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CyberAlert -- 10/24/1997 -- Nanny Over Fundraising; Child Care Crisis Silent No More

Nanny Over Fundraising; Child Care Crisis Silent No More

1) Evening shows skipped the hearings Thursday night as did CNN and NBC on Wednesday when on ABC it was "Bill said, Bob said" equivalence.

2) Morning shows don't bother with fundraising; for four hours on Thursday CNN and MSNBC went live with the Au Pair murder trial.

3) ABC, CBS and NBC illustrated the child care "crisis" by showcasing families with day care problems. NBC assured viewers that Clinton made "a promise of better times ahead" and we could follow the French model where "children are a priority."


1) The Senate fundraising hearings re-convened on Wednesday and met again on Thursday. On Wednesday night two networks aired full stories on the videos shown by both parties and ABC treated it all as a big show that proves how everybody does the same thing. On Thursday night CBS and NBC gave a few seconds to how Bob Dole will testify, but the appearance of White House Communications Agency officials went unnoticed.

First, Wednesday night, October 22:

-- No fundraising story of any sort aired on either NBC Nightly News or CNN's The World Today.

-- On the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer reviewed the Clinton tapes shown by Senator Fred Thompson and the tapes of Reagan played by Senator John Glenn. Schieffer concluded:
"Thompson again called for an independent counsel to investigate and concluded the committee has gone about as far as it can go, suggesting the next move is up to the Justice Department. 'You can take a mass of evidence to the courthouse door,' he said, 'but you cannot break it down.'"

-- ABC's World News Tonight fell right into the Democratic game plan: make up charges against Republicans to distract attention from unprecedented fundraising schemes pursued by Clinton.

Peter Jennings, as transcribed by MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen, asserted:

"We are tempted to say, 'Guess what happened at the Senate hearings today on campaign finance reform,' but you can probably guess already that Republicans and Democrats were hurling charges at each other again about breaking the law, the campaign law that is, during the 1996 presidential campaign. And, yes, they are fighting about tapes again and what they do or do not prove. Not just for one party but for both. To make this clear, here's ABC's Linda Douglass."
Douglass began: "Today, the Chairman of the Senate Committee investigating campaign finance said for the first time he believes President Clinton broke the law in the 1996 campaign."
After a clip of Thompson, Douglass continued:
"Thompson charges the President illegally used contributions to the Democratic Party to pay for ads for his own re-election, thus getting around federal limits on campaign spending. Mr. Clinton discussed those ads in a private meeting with donors in December 1995."
Viewers saw some video of Clinton before Douglass went on:
"But wait, charged Democrats. Presidential candidate Bob Dole had the Republican Party pay for an ad promoting his candidacy. In a meeting with ABC affiliates during the campaign, Dole freely acknowledged he too was trying to get around the legal spending limit."
Douglass showed a soundbite from the interview and then concluded with the liberal spin:
"One Democrat said what they have now is a stand-off. Each side can accuse the other of breaking, or at least bending, the law. The White House has never agreed this was illegal and now says, 'Just ask Bob Dole.' Linda Douglass, ABC News, Washington."

If ABC and Douglass had been interested in informing viewers instead of confusing them she would have pointed out a major difference: The RNC may have run ads that benefited Bob Dole, but Clinton and the DNC went several steps further. He personally wrote the ads and designed an entire election strategy based upon subverting the spending limits.

-- Thursday night, October 23. Not a word about fundraising appeared on the CBS Evening News. On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw read a 28-second item on how Bob Dole has offered to testify voluntarily. ABC's Peter Jennings gave 19-seconds to how Thompson had invited both Dole and Clinton to testify and that while Dole was willing the White House said "no chance" on Clinton.

2) Fundraising in the morning and day time:

-- Not one second about fundraising Thursday morning on NBC's Today, ABC's Good Morning America or This Morning on CBS.

-- On Wednesday, October 22 CNN went live about 10am ET and showed the videos presented by Thompson and Glenn until a bit past 11:30am ET. MSNBC just ran a couple of updates from Joe Johns. But MSNBC did have time for a ten minute Ed Gordon interview with former Cosmopolitan Editor Helen Gurley Brown and husband David about male-female relationships.

