Recounting IRS Abuse; Cokie's Soft Dream; Peter, Marv & a Woman
1) Senator Fred Thompson's decision to change the focus of the Senate fundraising hearings from campaign wrongdoing to exploring campaign finance reform sent the hearings into television oblivion. None of the broadcast networks Tuesday night uttered a word about testimony from Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution.
ABC did note progress on getting campaign finance to the Senate floor, prompting Cokie Roberts to yearn for passage of at least one liberal proposal.
But an item from the conservative agenda led all three networks on September 23: the Senate Finance Committee hearings on abuses by the IRS.
ABC's World News Tonight began with Barry Serafin's review of the hearings on the IRS. Serafin started by highlighting an attempt to embarrass the IRS which failed: Florida Senator Bob Graham's cellular phone call to the IRS meant to show the agency's slowness to answer calls. He got right through. But Serafin also featured an IRS agent who conceded that staffers are evaluated by the amount of property they have seized.
Second, the show looked at a House hearing on how the FDA is not getting drugs approved fast enough. Next, Peter Jennings announced:
If we could just impose another regulation to limit people's freedom, just one more, that would be an achievement worth celebrating.
Neither Jennings nor Roberts mentioned what former top Clinton aide Harold Ickes claims Clinton really thinks about campaign finance reform, though the issue was raised a few hours earlier on CNN. During an interview on Tuesday's Inside Politics co-anchor Judy Woodruff asked White House special counsel Lanny Davis:
CBS Evening News led with the IRS hearings as Dan Rather declared:
Bob Schieffer concluded by emphasizing Democratic complaints, but finished by promising stories of abuse over the next few. As transcribed by MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski who put in a late shift stint transcribing these stories, Schieffer asserted:
Next, Ray Brady offered what Dan Rather dubbed "context and perspectives" on what the hearings will uncover.
NBC Nightly News topped its broadcast with the IRS story and though Tom Brokaw provided the most even-handed intro, Lisa Myers then delivered the most anti-IRS package of the night. Brokaw intoned:
Myers devoted most of her story to recounting the harrowing experience of one man falsely accused of nonpayment. It took the IRS 17 years to acknowledge the error. An example, Myers asserted, of how the hearings would show that the IRS "lied to, bullied and abused taxpayers," especially those who cannot afford to fight back. For some balance, NBC followed with an In Their Own Words segment from a revenue agent who defended his profession.
ABC's Good Morning America ran a story during the 7am news update about Clinton promising to cooperate with the investigation, but that was it for the September 23 show, reported MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen.
On CBS's This Morning, Steve Kaminski informed me, the show reverted to form and skipped all aspects of fundraising but made time to tell viewers that when Bill and Hillary arrived at a New York City opera the orchestra played the national anthem.
NBC's Today gave fundraising one brief mention by news reader Ann Curry. But, MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noted, NBC allocated time in the first half hour to an interview about Marv Albert's trial.
3) In fact, all the morning shows on Tuesday ran stories about day one of the Marv Albert sexual assault trial. Tuesday night only NBC Nightly News carried a full report recapping day two of their sports division colleague's trial. But none of the stories let viewers know that a familiar name arose in the trial's first day. Monday night Peter Jennings read a short item noting that the trial had begun, but didn't mention one development noted in Tuesday newspaper accounts. The MRC's Steve Kaminski wrote up this item for today's CyberAlert:
Suddenly ABC's policy of deliberately ignoring developments in the Paula Jones case (see the September 17 CyberAlert) makes sense.
-- Brent Baker