrunner George W. Bush has issued a limited denial about past drug use, saying he has not used illegal drugs in the last seven years. An answer sure to raise more questions today, Thursday, August 19th, 1999."

Today didn't talk about Broaddrick until her interview aired on Dateline, but they showed no such hesitation with the Bush drug charge. In a pre-taped interview shown by Today Jamie Gangel began by hitting Bush with the attacks from his opponents:
"Let me read you some of what your opponents are saying, okay? Steve Forbes says you have no message. That you rely on pollsters and tutors. Marilyn Quayle says that quote, 'You're a guy that never accomplished anything, everything he got daddy took care of. That you're a party frat boy type.' And conservative columnist George Will called you 'Bush Light.' That perhaps you have quote, 'an allergy to serious things. That you may not be ready for prime time.'"

After some back and forth about his opinions of his detractors, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that Gangel demanded: "You and the other candidates have all been asked whether you used illegal drugs. And you are the only one who won't answer the question."
Bush: "It's true."
Gangel: "Why not?"
Bush: "Well because for a couple of reasons. One, when I first got going on this campaign there were a lot of people were talking, people floating incredible number of ridiculous rumors about me. And I just decided that rather than play 'gotcha' politics and try to answer a negative that I wasn't going to participate. I decided to stand up and say, 'What I did 25 years ago is past. I am what I am today because I've learned from lessons in the past. It may cost me votes, it may cause people to make assumptions about me that aren't real. But I'm gonna stand on principle. And the principle is enough's enough. Enough's enough, trying to destroy people's reputations with gossip. And secondly it's important for us to set examples. And this kind of collective guilt of baby boomers trying to confess on the public altar what they may or may not have done sends bad signals to your children and my children and other people's children."
Gangel: "You understand it does leave the implication that you did use these drugs."
Bush: "Jamie it doesn't matter whether I answer the question or not. There'd still be people floating gossip and rumors and innuendo. It's crazy."


flowers0820.jpg (11145 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) On national TV Wednesday Gennifer Flowers imitated how Bill Clinton scratched his head after he snorted cocaine.

No one has yet claimed to have seen George W. Bush use cocaine or said someone with firsthand knowledge told them they saw him do it. And, no one has come forward to say that Bush recounted to them the affect cocaine had on his body. All three are true in the case of Bill Clinton, but the media don't care now and they didn't care in 1991 or 1992.

As the MRC's Tim Graham pointed out in the MRC's August 13 Media Reality Check, "In Bush's case, reporters have found no one alleging that they have knowledge of Bush using cocaine. In Clinton's case, several Arkansans -- whether credible or not -- have accused Clinton of cocaine use, as detailed in books like Roger Morris's Partners in Power. If some liberal journalist finds an alleger against Bush (as some media partisans in 1988 found 'Speedway Bomber' Brett Kimberlin to allege marijuana purchases by Dan Quayle), will national reporters investigate just Bush?"

To read the entire fax report, "Coke-Question Pushers Ought to Ask Bill," go to:

Thursday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume substitute host Tony Snow played a clip from an appearance by Flowers the night before on FNC's Hannity & Colmes. She told the two hosts that she saw Bill Clinton smoke marijuana when he was Attorney General and Governor, adding: "He made it very clear that if I ever wanted to do cocaine that he could provide that."
Sean Hannity, not hearing: "I'm sorry, okay."
Flowers: "Yes, if I ever wanted to do cocaine. And he also told me that there were times that he did so much cocaine at parties that his head would itch and that he would be standing there trying to talk to people and he would feel like a fool because all he wanted to do was this, so I clearly knew that Bill did cocaine."

As she said "all he wanted to do was this," she put her hand with outstretched fingers by her head to simulate scratching an itch. To see this image and a RealPlayer video clip, go to this item in the posted version of this CyberAlert. After 10am ET Friday MRC Webmaster Sean Henry should have it up at:

Immediately after the clip Snow turned to his panel of journalists: "So, is anybody going to ask the President about this, Jeff Birnbaum."
Birnbaum, of Fortune, argued: "Yes. I think that there's not going to be a public appearance that he'll have where he will not be asked about it, or at least he should be asked about it in all fairness to George W. Bush."

Deborah Orin of the New York Post had a better grasp on media practices, contending: "But you know nobody will ask him. I mean that's the fascinating thing that George W. Bush has taken an awful lot of heat in the last few days and in fact, you know, at the White House when they have difficult questions they just say talk to my lawyer and the press corps just drops it. You know I called Jim Kennedy at the White House, the scandal spokesman, today, and said so what about Gennifer Flowers' charges and he said the President didn't do cocaine. And I said fine, why should I believe the President's answer on this when the President also told us he didn't have an affair with Gennifer Flowers. And yet we don't have pictures, nobody at a White House press conference is going to have the guts to stand up and say 'Mr. President, Gennifer Flowers said you did cocaine, did you?'"

