CyberAlert -- 07/18/2001 -- Wednesday Night Dan Rather Discovered Chandra Levy
Wednesday Night Dan Rather Discovered Chandra Levy, But Only to Clear Condit, Who Was Not Labeled a Democrat, And Impugn DC Police
1) Wednesday night the weekday version of the CBS Evening News finally discovered the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit story. But instead of filling in their ill-informed viewers about Condit's obfuscation regarding his relationship with Levy, CBS emphasized how "law enforcement sources" believe "that local police have put an 'inappropriate emphasis' on the role of Congressman Gary Condit," whom CBS did not identify as a Democrat.
As if CBS News has never done that.
Rather set up the story by insulting the news judgment of every other CBS News show which has covered the case, including the weekend editions of the CBS Evening News, by implying nothing until now has really been newsworthy: "There is news tonight worthy of national note in the case of missing person 24-year-old Chandra Levy." Rather also oddly referred to the "widely-publicized investigation." A "widely-publicized investigation" until now ignored by Rather.
Immediately after Stewart's piece Rather told viewers they should "keep in mind" that "no one's been charged with breaking any law," as if the CBS Evening News has never before run a story about something before charges have been formally filed.
Below is the full transcript I took down of the July 18 CBS Evening News story which ran about ten minutes into the broadcast:
Setting up the piece Dan Rather betrayed his reticence to touch the matter: "There is news tonight worthy of national note in the case of missing person 24-year-old Chandra Levy. The young women disappeared in Washington more than eleven weeks ago and became one of tens of thousands of missing persons across the country. CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart reports that now both the status and the nature of this widely-publicized investigation have changed."
Stewart began: "Washington's summer-long search for a missing former intern has quietly reached a critical juncture. Earlier this week the FBI officially transferred the Chandra Levy investigation to its cold case unit, which historically has handled only the toughest cases which have few clues. Law enforcement sources say too say the shift in responsibility coincides with the belief that local police have put an 'inappropriate emphasis' on the role of Congressman Gary Condit in the case and while Metropolitan Washington Police continue as the lead investigators, FBI agents will start at ground zero and 'focus on areas other than Representative Condit.' [Both quotes appeared in quotes in on-screen graphics.]
Stewart continued: "Meanwhile, laboratory
tests on a hat, a jacket and other items taken from Condit's Washington
apartment have thus far disclosed no traces of blood or other useful
evidence. Justice Department sources say there is also growing uneasiness
among prosecutors over the public spectacle the case has become.
Prosecutors are said to be particularly unhappy over the multiple press
appearances local police make each day with essentially nothing to
Stewart concluded: "The real significance of the FBI re-assignment is in the very name of the unit handling it. 'Cold case' means cold leads, few tips and little to go on. The media spotlight may stay hot but the investigation now appears to be in the hands of people prepared to take years to do their work."
Rather followed up: "You may want to keep in mind that the case remains officially a missing person case. No crime has been established. No one has been accused by law men of anything, much less formerly charged. No one's been charged with breaking any law."
CBS's The Early Show first reported on the Levy case in a Thursday, May 17 interview with Chandra Levy's mother, so it took a day shy of another nine weeks for the weekday CBS Evening News to see any news value in the case. The Saturday and Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News covered the case starting on July 7.
That's quite a contrast from how quickly the weekday CBS Evening News with Dan Rather jumped on allegations of sexual harassment against Senator Bob Packwood back in 1992. On Monday, November 23, 1992, the day after a Sunday Washington Post story had first revealed claims by several women that Packwood, a liberal Republican, had accosted them with unwanted touching and kisses, all three broadcast network evening shows ran full stories which identified Packwood as a Republican.
Dan Rather introduced the 1992 report: "One of the better known names in the U.S. Senate is caught up in accusations of sexual harassment. And with a record number of women Senators coming into the new Congress, this could be an early test of how much politics in the Senate is destined to change. Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has the story."
Schieffer wasted no time in highlighting Packwood's party, starting his piece: "For Oregon Republican Bob Packwood, the November election was sweet. He won a fifth term after one of his toughest campaigns ever. But suddenly, it has all gone sour over allegations of sexual harassment..."
To view a RealPlayer clip of this 1992 CBS Evening News story, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010716.asp#5
Hear Dan Rather being questioned about his lack of coverage of Levy/Condit. According to the Imus page on the msnbc.com Web site Rather is scheduled to appear Thursday morning, July 19, during the 7:30am EDT half hour of the Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC.
Expect Rather to offer some lame excuses for avoiding the story for so long. -- Brent Baker
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