CyberAlert -- December 17, 1996 -- Excusing Clinton's Motel

Eight items today:

Bryant Gumbel Countdown Calendar: 17 Days to Go (Gumbel returns Tuesday from a week plus vacation)

1. Instead of exploring White House use of bedrooms to thank donors, CBS reporter Rita Braver claimed Bush and Reagan did the same.

2. Network evening shows ignored the White House as Motel 6 story, but found time to report on bi-sexual fruit flies.

3. George Stephanopoulos landed at ABC, but he'll do more than offer comments during This Week roundtables, he'll report news stories.

4. ABC promoted the conclusions of a liberal spending advocacy group which claimed half of all children are in poverty. But $28,000 is considered poverty.

5. A Boston Globe reporter claimed that mainline churches protect America from "mean-spirited" conservative Christians.

6. The MRC has released the Best Notable Quotables of 1996: The Ninth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting. Read the Quote of the Year, plus Bryant Gumbel goes out with a bang -- winning three awards.

7. Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift: Now available from the MRC's Parents Television Council: The 1996-97 Family Guide to Prime Time Television.

8. A panelist has left a weekend talk show, but don't feel sorry for him: He raked in $2,500 for a half hour of work each week.

1) CBS reporter Rita Braver doesn't want anyone to think Republicans aren't just as guilty as Democrats when it come to fundraising. On Sunday's Face the Nation (December 15), Braver filled in for Bob Schieffer.
Braver asked Gloria Borger of U.S. News & World Report: "We counted this week, there are eleven different congressional committees looking at Democratic fundraising, that's not to say the Republicans don't have some problems, but that sounds like it's going to be a pretty serious, time consuming issue."
Borger responded by noting that "Today, on the front page of The Washington Post, is a story about how the White House, as one person said, has essentially become a Motel 6, renting out the Lincoln Bedroom, giving it to people who are big contributors to the party. This doesn't look good."
Braver countered: "Is this any different than what happened, because it seemed to me that I would over the years in Washington run into some big, when Republicans were President, contributor who'd say 'oh yeah, we spent the last night in the Lincoln Bedroom.'"
Borger disagreed with Braver's "everybody does it" line: "I think it's more frequent though, I really do."

2) Speaking of Sunday's Washington Post story, it didn't exactly generate a lot of television news. The front page Post story detailed how major contributors to the Democratic National Committee are thanked with an overnight stay in the White House: "The White House refuses to release guest lists, but three weeks of logs turned over to Congress suggest the guest quarters were in regular use." The Post story asserted: "So many big-money donors have slept at the White House in recent years that one Clinton fundraiser likens the executive mansion to a Motel 6."
Football killed NBC Nightly News in Washington, but neither ABC's World News Sunday nor the CBS Evening News mentioned a word December 15. Rita Braver filed a piece on the Chinese finding a downed American plane from WWII. And CBS found time for a long story from Jacqueline Adams on the discovery of a gene in the fruit fly that controls sex and when altered causes male flies to become bi-sexual.

3) ABC, CBS and CNN fought to land top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, but ABC News won the battle. The just-departed Senior Adviser to the President will have a far greater role at ABC than Bill Kristol, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle. While the Clintonite will spar with conservative Kristol in discussions on This Week and Good Morning America, The New York Times noted he also "is expected to do some reporting as a correspondent." He'll produce longer pieces for GMA.
How far were the other networks willing to go? As with ABC, well beyond any position offered to former Reagan or Bush administration political operatives. "A CNN source said yesterday," The Washington Post's John Carmody reported December 12, "the cable network had been prepared to offer Stephanopoulos his own weekend half-hour program and some other 'innovative programming ideas.'" CBS News proposed a slot on Face the Nation and a role in its upcoming Eye on People cable channel. Carmody noted that ABC hopes "that if things go well, Stephanopoulos's role can be expanded to include doing some full-length programming for ABC-owned cable channels like Arts & Entertainment and, particularly, the History Channel, where, said Senior News Vice President Joanna Bistany yesterday, 'he can explore the issues.'" If that's not enough, he'll "be available in 1998 for political coverage."

4) On ABC's World News Tonight on December 11 anchor Peter Jennings introduced a story, as transcribed by MRC intern Joe Alfonsi: "Now to children and poverty. There is a study today by a private research group called the National Center for Children in Poverty which believes that the government's official poverty level is too low. And they find a disturbing trend about how and where children are hurting."
Reporter Rebecca Chase began: "During the last fifteen years this study found the number of children under the age of six living in poverty grew from 3.5 million to 6.1 million. That's one in every four children. And when families living on the edge of poverty are included, using a cutoff of $28,000 a year for a family of four, nearly half of all young children are living in or near poverty. This means the United States has the highest child poverty rate among industrialized nations."
Larry Aber of the National Center for Children in Poverty then charged: "At the period of time when human beings are in their most formative stages, we have the highest child poverty rates. We have the highest poverty rates. And we also make the least public investments at that stage in life."
Of course the higher the income you define as poverty the greater the number of children you can claim live in poverty. I bet $28,000 -- about twice the official poverty level income for a family of four -- goes a long way in many parts of the country. And no word on whether the liberal group counted non-cash benefits, such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing.

