Thompson's Drug Scandal; Clinton as Human Rights Crusader
1) The networks refuse to jump on evidence that Clinton made fundraising calls from the White House. "Records Show Clinton Made White House Calls to Donors" announced a New York Times headline last Friday, October 24. Reporter John Cushman began his story:
Coverage: In the morning: a brief item read by Good Morning America news reader Kevin Newman, but not a syllable on This Morning or Today. Zilch Friday night on CNN's The World Today and the broadcast network evening shows.
Now, jump ahead to yesterday. On Wednesday, October 29, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee heard from Richard Jenrette, the former CEO of Equitable Insurance who actually does recall getting fundraising calls from both Bill Clinton and Al Gore. He appeared in the morning. In the afternoon the committee questioned White House counsels Lanny Breuer, Charles Ruff and Michael Imbroscio about the delays in the release of documents and the videotapes.
Coverage: Not a word about fundraising or the hearings Wednesday night on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. CBS can at least say it earlier reported the Jenrette revelation, but not ABC or NBC. As detailed in the October 21 CyberAlert, on the October 20 CBS Evening News Dan Rather read a 30 second item about Jenrette confirming a call from Clinton -- the totality of broadcast network time for the disclosure which appeared in the October 27 Newsweek.
(Two more days have passed since Monday's Los Angeles Times story in which the "Indonesian gardener" contradicted the White House line and said that his contributions came from an Indonesian national tied to the Lippo Group. Through Wednesday night still nothing on the networks about this latest evidence of illegal foreign money.)
But Senator Fred Thompson has
received some airtime in a story about a scandal -- the scandal of
legislation to benefit drug companies. The October 28 NBC Nightly News
featured a "Between the Lines" segment about a bill that
would prevent the sale of some generic drugs, including a generic of
the popular anti-allergy drug Claritin, by extending for five
additional years the exclusive rights to the formula granted to
companies which create a new drug. NBC reporter Lisa Myers explained:
2) Wednesday morning and day time. Once again, what hearings? Good Morning America, This Morning and Today were dominated by the nanny murder trial, the stock market and the visit of Chinese honcho Jiang Zemin. CBS's This Morning, MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski noted, managed time to teach viewers how to knit a sweater with dog hairs. A whole new way to look at Fido the next time you get cold.
Neither CNN or MSNBC offered any live hearings coverage Wednesday as each showed events with the Chinese leader and offered constant updates on how the nanny murder jury was still deliberating. From 10am through 5pm ET, in fact, CNN did not even offer a hearings update. And the Jiang/Clinton press conference bumped Inside Politics as the show has yet to air this week. (Bumped Monday and Tuesday for stock market news.) But CNN did find time during the day for some less than pressing news, including the usual ShowBiz Today features from Jim Moret and, at about 2:48pm ET, a whole story about the wonders of a new margarine made without any trans fats.
3) Wednesday night the networks portrayed Clinton as a great human rights crusader, emphasizing how he took on Jiang Zemin face to face. But only NBC noted that Clinton's new tough line on human rights contradicts his policies of the past few years. And on ABC, the political spectrum of the protesters went from "far right" Gary Bauer to the "Hollywood activism" of Richard Gere. Here's a rundown of the October 29 Chinese visit coverage and the stories run instead of fundraising:
ABC's World News Tonight.
John Donvan opened his top of the show story:
Donvan showed clips of the Clinton/Jiang Zemin exchange and described the deals signed on aircraft and nuclear technology. Next, ABC aired a full story from John McWethy on the nuclear power plant deal followed by a piece from Dean Reynolds in Kansas on how Americans are hoping to get more business with China:
Other stories covered by ABC: the day on Wall Street, trip by Prince Charles to Africa, the nanny murder trail, more on the drug dealer with AIDS in New York who had sex with teenagers, and how the Mars Rover has been out of communication for weeks.
Pelley showed soundbites from Clinton and Jiang, noting that Jiang "justified the killing" in Tiananmen Square. Pelley ended by listing the agreements made.
CBS didn't mention the protests, but ended the show with a look at the U.S./China trade deficit driven by the toy industry which takes advantage of China's low production costs. In between, viewers saw stories on the stock market, the New York AIDS scandal, a study that found DDT did not cause breast cancer and an Eye on America on new recruits to organized crime.
Also in the mix: An excerpt of Bryant Gumbel's "exclusive" interview with parents of the baby in the nanny murder case, an interview which aired on Wednesday night's Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel. See the October 29 CyberAlert for how Gumbel promised his show would avoid tabloid topics.
NBC showed soundbites of the press conference as Bloom highlighted how Jiang was "unapologetic" over Tiananmen Square. Bloom also summarized the agreements made.
Next, NBC went to Bob Faw for a look at the protests and human rights in China. Faw began:
Faw explained how 2,000 are jailed for political views and how thousands came to DC to protest, including actor Richard Gere. Faw ran a soundbite from the actor who stars in a movie about China's "repressive legal system."
Then Faw raised an angle
skipped by ABC and CBS:
Other topics covered by Nightly News: DDT/breast cancer, the nanny murder trial and an "In Depth" segment on the Au Pair system, plus a story on researchers who attached electrodes to people's hands as they flashed the word "God" on a computer screen to learn if human brains are "hard-wired to God."
(Top media figures were among the guests at Wednesday night's White House State Dinner for Jiang Zemin. In addition to congressional leaders and more than 30 business leaders, the October 30 Washington Post listed these guests: Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Diane Sawyer, CNN President Tom Johnson, Mortimer Zuckerman, New York Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and former Washington Post Publisher Katherine Graham. "Winning the odd couple of the evening award," the Post suggested, "were [Secretary of State] Albright and her escort, Star Trek: The Next Generation's bald Captain Picard -- actor Patrick Stewart.")
4) What a difference a President makes. In Monday's stock market plunge the Dow Jones fell 7 percent compared to a 22 percent drop in the 1987 crash. That difference dissuaded me from comparing coverage of the two downturns, but Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, went back to the records from the MRC's first days and discovered a big difference worth highlighting.
This year on Monday night none of the networks blamed Clinton for the stock market fall. In fact, ABC, CBS and NBC all made time for stories on Clinton touting how the annual deficit had fallen to the lowest level in 23 years. (None mentioned how falling defense spending was the primary factor or how the GOP Congress had prevented many huge Clinton spending initiatives.)
But ten years ago, the media delivered a no confidence message on President Reagan's economic leadership. The media line: Stock market plunge proves Reaganomics is a failure and it's time to finally raise taxes. Some examples:
No relief in sight? As noted in the October 29 USA Today, going back to the early 1960s the best ten year period in the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index: up 444 percent between June 30, 1982 and June 30, 1992.
-- Brent Baker