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CBS Shows More Concern for Timing Than Substance of Berger News --7/21/2004


1. CBS Shows More Concern for Timing Than Substance of Berger News
Every network but CBS led Tuesday night with the Sandy Berger tale of taking and then losing secret documents from the National Archives and resigning Tuesday from his advisory role with the Kerry campaign. Instead, Rather began: "Almost two a day. That is the rate American troops are dying in Iraq with the total now approaching 900 since the war began." When he arrived at Berger he tried to discredit the story by insisting "this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence." CBS's John Roberts affirmed Bill Clinton's praise for Berger by noting how "the 9/11 Commission agrees it got everything it wanted from Berger." Roberts maintained: "Republicans and Democrats alike say the timing of the investigation's disclosure smells like politics, leaked to the press just two days before the 9/11 Commission report comes out."

2. Rather Reserves "Carefully Orchestrated Leak" to Items on Dems
Dan Rather reserves his "carefully orchestrated leak" formulation, to discredit revelations, to those stories harmful to Democrats. In addition to his introduction to the news about Sandy Berger, in June of 1998 Rather asserted that the "carefully orchestrated leaks" of Lewinsky tapes released earlier, which "were damaging to the Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story." Exactly two years later, on June 22, 2000, Rather set up a story about how "Vice President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new, carefully orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore's past campaign fundraising practices." On the night Al Gore was set to address the Democratic convention in August of 2000, Rather intoned on the CBS Evening News: "Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And now Gore must do so against the backdrop of a potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated story leak about President Clinton." Rather used the same formulation later during CBS's prime time coverage but, in fact, the leak came from a Carter-appointed federal judge.

3. Newsweek's Fineman: Democrats "Down the Middle" & "Moderate"
A preview of coverage next week? On Monday's Hardball on MSNBC, Newsweek's Howard Fineman insisted that the Democratic "message" is "down the middle," reflecting a "moderate" platform.

4. CBS Complains Kerry Would Raise Minimum Wage "Only" to $7
CBS on Tuesday night framed the latest installment of their "What Does It Mean to You" series around how, as Dan Rather relayed, "many say no one can live" on the current minimum wage. Reporter Richard Schlesinger found a victim of the low minimum wage and assessed both candidates from the left, giving them failing grades for not advocating enough of a hike in it as he touted the fairness of a "living wage" ordinance enacted in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Schlesinger complained that "the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 for seven years. According to one report, had the minimum wage kept up with inflation every worker in the U.S. would now be guaranteed $8.49 an hour, almost exactly what the city of Santa Fe is telling employers here to pay. John Kerry would raise the minimum wage, but to only $7 by 2007."


CBS Shows More Concern for Timing Than
Substance of Berger News

CBS's Dan Rather Every network but CBS led Tuesday night with the Sandy Berger tale of taking and then losing secret documents from the National Archives and resigning Tuesday from his advisory role with the Kerry campaign. Instead, Rather began: "Almost two a day. That is the rate American troops are dying in Iraq with the total now approaching 900 since the war began." When he arrived at Berger he tried to discredit the story by insisting "this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence." CBS's John Roberts affirmed Bill Clinton's praise for Berger by noting how "the 9/11 Commission agrees it got everything it wanted from Berger." Roberts maintained: "Republicans and Democrats alike say the timing of the investigation's disclosure smells like politics, leaked to the press just two days before the 9/11 Commission report comes out."

Roberts attributed the pilfering to Berger's "inadvertent" actions, but on the NBC Nightly News, while Pete Williams noted how Berger claimed he "accidentally discarded" some of the papers, Williams countered: "But government officials tell NBC News that archives employees claim it wasn't so innocent, that they noticed documents were missing after day one. They say that when Berger came back they saw him stuffing papers into his clothing and by secretly marking the materials they concluded he took several separate drafts of the same 15-page document, a review ordered by Berger himself of the response to the millennium terror threats. Officials say it concluded the Clinton administration was not paying enough attention to foreign terrorists."

Like CBS, ABC treated it as a big partisan dustup, but at least Jennings led World News Tonight with it and devoted a full story to the substance of the charges before recounting the politics of it. Jennings announced at the top of his July 20 program: "We're going to start tonight with an FBI investigation that has set off a political firestorm today between Republicans and Democrats, which tells us, very clearly how deeply divided and outspoken politicians can be in the middle of a presidential campaign."

