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CyberAlert -- 09/25/1997 -- Union-DNC Funnel Muzzled; Partisan Push; ABC's Liberal Priest

Union-DNC Funnel Muzzled; Partisan Push; ABC's Liberal Priest

  1. All the networks featured stories on IRS abuses, but only NBC Nightly News included an update on Marv Albert.
  2. Three union consultants plead guilty to funneling money to the DNC, but the broadcast network evening shows have yet to mention it.
  3. Whether it's the fundraising hearings or the look at the IRS, some reporters put partisan portrayals ahead of discoveries.
  4. The star of ABC's Thursday series on a liberal Catholic priest shows disdain for conservative critics, insisting that a church should not tell anyone what to think.

1) Wednesday night all three broadcast networks featured full stories on the IRS hearings before the Senate Finance Committee and both CBS and ABC ended with stories on the 40th anniversary of Little Rock's Central High School desegregation battle. For the second night in a row, of the broadcast networks, only NBC Nightly News offered a bra and panty update on Marv Albert. (CNN's prime time shows prominently featured the trial.) Here are some notes about the September 24 shows:

ABC's World News Tonight led with debate over whether a U.S. astronaut should go to the Mir space station. Later, Peter Jennings offered this introduction to a story on the IRS hearings:

"In Washington today there were some stunning revelations at the second day of Senate hearings on the Internal Revenue Service. An IRS employee testified that agents would make up false accusations against taxpayers just to raise extra money. And ABC's Barry Serafin reports there are others who say the IRS goes out of its way to ruin people's lives."

Maybe this wouldn't be so "stunning" to Jennings if ABC spent more time digging into current abuses by government regulatory agencies and a bit less on who said what in some 30-year-old tobacco company memo. Nothing revealed at the hearings so far couldn't have been discovered and highlighted years ago by any good reporter.

The CBS Evening News also began with "go or no go" on the "crippled Mir."

Bob Schieffer provided a full report about the IRS and later Dan Rather showed a clip of President Clinton at the AFL-CIO convention where he argued for fast track. But Rather failed to use the union story as an opportunity to tell CBS viewers about how three Teamsters officials pleaded guilty last week to funneling money between the union and the DNC. See item #2 below for more on the lack of coverage of this matter.

Two stories on the impact of El Nino topped the September 24 NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw led into NBC's IRS story by announcing:

"This was another tough day in the spotlight for the IRS, the agency that collects your taxes. Senate Republicans have put the IRS under hot lights for its abuses, and not incidentally because it's also a very popular target with voters. Today a view from inside the agency -- scary."

After recounting the testimony of an IRS agent about how the agency abuses taxpayers and some experiences of taxpayers who were mistreated, Lisa Myers concluded her report:

"Tonight the IRS Commissioner issued a statement apologizing to these taxpayers, saying no one should have to endure what they did. He did not say when they would get their money back."

On the Menage a Marv front, only NBC offered an update. Tom Brokaw told viewers:

"There was also more shocking testimony today at the sexual assault trial of Marv Albert, the NBC sportscaster. The prosecution produced a surprise witness, a middle-aged woman who worked for the Hyatt Hotels. She said three years ago the NBC sportscaster asked her to come to his room to help with a fax. When she arrived, she claimed, he was dressed in woman's lingerie and tried to bite her. They struggled, she said, and she pulled off his toupe."

You can't make this stuff up. If only Cokie Roberts did that to Sam Donaldson on This Week on some Sunday then Meet the Press wouldn't have a chance of beating them in the ratings.


2) As noted above, Wednesday's CBS Evening News failed to take an opportunity to report how some Teamsters officials had admitted funneling money between the union and the DNC. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all played the news on their front pages last Friday, but the broadcast networks ignored the major development that night.

"U.S. Says Carey Aides Used DNC, AFL-CIO: Consultants Plead Guilty to Funneling Money" read the September 19 Washington Post headline. The September 24 Washington Times updated the story under this Wednesday headline: "DNC, Teamsters Traded Funds: Clinton-Gore Campaign Implicated in Scheme to Raise Illegal Donations." The Friday Post story began:

"Federal prosecutors yesterday outlined a series of schemes in which three political consultants allegedly used various groups, including the Democratic national Committee and AFL-CIO, to illegally funnel money to help finance Teamster President Ron Carey's reelection campaign." The prosecutor, the Post relayed, "said an unnamed official of both the DNC and Clinton-Gore reelection committee agreed to seek contributors to the Carey campaign in exchange for Teamsters donations to the DNC."

Coverage:Very little. Zilch then or since on ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News, though the September 18 World Today on CNN carried a full story on the guilty pleas. The next morning, not a syllable on either This Morning on CBS or NBC's Today. ABC's Good Morning America, however, did find it newsworthy. GMA ran brief items from news reader Kevin Newman during the 7am and 8am news updates, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen observed.


