CyberAlert -- 02/03/1997 -- Database Discovered
MRC Alert: Database Discovered; Stahl Denies Bias; CNN's Spins1. The White House database makes the network evening news -- seven months after it was uncovered by The Washington Times.
2. A fugitive and man convicted of securities fraud attended White House coffees, but the networks don't tell viewers about them.
4. Dan Rather describes current 2.5 percent GDP as "ideal," not quite the spin the media took toward a higher rate in 1992.
5. Liberal bias? Lesley Stahl blames viewers: "It's just if what you're watching doesn't please you then you think we're biased."
"Secret System Computerizes Personal Data," declared a front
page June 26, 1996 article in The Washington Times. Reporter Paul
Rodriquez detailed how the White House Office Data Base (WHODB) tracked
personal information on those who visited the Clintons, including their
DNC donation records.
Seven months later, the February 3 Time magazine, out January 27, ran a story headlined "A Secret Cash Link: A White House Operation that Tracked Donors Was Extensive, Top Secret and Pushed by the First Lady." On January 30 the Los Angeles Times reported on its front page that though the government-owned database could be legally used only for official purposes, "the White House staff frequently retrieved data on large political contributors and turned it over to the Democratic National Committee to help raise money for the President's re-election, interviews show."
Finally, seven months and four days after The Washington Times broke the story, the night the LA Times story appeared the database drew broadcast network attention, but only from two of the three networks.
The January 30
NBC Nightly News devoted its "Fleecing of America" segment to
the database. Reporter Lisa Myers filed a tough report that highlighted
some Hollywood celebrities:
On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather announced: "Questions keep coming about the way Democrats bankrolled the Clinton re-election campaign. Republicans have again attacked the White House for using a database containing 350,000 names. The Republicans say that this was a blatant fundraising operation and that taxpayers were stuck with a $1.7 million tab to create it. Correspondent Rita Braver reports why that could be a problem for President Clinton."
Of course, it would have been more of a problem if reported last June.
Braver concluded by noting Hillary Clinton's role, but gave her the last word: "....Now the documents we obtained showed that the First Lady personally pushed hard for this system. And at a meeting with a few reporters today on another subject, she confirmed that. She also insisted she only wanted something to track who came to official White House functions. Dan."
ABC's World News Tonight didn't air a piece, but did do a story on the Friday, January 31 Good Morning America. How about World News Tonight Friday night? No story, nor one Saturday or Sunday.
It's not the only revelation the networks are failing to pursue. On January 30 the Associated Press reported that "a former banker who is a fugitive from Lebanon on embezzlement charges sipped coffee at the White House with President Clinton and other Democratic donors last April." Coverage: a story on CNN, but nothing on the broadcast network evening shows.
February 1 Washington Post revealed that "a New Jersey stock
promoter, convicted of criminal securities fraud that benefitted a member
of the Bonanno organized crime family, was among eight guests who accepted
an invitation to join President Clinton and top Democratic Party leaders
for an early morning coffee four days before Christmas in 1995."
3) Michael Weisskopf wrote the Time magazine story on the database. Weisskopf recently jumped to Time from The Washington Post where he had become infamous for a paragraph in a 1993 news story he wrote. It won the "Dumbest Quote of the Year" Award in the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 1993: The Sixth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting.
In a February 1, 1993 Washington Post story Weisskopf asserted: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions pf dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that [Jerry] Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."
Friday night (January 31) Dan Rather told CBS Evening News viewers:
Not quite the gloomy spin CBS offered in 1992 when a higher GDP rate of 2.7 percent was announced. On October 27, 1992 Susan Spencer filed from the Bush campaign: "He crowed today at upbeat news of a third quarter growth rate of 2.7 percent, though some economists warned that may not hold." Spencer was correct, but not in the direction she thought: the GDP was later revised upward to 3.9 percent.
5) A caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal on Friday morning asked Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes about liberal media bias in coverage of Bill Clinton. She responded by claiming the bias is not with reporters but with viewers. Here's her response, as transcribed by MRC news analyst Jim Forbes:
"I was about
to say that if you want to talk about bias go ask President Clinton where
the bias lies. As you know, the White House just issued this big huge
study, they called it, of how the main line media is sucked in by the
right wing conspiratorialists. My point is that everybody who watches
television brings their own biases to it, and if what you're watching
doesn't please you then you think we're biased.
MRC news analyst Clay Waters noticed this contradictory reporting just
hours apart on CNN. On the January 22 Inside Politics Candy Crowley
Maybe it wasn't so easy. Six hours later CNN anchor Kathleen Kennedy announced on The World Today: "Senate confirmation for two of President Clinton's other Cabinet appointees may not be so easy. Housing Secretary nominee Andrew Cuomo was grilled for three hours on the state of Housing and Urban Development. The Department is under congressional fire for alleged inefficiency and wastefulness."
While on the
contrast beat, compare these January 31 headlines.
"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" became a well-known phrase in
media circles, and the title of a R.E.M. song, after Dan Rather claimed
that's what a man on a Manhattan street yelled at him during a 1986
assault. The incident added to Rather's image as a man on the edge, just
about to go nuts. Thursday's USA Today recalled that Rather's story of
being mugged "was greeted with widespread incredulity." Well, it
may well be that Rather's tale was actually true.
Before you think that means Rather is perfectly rational, remember what he said election night: "In New Hampshire, closest Senate race in the country, this race between Dick Swett and Bob Smith is hot and tight as a too small bathing suit on a too long car ride back from the beach."
-- Brent Baker