Pierre Thomas outlined the case against Berger and how the archive staff saw Berger "stashing papers in his pockets" and that some papers may still be missing. Like Williams, he noted that "some of the information was apparently critical of Clinton's anti-terror efforts."

Jennings then reported: "This afternoon Sandy Berger resigned as an informal adviser to John Kerry's campaign. His attorney said that Mr. Berger does not want any issue surrounding the 9/11 commission to be used for partisan purposes. Not a chance these days."

Linda Douglass ran through how Republicans lined up to accuse Democrats of a cover up of failures in the Clinton years and then how Tom Daschle called the timing "curious" as Democrats argue that Republicans were just trying to shift attention away from Bush before the 9/11 Commission report is released. She concluded with how both parties are "scrambling to blame the other."

None of the broadcast networks went as far as did CNN's Kelli Arena on NewsNight. She relayed how "law enforcement sources say archives staff told investigators Berger stuffed the notes in his pants and jacket. Those sources also say one archives staffer told agents Berger also placed something in his socks, which Berger associates heatedly deny and there was no camera in the room."

Like Tuesday's Today on NBC, NewsNight brought aboard David Gergen to defend Berger. He praised Berger to CNN's Aaron Brown: "He's one of the heroes in the war on terrorism in my book. Let me just say I think this has been blown way out of proportion and it is much more innocent than it looks. Let's get a couple of things very clear. In late 1999, as the millennium celebration approached, the United States had a lot of warnings that terrorists were about to strike. Sandy Berger went into a bunker for three or four nights, 24 hours a day practically, working with a team and they thwarted that terrorism, those attempted terrorist attacks. One of them was going to be to take out the Los Angeles Airport and there were other strikes intended. They stopped those attacks."

Hmmm. I thought it was a border guard in Washington state who, without any guidance from DC, caught one of the millennium plotters.

Full rundown of July 20 CBS Evening News coverage:

Dan Rather opened his broadcast: "Good evening. Almost two a day. That is the rate American troops are dying in Iraq with the total now approaching 900 since the war began. Two Marines and two Army soldiers are the latest casualties, all killed in combat west of the capital in the last 25 hours."

Following Kimberly Dozier on the release of the Filipino hostage and other activity in Iraq, Rather went to Lee Cowan for a look at how U.S. forces are stretched so thin that new soldiers are on Medicare. Cowan showcased 67 and 68 year old psychiatrists who have been called up to deal with the high suicide rate of soldiers in Iraq.

Rather soon arrived at the Berger story: "Sandy Berger, who was National Security Advisor under President Clinton, stepped aside today as an advisor to Senator John Kerry. CBS's John Roberts reports this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence."

Roberts began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Even as he testified before the 9/11 Commission, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was under criminal investigation for removing several highly classified documents from the National Archives. Through his attorney, Berger today pled sloppiness."
Lanny Breuer, attorney of Sandy Berger: "He's not an organized guy. And when he was reviewing documents, he wasn't particularly organized in his review of documents."
Roberts: "It was on one of three trips to the archives last year to vet documents for the 9/11 Commission that Berger says he inadvertently put several highly classified draft intelligence reports into a leather portfolio he was carrying. But he does admit, against archives policy, he intentionally smuggled out of the archives handwritten notes he needed for his commission testimony hidden in his pocket. Republicans in both the Justice Department and Congress today accused Berger of stuffing his pants with classified data. In a statement, House Speaker Dennis Hastert blasted him for 'pilfering out nation's most sensitive secrets.' Nonsense, said Berger's former boss today."
Bill Clinton: "This thing's been going on for months, and the 9/11 Commission has gone out of their way to try to talk about how forthcoming we were from the very beginning, giving all of the information."
Roberts: "The 9/11 Commission agrees it got everything it wanted from Berger. And Republicans and Democrats alike say the timing of the investigation's disclosure smells like politics, leaked to the press just two days before the 9/11 Commission report comes out."
Eddie Mahe, Republican strategist: "Somebody is manipulating the process, I will say that categorically, for some agenda of some kind."
Roberts: "Berger returned to the archives all but two of the documents, which he believes he accidentally threw away. An FBI search of his home in January turned up nothing, and late today law enforcement sources said they don't expect any criminal charges will be filed."