-- On Thursday, October 23 one Au Pair outranked a pair of dueling Senators. Not even a heated argument between Thompson and Senator Carl Levin, about subpoenaing Bush tapes, interested the networks. Both CNN and MSNBC skipped the hearings featuring the WHCA officials on why the tapes were delayed and went live to Middlesex County court in Cambridge, Massachusetts at 11:20am ET when nanny Louise Woodward, accused of murdering a baby in her care, took the stand. Both networks stayed with her until the 12:30pm lunch break, picked up again at 1:30pm and kept with her until court recessed a little after 4pm ET.

3) Absent from Thursday night stories Clinton's child care confab: any conservative soundbites or views as the three networks bought, illustrated and promoted the White House line about a "silent crisis." The only criticisms came from the left, about how the Clintons were not proposing to do enough. CBS and NBC paired the White House child care story with the nanny murder. CBS actually put the murder trial before the White House. Here's a show by show rundown for Thursday, October 23:

-- ABC's World News Tonight led with four stories on the stock market. In one piece reporter Aaron Brown in New York asserted that "nobody was betting that the market is going to quickly bounce back tomorrow" and reporter Deborah Wang, referring to the Hong Kong exchange, found "fears that it could fall even further." Compare these predictions to whatever has already happened in Hong Kong and does take place in New York.

After the first ad break, John Donvan took up Hillary Clinton's child care cause. Noting that she called it a "silent crisis," he then ran a clip of Hillary from her GMA interview earlier in the day: "Too much of our child care is not adequate. It's not taking care of a child's developmental needs and even worse there are too many situations that don't even meet basic standards of safety and hygiene,"
Donvan illustrated her case: "This was not news to millions of parents like Cindy Roach of Reston, Virginia." Donvan explained that Roach says it's hard to find quality child care. She pays $1,000 a month to a center to look over her two kids. Roach is satisfied, but she remembers a previous center where "she worried everyday." Donvan relayed a series of White House-provided stats about how studies show conditions for infants unhealthy or unsafe 40 percent of the time, staffing problems exist as one third of day care workers leave every year, and day care costs too much for many. Following a soundbite of President Clinton insisting that parents should not have to choose between work and child care, Donvan concluded:

"The President has promised some solutions next year in his State of the Union address. In the meantime the White House says that parents have to pressure their bosses and their communities to make child care better, more available and less expensive."

What a concept. As computer owners, let's all "pressure" computer manufacturers to make them less expensive.

Next, ABC ran a glowing piece on a model system showcased by the White House. Jennings explained: "There is a tendency when we are debating child care to focus on the inadequacies. It is certainly true that many makes some difference. If, for example, we all had as much money as the military, oh what child care we'd all have."

Michele Norris detailed how the military provides "high quality affordable day care for 200,000 children at military bases across the country..." Claiming only four percent of private sector centers meet the military standard, she concluded:
"Day care like this is rare in America. But the White House hopes the military will provide a strong role model, an employer that raises productivity with day care that gives workers peace of mind."

-- The CBS Evening News also led with the stock market dive, though Dan Rather did point out that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still up 1399 this year.

Getting to child care, Rather put Woodward before Clinton:
"We turn now to this country's most important investment and two stories that raise the question -- who's watching America's children? The President and First Lady Hillary Clinton convened a conference today to address what they called the silent crisis of American child care. More about that in a moment, but first what's being called the nanny trial..."

When CBS got to the White House story it was not to present an even-handed story but to prove the Clinton's correct in the need for government action. Scott Pelley began:

"In a day long conference the White House called child care the single most important social policy in America. It was about everyone who drops a child on the way to work, people like Nea Odem [spelling just a guess] who walks a mile to pre-K, then another mile to the bus stop and rides twenty minutes to day care. It's tough, but it makes her job possible. She thinks it's a good deal because government pays part of the cost."
Pelley on bus with Odem: "You have child care now. What is it that worries you about that?" Odem: "That it won't last. That the funding for the child care will either be cut or they'll just stop."
Pelley: "And if they stop?"
Odem: "Then I won't be able to work. I'll have to stop working again and take care of my sons."
Pelley, off the bus: "In the conference President Clinton warned quality care is being overwhelmed by need." After soundbites from Bill and Hillary Clinton, Pelley outlined their proposals to spend $300 million to train day care workers, for new ways to check backgrounds, and a call for businesses to provide day care at work.