Indeed, at his first solo press conference in a ten months on March 19 only Sam Donaldson asked about Broaddrick and her name has not been uttered at one since. The night of the press conference, neither CBS or NBC mentioned the exchange. As documented in the March 20 CyberAlert:

Sam Donaldson asked about Juanita Broaddrick, leading to World News Tonight's first weekday mention of her name, but neither CBS or NBC uttered a syllable about her Friday night. In addition to ABC, CNN, FNC and MSNBC did highlight, at least briefly, Clinton's non-responsive reply.

As noted by Rush Limbaugh on Friday in citing an earlier MRC report, NBC Nightly News has yet to mention Broaddrick's name despite the fact the exclusive interview aired on its own network: The February 24 Dateline NBC. Clinton has now twice provided on-camera comment, but twice NBC Nightly News has passed. NBC refused to talk about Broaddrick, but Nightly News did pick up Russian TV video of a politician standing next to a bed and paying two prostitutes.

The CBS Evening News hasn't mentioned Broaddrick since its one and only story on Saturday, February 20. Friday night, instead of broaching her charge, anchor John Roberts highlighted how Clinton "said he and Mrs. Clinton love each other very much" and that "she'd be a magnificent U.S. Senator."

END Excerpt

For more on how the press avoided scandal questions at that press conference, go to:


gregory0820.jpg (9869 bytes)cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Don't go there! "We are not talking about" Broaddrick today insisted MSNBC's David Gregory Thursday afternoon as he blocked the RNC's Cliff May from raising lack of media interest in her as an illustration of the media's hypocrisy in pursuing the Bush drug story.

Just after showing Bush live in Columbus responding to David Bloom's questions, MSNBC's Crosstalk discussed the controversy. Among the guests, Democratic consultant Vic Kamber and RNC Communications Director Cliff May.

At about 3:47pm ET May tried to make his Broaddrick point, but host David Gregory wouldn't allow it. They talked and yelled over each other at times, but's here's how it went as best I could make out:
May: "I just don't see the press putting the same kind of pressure on Al Gore to answer similar questions."
Kamber: "Are you kidding me?"
May: "No I'm not kidding you."
Kamber: "Al Gore answered this question way back. He acknowledged smoking dope when he was in the Army."
May: "We have right now a credible allegation by Juanita Broaddrick that while Attorney General Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her and he won't answer..."
David Gregory, talking over May's last words: "Now hold on. You know what Cliff, I'm not going to let you go there. We are not talking about this today. We're not going to turn that into this. I want to go around the horn a little bit. Cliff, wait a minute."
May in background "...double standard..."
Gregory: "Cliff, I'm going to stop you. I'm hosting the program. It is not a double standard. We have a clear focus today. I'm asking the questions. I will now ask the question to Howard Mortman. I'm waiting for David Bloom to pop up from Columbus Ohio, we'll go to him in just a minute. First, Howard Mortman, response from you."

To see this media intolerance for raising the issue of their hypocrisy, go to this item in the posted version of this CyberAlert where MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will place a RealPlayer clip. After 10am ET Friday, go to:

Remember, while MSNBC did air some stories back in February on Broaddrick, the NBC Nightly News has yet to run a story recounting her charge.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) On a subject off the major media radar screen, Bill Clinton's decision to pardon 16 Puerto Rican terrorists, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police has lashed out at Clinton's decision. See the August 18 CyberAlert for details:

As recounted by Greg Pierce on Thursday in his Inside Politics column for the Washington Times, "Clinton wants the prisoners, members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN, to disavow violence before he releases them. FOP President Gilbert G. Gallegos, in a letter to Mr. Clinton yesterday, called the offer a 'slap in the face' to law enforcement officers everywhere." Gallegos also countered Clinton's claim that the convicts did not hurt anyone. Here's an excerpt of the letter from Gallegos:

Your offer of clemency would immediately release eleven convicted felons who conspired as members of the FALN to plant and explode bombs at U.S. political and military targets. The remaining five would have their criminal fines waived and only two would serve any additional time.

These attacks killed six people, wounded dozens and maimed three New York City police officers: Detective Anthony S. Senft lost an eye and a finger, Detective Richard Pastorella was blinded and Officer Rocco Pascarella lost his leg...

Your claim that none of these people were involved in any deaths is patently false. As members of the terrorist organization that was planting these bombs, all of them are accessories to the killings as a result of the bomb attacks. Two of the persons to whom you have offered clemency were convicted of a $7.5 million armored truck robbery, which undoubtedly financed the FALN's 130 bomb attacks....

I can only assume you are again pandering for some political purpose. This time, Mr. President, it must stop before it begins.

END Excerpt

I'm still waiting to read or see the first major media story on this issue. -- Brent Baker


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