3) CNN's Bernard Shaw may have revealed why the networks felt comfortable skipping the Senate fundraising hearings on many days. After all, the Thompson committee is not investigating wrongdoing, it's carrying on a "partisan attack." The MRC's Tim Graham caught this from CNN's Bernard Shaw on the September 24 Inside Politics:

"The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has turned its focus from partisan attacks to ways to clean up the campaign finance quagmire. Today, it was mostly academics giving their views to the committee. And when the session started the witnesses outnumbered the Senators and the press corps combined."

Speaking at emphasizing partisanship over findings and results, that's what CBS did Tuesday night in its story on the IRS hearings (see the September 24 CyberAlert). MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski noticed some more of this theme on Wednesday's This Morning.

After airing a piece from Bob Schieffer, co-host Jane Robelot asked him:

Robelot: "Bob, you say that these hearings are real crowd pleasers. Are they political?"

Schieffer agreed: "Republican leaders in the Senate have sent out fundraising letters soliciting donations by saying, 'Your support will help us to end the reign of terror of the IRS.' So, while it's true there are certainly some reforms needed in the IRS, I think because these fundraising letters have been sent out, a lot of people think these hearings are suspect."

Following another Schieffer story during he second hour of the September 24 show, Robelot returned to the same theme, inquiring of Schieffer:

Robelot: "Bob, is anybody kind of coming to the defense of the IRS? Are Democrats standing up for them?"

Schieffer answered: "Well, as we just said in the piece, some Democrats wonder if perhaps they are being used as a whipping boy by the Republicans who are trying to raise money. The IRS denies any wrongdoing. IRS agents will testify, the officials of the IRS will testify, toward the end of the hearings."


4) Tonight at 8pm ET ABC will air the second episode of a new weekly drama series titled Nothing Sacred. The series, which focuses on a priest at an urban parish, has come under fire from conservative Catholics including the Catholic League. In the first episode, for instance, the priest told a pregnant woman to follow her feelings not church teaching on whether to have an abortion.

Well, in an interview on Good Morning America the star of the show made clear that he doesn't think much of the criticism or think that a church should have anything to do with what a member believes.

First, some background lifted from an item in the e-mail report distributed a few days ago by the Parents Television Council. The PTC's Mark Honig put this together with input from MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell:

Nothing Sacred, the new ABC drama about an inner-city priest named Father Ray, made its debut at 8:00pm on Thursday. This show has been criticized by some Catholics for its assault on the Church's teachings, and based on the first episode's decidedly liberal slant, once can see why they are angry.

However, from the program's opening scene -- a tight butt shot of Father Ray in his briefs walking to the bathroom as he awoke in the morning -- and throughout the entire episode, it is clear advocates of a return to the "Family Hour" also have much to be weary of. After a heated exchange with a man who believes the soup kitchen is bringing down property values and making it difficult for him to rent apartments, Father Ray storms out of the hearing room and shouts, "Damn it."

Father Ray also has a way of putting himself in some very compromising situations. For example, during the episode he runs into an old girlfriend -- now married -- who happens to be the step-mother of a problem child whom Father Ray is attempting to help. Well, it seems Father Ray still has feelings for her. When you add to that her problem marriage -- she and her husband have not made love in years -- you end up with Father Ray going to meet her at a motel where the following exchange takes place:

Ray: "You pick quite a place to talk."

Jenna: "I'm a wreck...afraid you wouldn't come. Afraid you would come. Afraid you'd take one look at me and realize it's been years, two children, and one caesarian later. Afraid I'm out of practice. If I were a man, I would call it performance anxiety...what are you afraid of?"

Ray: "I'm afraid that I might love you."

(To read the Parents Television Council alerts, you can go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/ptc/entalert/)

Asked about this criticism, the star of the show, actor Kevin Anderson, told Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee:

Kevin Anderson: "I think the church has got enough to worry about without worrying about telling people what to watch and what to think."

Lisa McRee then asked in the interview aired September 22: "Do you think it's fair, the show?"

Anderson: "Oh, I think it's very fair."

McRee: "Then what's the controversy about, I mean what's the beef?"

Anderson: "Well, I think it depends on what people, what their perceptions of the church are, what they feel the church brings to them. I think it depends a lot on what kind of parish you go to as to how you think. I mean I was raised in suburban Illinois which is completely different than going to church like in South Central or in the Village in New York. You're going to find different priests, different ways of saying Mass."

McRee: "And different needs."

Anderson: "Exactly."

Talk about situational ethics. And a church telling or teaching its followers "what to think." What a novel concept.

-- Brent Baker