Rather Reserves "Carefully Orchestrated
Leak" to Items on Dems

Dan Rather reserves his "carefully orchestrated leak" formulation, to discredit revelations, to those stories harmful to Democrats. A review of the MRC archive and a cross-check with Nexis located four instances in the past six years or so in which Rather has applied the formulation and in every instance the disclosure was about a Democrat.

In addition to the news about Sandy Berger which Rather only reluctantly reported, as detailed in item #1 above, in June of 1998 Rather asserted that the "carefully orchestrated leaks" of Lewinsky tapes released earlier, which "were damaging to the Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story." Exactly two years later, on June 22, 2000, Rather introduced a story about how "Vice President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new, carefully orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore's past campaign fundraising practices." On the night Al Gore was set to address the Democratic convention in August of 2000, Rather intoned on the CBS Evening News: "Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And now Gore must do so against the backdrop of a potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated story leak about President Clinton." Rather used the same formulation later during CBS's prime time coverage but, in fact, the leak came from a Carter-appointed federal judge.

Full quotations of those instances of how Rather framed the stories:

-- June 22, 1998 CBS Evening News. Rather: "It appears tonight that carefully orchestrated leaks of secretly recorded tapes of Monica Lewinsky, that were damaging to the Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story. Also today, weekend reports of what Lewinsky is or isn't prepared to tell special prosecutor Ken Starr, may not be wholly accurate either. CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer is here with a reality and accuracy check for you."

Referring to a tape excerpt obtained by U.S. News, Bob Schieffer contended: "Now this conversation suggests that White House aides were trying to help Miss Lewinsky find a job long before Paula Jones's lawyers were trying to track her down and question her under oath about her relationship with the President. This is significant because the independent counsel has been investigating whether the White House aides were trying to find those jobs for Miss Lewinsky as a reward for her denying that she had an affair with the President."

For more, see the June 23, 1998 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

-- June 22, 2000 CBS Evening News. Rather: "Vice President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new, carefully orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore's past campaign fundraising practices. A Justice Department official is calling for an independent investigator in the case. CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has the facts and the context on this."

-- August 17, 2000 CBS Evening News, in a formulation he repeated during CBS's prime time convention coverage, Rather intoned: "Timing is everything. Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And now Gore must do so against the backdrop of a potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated story leak about President Clinton. The story is that Republican-backed special prosecutor Robert Ray, Ken Starr's successor, has a new grand jury looking into possible criminal charges against the president growing out of Mr. Clinton's sex life. CBS' Jim Stewart in Washington has that story and the context."

The next night Jim Stewart insisted: "Yesterday the White House, Democratic Party officials and just about everyone in Washington who follows politics were in agreement that it had to be a Republican that leaked the news that a new grand jury was looking into the Monica Lewinsky affair." But, he conceded, "now, a federal judge has stepped forward and volunteered that he was the leak. And not only that, the judge was appointed by a Democrat." Jimmy Carter, in fact.

For more on CBS coverage of the matter, including an excerpt of Dan Rather's online essay titled "Low-Road Politics: Clinton Grand Jury Leak Carefully Orchestrated," and for a RealPlayer video clip of Rather in high-dudgeon, see: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Four years later, Rather regurgitated his formulation, announcing on the July 20, 2004 CBS Evening News: "Sandy Berger, who was National Security Advisor under President Clinton, stepped aside today as an advisor to Senator John Kerry. CBS's John Roberts reports this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence." See item #1 for more.

Newsweek's Fineman: Democrats "Down the
Middle" & "Moderate"

A preview of coverage next week? On Monday's Hardball on MSNBC, Newsweek's Howard Fineman insisted that the Democratic "message" is "down the middle," reflecting a "moderate" platform.

The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this July 19 Hardball exchange about the agenda of the convention and the positions in the platform:
Chris Matthews: "Will they see liberalism in action up there that offends people or will they just see old memories of old liberalism but today, Howard, the message is gonna be more practical, more down the middle?"
Howard Fineman: "Well I think it is, the message is more practical and down the middle. If you read the Democratic platform which was engineered by the Kerry people, it's very cautious. It doesn't call for pulling the troops out of Iraq, for example. It's moderate, but you know, consistent with pragmatic Democratic policy on health care and so forth."

