CyberAlert -- 03/31/1998 -- GOP Blocks Great Reform
GOP Blocks Great Reform; Hitting Jones for a "Scurrilous" Attack
Correction: The March 27 CyberAlert referred to how the CBS Evening News ran a story on an "anti-impotency bill." Congress did not solve the problem. That's an anti-impotency "pill."
NBC and FNC led with Clinton scandal with FNC the only network to consider newsworthy the likelihood that Clinton will refuse to appear before the grand jury. The other three networks were all over the place. The refusal of Republicans to pass campaign finance reform topped ABC. The CBS Evening News started with El Nino-caused tornadoes in Minnesota and CNN's The World Today began with the discovery of a protein which inhibits the HIV virus.
Some highlights from the Monday, March 30 evening shows:
-- Peter Jennings teased at the top of the broadcast: "On World News Tonight this Monday. All that money in politics. So many promises about change. They'll be no reform from this Congress. All that money in politics and what is it doing to the debate about drunk driving? Is the liquor industry calling the shots?"
Linda Douglass began her opening piece: "For the first time it appears there are enough votes in both houses of Congress to pass sweeping campaign finance legislation. But today top Republican leaders made sure it will not happen, prompting outrage among reform supporters..."
"For nearly three years House Speaker Newt Gingrich has promised to follow up on a deal he made with President Clinton to clean up the money in politics..."
Douglass concluded: "Some Republicans are vowing to try again. They say they'd rather defy their leaders than try to explain to the voters at home why they failed once more to get the big money out of politics."
Next, John Cochran looked at how MADD is getting outspent by industry lobbyists in its effort to impose a national .08 blood alcohol level.
-- CBS Evening News. After the first ad break Dan Rather intoned:
"President Clinton's lawyers today accused attorneys for Paula Jones of quote 'scurrilous harassment' unquote and asked a judge to find Jones's lawyers in contempt. Among other things, they said claims by the Jones camp that the Clintons had obstructed justice by withholding letters written by Kathleen Willey were, quote 'ludicrous.' They also blasted Jones's lawyers for re-raising a twenty-year-old, unsubstantiated rape allegation against Mr. Clinton.
"There was a setback of sorts for special prosecutor Kenneth Starr today at the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices rejected Starr's request for access to notes taken by a lawyer for late White House aide Vice Foster just days before Foster's suicide in 1993. Starr insists he wants these notes now while his criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton. The high court says it will hear arguments on Starr's request but not until next fall."
Unlike NBC viewers, ABC and CBS viewers don't even know the woman's name. Rather's one sentence dismissal of the 1978 incident means CBS viewers really have no idea what the Jones team is charging happened. As recounted in the March 30 CyberAlert, here is all March 29 Evening News viewers learned from Sharyl Attkisson:
"...The White House describes as outrageous and false other allegations in the new Jones documents -- unsubstantiated claims that Bill Clinton raped a woman back in 1978 when he was Arkansas's Attorney General, then suppressed her story through bribes and/or threats. Outraged Clinton defenders say the woman is on the record denying that it ever happened."
After a soundbite from Torricelli, Attkisson delivered this less than definitive conclusion:
"And adding to the confusion, when we asked the woman's attorney about the rape allegation he told CBS News, quote 'we do not deny it, we do not admit it. People will have to judge this kind of crock on their own,' end quote. But with overlapping investigations and sealed documents that will be hard to do."
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken explained how Bob Bennett was seeking sanctions against Jones's lawyers, noting that Bennett called the attack "'an ongoing plan to taint the jury pool, an act of desperation, a stalking horse for the investigation being conducted by the independent counsel.' He provided as support an affidavit from a University of Southern California student who claimed to be among those at a meeting with Paula Jones spokesperson Susan Carpenter McMillan. Benjamin Baker said McMillan had 'explained that it was her job for Mrs. Jones to poison the jury pool so that no potential juror would like President Clinton.'"
Franken allowed McMillan to deny the charge and while he noted that the woman at the center of the assault story said it never happened, unlike Rather, Franken added: "The Jones team counters the woman was pressured to change her story."
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. Anchor Catherine Crier led with an angle missed by all the other networks:
"The President promised Americans he'd tell all about the Monica Lewinsky case when the time comes, but it looks like he won't be telling anything to the grand jury."
Reporter David Shuster filled in the details, explaining how "now that prosecutors are actually ready for Mr. Clinton to appear in front of the Lewinsky grand jury several members of Mr. Clinton's legal team have advised the President not to testify at all...."
-- Tom Brokaw opened NBC Nightly News: "The shocking news out of Jonesboro, Arkansas last week, that school shooting and the President's trip to Africa then, all of that moved the White House sex scandal back a few paces. But tonight it is very active again. The President's lawyer responding to allegations that surfaced over the weekend, a new story about President Clinton and an alleged old encounter."
David Bloom began: "Well Tom, this is knock down drag the other side through the mud fight and tonight the President's lawyers want Paula Jones's lawyers held in contempt of court."
Bloom relayed how Bennett says the Jones team maneuver to raise the rape charge was an "act of desperation" and that Juanita Broaddrick denied the allegation. Like Saturday night, only NBC mentioned her name.
Next, Brokaw bemoaned the loss of liberal campaign finance reform legislation: "And on Capitol Hill, after all the political lightening and thunder about the need to reform the way campaigns are financed in this country. In the House of Representatives tonight a maneuver to kill off any chance of reform for this year. The Republican leadership decided to put forward watered down bills and limit debate with no amendments and everyone says that will end campaign finance reform efforts."
Media Masochism Update. To demonstrate media excess in Monicagate coverage, some networks and print outlets highlighted a study showing exorbitant reliance upon weakly sourced material. But reporters didn't bother telling viewers that's no different than how they handled Iran-Contra.
CNN's Inside Politics devoted a February 18 segment to a study of major networks and print outlets sponsored by the Committee of Concerned Journalists (CCJ). Anchor Jeanne Meserve explained it "shows, in the first six days of coverage, 41 percent was analysis/opinion; 25 percent was based on a single named source; 18 percent on anonymous sources; and one percent on two named sources." During a March 5 Nightline on how the public believed the media were over-covering the scandal, ABC's Chris Bury also picked up the study, relaying the finding that "40 percent of all reporting based on anonymous sources was from a single source."
But a February 23 Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) press release announced that "contrary to the claims of some media critics," their study "showed no marked increase in the use of anonymous sources." Looking at the first ten days of Lewinsky coverage on the broadcast networks, CMPA found that "more than half of all reports (56 percent) cited at least one unnamed source. This is comparable to network coverage of the first month of the Iran-Contra scandal in November 1986, when 57 percent of all reports quoted unnamed sources."
Contrary to media self-loathing about unfairness to Clinton, the CMPA noted Clinton fared much better than his accusers: "Researchers tallied all 537 sound bites containing judgments of Mr. Clinton, and found nearly as many were supportive (48 percent) as critical (52 percent)....Other scandal figures, however, didn't fare as well. Linda Tripp was criticized by 69 percent of quoted sources, and Monica Lewinsky was panned by 75 percent. For his part, independent counsel Kenneth Starr was criticized by 70 percent of quoted sources."
To read the whole CMPA report or to see their other scandal analysis (they are the group which tracks the political content of the late-night show jokes), go to: http://www.cmpa.com.
Definitely an NYPD Blue night. -- Brent Baker
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