-- NBC Nightly News elevated the "silent" crisis to a plain old regular crisis. In the top of the show tease, beneath video of kids, the title read "Child Care Crisis" as Tom Brokaw intoned: "President and Mrs. Clinton launch a national campaign to improve child care in America, an issue effecting more than twenty million families, more all the time. At the same time the potential perils of child care. A young nanny on trial for the murder of one of the children in her care, but on the stand she was a strong witness for her defense."

Forget the stock market, NBC started with the sudden discovery of a child care crisis and the "promise of better times ahead." Tom Brokaw announced:
"Good evening. It is one of the fundamental changes in America. Working mothers and their most fundamental need is inadequate, inconsistent, expensive and getting more so all the time. It is child care -- what to do with the kids when mom is on the job. And 60 percent of the women in the work force have children under the age of six. Tonight we have two stories that go to the heart of the matter. One a promise of better times ahead. The other a chilling and mysterious case involving a nanny and murder. We begin with the promise of better times that came from President and Mrs. Clinton today."

David Bloom at the White House explained that Mrs. Clinton wanted to start conversation "about what she called a 'silent crisis.'" Bloom showed the Weintraub family who say that talk doesn't pay the day care bill. Bloom aired a clip of Clinton claiming child care problems hurt the whole economy, before continuing. "One of the biggest problems: poor pay. The average day care worker's wage, $7 dollars an hour. That means high turnover rates and lower quality care...
"A day care worker agreed, but Bloom did acknowledge a "trade off" between quality and affordability. Bloom concluded on the negative, but from the left-wing view that Clinton is not having government do enough:
"All of which leaves Jeff Weintraub, like millions of others, in the same place tonight as he was last night, reading his kids to sleep, wondering if the promise of affordable quality day care is just a fairly tale. The President did propose some modest initiatives, including a plan to encourage businesses to pay more of their employees' child care costs. And he plans a more sweeping announcement early next year. But as one White House aide put it, we're not interested in some big federal program directed out of Washington.' Tom."

Very reassuring.

But there is hope, if only we cared as much as do the French. Tom Brokaw introduced an "In Their Own Words" piece:
"So, how does the Unites States, the most prosperous nation in the world, stack up against other nations when it comes to child care. Tonight, the French way. Jean Slayman [again, a guess] is an American computer expert, married to a Frenchman, living in Paris with her two children. Her French experience tonight, in her own words."
Slayman praised French standards, highlighting how "babies get homemade pure of vegetables, meat, fruit, everyday it's homemade not out of jars. They have cooks on staff that make the stuff up fresh everyday..."
Memo to Slayman: Then it aint homemade!

Slayman did note that French taxes are high, but that doesn't bother them because they care more: "People here don't seem to be as upset about high taxes. For them, children are a priority."

In all the talk of crisis and affordability ABC, CBS and NBC ignored obvious points that a conservative could have raised if they had bothered to ask. Government regulations impede good child care options. Local zoning laws, for instance, often bar child care in homes and even if allowed burdensome rules about provider training and licenses deter many a potential care-giver. And concerns about church and state often prevent poorer families from being able to take advantage of church or synagogue subsidized day care centers.

I had intended to run the questions posed Thursday morning on Today, GMA and This Morning to Hillary Clinton, but this CyberAlert is already very long, so I'll put those in the next edition. Suffice it to say, she wasn't grilled. Instead, other than one question, every inquiry from Katie Couric, Lisa McRee and Jane Robelot were nice softballs. I'll leave you with two typical questions to illustrate. From Katie Couric:
"It is clear that day care in this country is inaccessible to many, cost prohibitive for others, substandard in many situations, what can the government actually do to alleviate some of these problems."

From ABC's Lisa McRee:
"But the experts say that it really costs $6,800 per child for a year to provide quality child care. The average American only spends $4,000. Will this administration provide any funding to help make up that difference if, in fact, it's going to cost more to provide quality care?"

More of this liberal advocacy, I mean questioning, in the next CyberAlert.

-- Brent Baker