Let's see if less than conservative aspects of the GOP agenda and platform are described by journalists as showing how George W. Bush's Republican Party is "down the middle" and "moderate" -- which it certainly is on many issues.

CBS Complains Kerry Would Raise Minimum
Wage "Only" to $7

CBS on Tuesday night framed the latest installment of their "What Does It Mean to You" series around how, as Dan Rather relayed, "many say no one can live" on the current minimum wage. Reporter Richard Schlesinger found a victim of the low minimum wage and assessed both candidates from the left, giving them failing grades for not advocating enough of a hike in it as he touted the fairness of a "living wage" ordinance enacted in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Schlesinger complained that "the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 for seven years. According to one report, had the minimum wage kept up with inflation every worker in the U.S. would now be guaranteed $8.49 an hour, almost exactly what the city of Santa Fe is telling employers here to pay. John Kerry would raise the minimum wage, but to only $7 by 2007."

Schlesinger did acknowledge that "Kerry and Bush both worry that raising the minimum wage by too much could actually cost jobs," but he quickly returned to his showcased victim of a supposedly low minimum wage: "Maria Camejo's problem is that her two jobs are not covered by Santa Fe's living wage law, so she's come to the mall looking for a new job that would pay her $8.50 an hour." If she gets one of those jobs, Schlesinger concluded, "it would mean that she'd only have to work five days a week -- but only because her local government did what the federal government wouldn't."

Schlesinger interviewed Camejo in the backyard of a house as her kid played on a play set and Schlesinger talked to her on a patio next to a nice lawn. So it didn't look like she's doing that badly.

Rather set up the July 20 CBS Evening News piece: "When the U.S. government established a federal minimum wage 66 years ago under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was meant to be a wage a worker could live on. Minimum wage is now just over $5 an hour, and many say no one can live on that. It hasn't been raised in a long while. What, if anything, would the presidential candidates do about this? CBS's Mika Brzezinski has the answer in the special 'Eye on America' series, 'What Does it Mean to You?'"

Actually, Richard Schlesinger handled the story and he began with the plight of one woman: "Summertime is a slow time for Maria Carnejo, but not an easy time. When school's out she only works one job, which means she has more time to play with her children, but less money to play with. It's never really easy for her. Most of the year she works two jobs: as a cashier in a middle school and cleaning the post office. She works seven days a week, and it's still not enough."
As the two sat on bricked backyard patio: Maria Camejo: "I'm not able with my two jobs to pay all my bills."
Schlesinger: "At least Maria makes a little more than minimum wage, which is $5.15 an hour."
Camejo: "$5.15 is almost what a gallon of milk costs us at the store."
Schlesinger: "Maria could get some help soon, but not from either candidate. The city of Santa Fe, where she lives, just passed an ordinance requiring companies that employ more than 25 people to pay what's called a 'living wage:' $8.50 an hour. What would that mean to you?"
Camejo: "Better food in my refrigerator and more time spending with my kids."
Schlesinger: "The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 for seven years. According to one report, had the minimum wage kept up with inflation every worker in the U.S. would now be guaranteed $8.49 an hour, almost exactly what the city of Santa Fe is telling employers here to pay. John Kerry would raise the minimum wage, but to only $7 by 2007."
John Kerry: "American workers are sharing less in the wealth created of our country than at almost any time in the modern economy of our country, and that's not fair."
Schlesinger: "But Kerry and Bush both worry that raising the minimum wage by too much could actually cost jobs. The President has opposed a federally mandated minimum wage hike."
George W. Bush: "And it is very important that we have a wage policy which does not price people out of jobs."
Schlesinger, over video outside a mall: "Maria Camejo's problem is that her two jobs are not covered by Santa Fe's living wage law, so she's come to the mall looking for a new job that would pay her $8.50 an hour."
Camejo: "It's a big difference. It's important to me."
Schlesinger concluded: "It would mean that she'd only have to work five days a week -- but only because her local government did what the federal government wouldn't. In Santa Fe, I'm Richard Schlesinger for 'Eye on America.'"

To watch CBS's posted video of the story, and for links to previous installments in the series: www.cbsnews.com

# Lesley Stahl of CBS News is scheduled to appear tonight, Wednesday, on CBS's Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.

-- Brent Baker