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CyberAlert -- 01/30/1997 -- Clinton as Victim

MRC Alert: Clinton as Victim; CBS Takes on a Grocery; Gumbel to Stay?

1. ABC and CNN reporters portray Clinton as the victim of an unforgiving opposition party in the fundraising scandal.

2. One week after the Food Lion verdict CBS News takes on another grocery chain for "a type of job abuse that's rarely talked about."

3. Bryant Gumbel will be as visible on NBC as Bill Moyers is on PBS if NBC gets its way by offering him, as USA Today reported, a "laundry list of high-profile duties."

4. The Washington Post tags a mainstream conservative foundation as "ultra-right."

1) During his Tuesday press conference President Clinton got some pretty tough questions about his fundraising and all the networks aired evening news stories on his admission that "mistakes were made." But not from everyone took an adversarial approach. Two network reporters portrayed Clinton as the victim.

Newly-installed ABC News White House reporter John Donvan asked Clinton:
"Mr. President, in your Inaugural address eight days ago you outlined some quite lofty goals -- for example, the education proposals you were speaking about today. But in the days since, many questions in the press and in Congress have focused on issues like campaign fundraising. My question is whether you are worried that the well is being poisoned even now for the realization of these goals before you can get out of the gate, particularly on the issue of bipartisanship?"

After the press conference CNN anchor Judy Woodruff demanded of Senator Phil Gramm why the Republicans were so unforgiving:
"Senator, you said that you don't think there's any comparison in any other administration with what happened at this White House...And yet the President acknowledged mistakes were made. He said either deliberately or inadvertently. He said we're going to find out. He said we're going to find out exactly which it was. How much more does the President need to say, to apologize, to say he wants to clear the air or however you want to put it?"

CNN's Candy Crowley posed a couple of questions before Woodruff made this query right out of the Democratic Party talking points booklet:
"Senator Gramm, just one other question. How important is it do you think that Senator Thompson's committee look equally or proportionately into what may have been Republican excesses in campaign financing as well as those on the Democratic side?"

2) What "chilling effect"? Last week reporters worried that the Food Lion decision would lead media bosses to pull back from hard-hitting investigative stories on big companies. But Wednesday's (January 29) CBS Evening News ran a piece on the supposed misdeeds of a Food Lion competitor: the Albertsons grocery store chain. And like ABC's Food Lion report it appeared to rely on charges promoted by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
Dan Rather introduced the story with a bit of hyperbole for dramatic effect:
"In tonight's Eye on America, a behind the scenes, under the surface investigation. We looked into allegations of a type of job abuse that's rarely talked about. It may cheat working people out of untold millions of dollars. These are said to be workers who produce for and serve the American public but are not hidden away in sweat shops overseas. Sandra Hughes looked into allegations about the nation's fourth largest supermarket chain."
Sandra Hughes began: "Some two thousand hourly employees claim Albertsons grocery stores are ringing up the profits at their expense. They say for years the company has been forcing them to work after hours with no pay. That's why John Lee submitted this letter of resignation..."
After a soundbite from Lee and another employee who was afraid of being fired, Hughes noted: "Joe Peterson of the food worker's union is compiling a growing list of complaints."
Hughes then talked to another employee who explained how the company duty lists contained more duties than could be accomplished in a shift. Hughes allowed an Albertsons spokesman to say the charges are a union organizing tactic, before concluding with a former employee who insisted short-changing employees was company policy.

As a salaried employee I'm not sure how much sympathy I should have for those not paid more for working a few extra hours. But however wrong it is to not fully pay hourly wage earners, comparing their plight to "sweat shops overseas" is just the kind of hype that's leading the public to mistrust the media.

3) Bryant Gumbel just may stay with NBC after all. Peter Johnson reported in the January 29 USA Today that while Gumbel had been expected to jump to ABC or CBS, "General Electric Chairman Jack Welch has intervened, kept Gumbel on NBC's payroll and ordered execs to make every effort to keep him. A couple of weeks ago Welch flew Gumbel to Seattle to meet Microsoft's Bill Gates and tour MSNBC's Microsoft-run operation in Washington State.
Johnson discovered: "Word is that NBC has offered Gumbel a laundry list of high-profile duties, along with a yearly salary well into seven figures. Discussed: Gumbel hosting NBC's National Geographic specials five times a year, anchoring Dateline NBC one day a week, developing a syndicated show for NBC's local stations and having some MSNBC duties."
Gumbel will play in a golf tournament this weekend and next week, Johnson noted, he will meet "again with ABC News chief Roone Arledge and CBS News President Andrew Heyward, to see what they've cooked up for him."

The next time you hear someone arguing the networks are controlled by wealthy, conservative businessmen, remember this effort by Jack Welch to maximize the visibility of arguably the most liberal network star.

4) An item in Wednesday's Washington Post "Reliable Source" gossip column, by Annie Groer and Ann Gerhart, began: "Look what Great Society warrior is speaking before the ultra-right Heritage Foundation today: Joseph Califano..."

How far left must you be to consider a conservative group like Heritage, which tried to silence critics from the right of George Bush in its ranks, an "ultra-right" group?

-- Brent Baker

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