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CyberAlert -- 05/22/1997 -- Light on Lums

Light on Lums; Equating Tuskegee to End of Quotas

  1. Guilty pleas from the Lums get covered, but in very short stories well into the newscasts. Only CBS mentioned charges of influence-peddling.
  2. Tuskegee experiments, ending race-based quotas for medical school admission. To CBS, they're equivalent examples of why blacks can no longer trust the government.

Now on the MRC's Web site: "Team Clinton, the Starting Line-Up of the Pro-Clinton Press Corps." The booklet contains the most colorful pro-Clinton and anti-conservative quotes from 28 of the most prominent television reporters and commentators -- from Ken Bode to Jim Wooten, with Al Hunt and Peter Jennings in between. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/bookstore/teamclin.html



1) On Wednesday Nora and Gene Lum pleaded guilty to funneling campaign contributions through straw donors. All the networks reported the first charges from the Justice Department investigation of campaign fundraising, but all ran the story well into the newscast and, except for CBS, failed to mention the influence-peddling allegation surrounding the Lums and their dealings with former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

-- About 15 minutes into World News Tonight, ABC turned to the news in its new "Briefings" segment, a series of three short items read by Peter Jennings, each followed by Q&A from Jennings with a reporter. Jennings announced:

"In Washington today two Asian-Americans pleaded guilty to arranging illegal campaign contributions to Democratic candidates in the 1994 congressional elections...." Jennings noted that the Lums were "very close" with Ron Brown, but provided no details.

In Q&A, reporter Brian Ross said the Lums were "part of the Democratic fundraising machine" and observed that Nora Lum was close to John Huang. But Jennings tried to deflect attention from the Clintons by raising the everybody does it theme: "Can this then be a real window do you think into foreign money in U.S. politics?"

The entire segment lasted barely a minute.

-- Ten minutes into NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw gave Jim Miklaszewski about a minute and fifteen seconds the explain the news. Miklaszewski offered a tougher assessment than ABC, explaining that "Federal investigators claim the Lums used their political connections to cash in on big business deals. And those connections reach all the way into Clinton White House. The Lums made frequent visits to the White House, including a state dinner." Miklaszewski concluded by reporting: "Federal investigators tell NBC News they're looking into allegations that the Lums also funneled illegal campaign contributions into the Clinton-Gore campaign."

-- CBS Evening News led with a "CBS News exclusive" on how Hillary Clinton won't be indicted by the grand jury assembled in the District. About 14 minutes later, Dan Rather announced the guilty pleas from the Lums. Rita Braver observed that "Most people have never even heard of the Lums. But they are very controversial." Indeed, the networks have ignored their story, though they were central to the independent counsel probe of Brown aborted by his death. But Braver then proceeded to tell viewers why the couple is so controversial:

"They began to raise money for the Democrats in about 1992. They had business interests in Asia and they became good friends with the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. In fact, he hired their daughter to work at the Commerce Department and they hired his son to be a director in their company and gave him five percent of the stock. And there have been suggestions and allegations - these are only allegations - that this was part of an illegal influence-peddling scheme..."

-- In April, the usually left-wing Frontline show on PBS examined the Lums, but the program failed to generate much media interest. For the May MediaWatch, Associate Editor Tim Graham wrote a short summary of the show for our On the Bright Side feature. Here's an excerpt that explains to connection between the Lums and Mack McLarty:

Frontline Finally Arrives

More than four years in, the PBS documentary series Frontline finally aired its first program investigating a Clinton administration scandal. In the April 15 program "The Fixers," correspondent Peter Boyer plowed new ground on the Asian fundraising connection of Eugene and Nora Lum of Hawaii.

Boyer explained how the Lums were major Democratic fundraisers among Asian Americans during the 1992 campaign, and came to know party chairman Ron Brown. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, utility regulators with the state Corporation Commission were uncovering a regular pattern of bribery and corruption in the awarding of natural gas contracts, including bribery by Arkla Gas - led by Mack McLarty, soon to become White House Chief of Staff.

One gas supplier sued to bring the corruption into the open. In came the Lums, offering to buy the supplier - if they'd drop the suit. Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony told PBS the Lums had "no experience, no reserves, and they end up getting a contract to sell enormous volumes of natural gas over a 10-year period of time, and their biggest claim to fame seems to be their political connections....Mack McLarty had a motive and an interest in seeing that these lawsuits and the discovery and the public disclosure go away."


2) Not giving blacks a preference in medical school admission is just as bad as the "Tuskegee experiment," in which black syphilis suffers were misled and not treated, Dan Rather suggested last Friday night.

Rather told May 16 CBS Evening News viewers:

"Earlier tonight we reported the President's apology for medical experiments that allowed black Americans to die of syphilis. The President noted how badly this hurt public trust in government, especially among minorities. The same criticism is being made today on another score. As CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports, it's the fallout from California's voter- approved ban on state affirmative action programs."

To fully appreciate the bias of the story, you need to read the whole report. Though Blackstone offers time to Ward Connerly, he's outnumbered by quota proponents. As transcribed my MRC intern Jessica Anderson, here's the entire story:

John Blackstone

: "In the lecture halls at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, the end of affirmative action will mean dramatically fewer black and Hispanic students next year, 25 percent fewer, and more whites and Asians. To Ward Connerly, who led the campaign to end racial preferences in California, it's proof he did the right thing."

Ward Connerly: "This is like a bucket of cold water in the face of society that these numbers are going down as dramatically as they are. But it really says that for all these years we have been propping the system up with these horrendous preferences."

Blackstone: "But fourth year med students Derrick Butler and Cynthia Fowler say the dropping numbers will make it harder for those who follow them."

Cynthia Fowler: "We have the largest class of African-American students, there were 16 of us when we started, and now, that was wonderful."

Blackstone: "This year they'll all graduate, but with fewer minorities entering medical school, eventually there will be fewer black and Hispanic doctors. And a study by the University of California just released shows there's already a shortage of doctors in low-income and minority communities. Dr. Kevin Brumbach is one of the authors of the study."

Dr. Kevin Brumbach: "What we found is that minority physicians are much more likely to serve minority patients. They're much more likely, than white physicians, to go out to communities that don't have many doctors and to set up their practice there."

Blackstone: "While 26 percent of California's population is Hispanic, only four percent of the state's doctors are Hispanic. Without affirmative action, the gap is expected to grow. Dr. Enrique Gonzalez rejects the suggestion that those who have benefitted from affirmative action are somehow less qualified."

Dr. Enrique Gonzalez: "Medical school is very rigorous, and once you're in there, you have to produce just like the next person."

Blackstone: "Derrick Butler intends to practice medicine in the inner-city."

Derrick Butler: "I've chosen to serve that community, myself."

Blackstone: "But he says, others who might do the same may now never become doctors, discouraged by the end of affirmative action."

Butler: "It sends a message to the rest of the nation that California isn't welcoming to, you know, students of color."

Blackstone: "Indeed, the main reason for the drop in medical school enrollment next year is that minority students have chosen not to apply. Many seem to believe no matter what their qualifications, the welcome mat has been pulled in at California's universities. John Blackstone, CBS News, San Francisco."

Not considered by Blackstone: that affirmative action has failed. If the number of minorities getting into grad schools falls when they no longer get a preference, might that mean that affirmative action in college failed to bring them up to the average of others? Or, maybe it just proves that a lot of minorities got in all along that couldn't meet the standard set for everyone else. If everyone is treated equally maybe more people will trust the government now that it is no longer playing favorites.

No matter what the reality, CBS pulled in the welcome mat on balanced reporting about the end of affirmative action.

-- Brent Baker