5) In his new book titled "The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity," Thomas Reeves argues that mainline churches are becoming irrelevant as they cave into liberal interest groups. Reviewing the book for the November 28 Boston Globe, reporter Diego Ribadeneira was none too pleased with this contention. He concluded: "For all their faults, mainline denominations still lend an important moral voice to a nation that seems to have become more mean-spirited toward the poor, minorities, immigrants and gays. This moral dimension of liberal Christianity is one Reeves fails to address."

6) With the assistance of 57 judges across the country who completed ballots in which they chose the first, second and third best quotes in 18 categories, the MRC has just published THE BEST NOTABLE QUOTABLES OF 1996: The Ninth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting. Thanks to the work of the MRC's Sara "Hyper-Text" Harris, the entire eight-page issue, showcasing over 50 quotes that were award winners or runners-up, can now be read on our Web site:

To get a printed copy, you can either:

  • Send $3.00 to the Media Research Center, 113 South West St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. Begin a one year subscription for $19 and you'll get this year-end awards issue for free.
  • Or, call 800-MRC-1423 between 9 and 5:30pm ET and use your Visa or MasterCard to begin a one year subscription to Notable Quotables for $19 and you'll receive a complimentary copy of this special awards edition.

Here are a few of the winners:

  • Good Morning Morons Award
    "You write that you prayed more during your four years in office than basically at any time in your life and yet I think it's fair to say, and I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, I think it's fair to say, you are consistently viewed as one of the more ineffective Presidents of modern times....What do you think, if anything, that says about the power of prayer?" -- Bryant Gumbel interviewing Jimmy Carter about his new book, Living Faith, November 18 Today. [85 points]
  • Fear of the Competition Award (for Impugning Talk Radio)
    NBC's Bryant Gumbel: "You mention talk radio. They [relatives of Oklahoma bombing victims] have some very hard feelings about talk radio and the hate being spewed by some of those on the far end of the spectrum."
    Bill Moyers: "If anything, talk radio in that part of the world is more anti-government today than ever. The airwaves are saturated with hostility, it's just an unremitting vilification of government. Sometimes it's, sometimes it's, you know, the government makes mistakes and there are justifiable grievances against government. But this is, this goes beyond that, it's excessive. And these people take it like salt in the wound. They drive around, they turn on their radio, they hear some vicious attack on government, and they think, `You know, if you strike the government, you kill my daughter.'" -- Bill Moyers on the April 12 Today promoting that night's Dateline on the families of and victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. [105 points]
  • Damn Those Conservatives Award
    "By being so nice to Pat Buchanan and treating him as a good guy with bad policies, are we not all guilty of legitimizing his views and putting a smiling face on a hateful voice?" -- Today's Bryant Gumbel on what he asked the show's political roundtable off-air, quoted by Peter Johnson, Feb. 22 USA Today. [57]
  • If the Bias Fits, We Won't Admit Award (for Bias Denial)
    "When you're talking about pure journalists, I mean reporters, when you're talking about reporters, not columnists, I don't think there's any liberal bias. I don't think there really ever has been." -- Los Angeles Times Senior Washington correspondent Jack Nelson on CNBC's Politics '96, March 9. [71 points]
  • Quote of the Year
    "In her Wednesday Commentary page column, Linda Bowles stated that President Clinton and his former campaign adviser Dick Morris both were `guilty of callous unfaithfulness to their wives and children.' Neither man has admitted to being or been proven to have been unfaithful. The Tribune regrets the error." -- Chicago Tribune correction, September 5. [88 points]

7) The 1996-97 Family Guide to Prime Time Television is now available from the Parents Television Council (PTC), a special project of the Media Research Center. The 40-page booklet provides a comprehensive study of this year's network prime time fare -- from a family values perspective. The booklet evaluates over 90 network shows, giving a green, yellow or red light to each show based upon the appropriateness for children. If you watched Face the Nation on Sunday you saw Dick Wolf, the Executive Producer of NBC's Law & Order, attack the PTC's effort to alert parents to TV content.
To order a copy for $5.95 (plus $2.00 for shipping), please call 1-800-MRC-1423 between 9 and 5:30pm ET. We've had some problems getting our merchandise ordering area set up on our Web site, so this is the best way to order. You can pay with a Visa or MasterCard. If you call Tuesday we should be able to get your order fulfilled in time for Christmas. If you aren't in a rush, send a check for $7.95 (Virginia residents should add 4.5 percent sales tax) to:
Media Research Center
Publications Dept.
113 South West St.
Alexandria, Va. 22314

8) Last weekend liberal columnist Carl Rowan, who in his new book tagged as "haters" everyone from Howard Stern to Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to liberal columnist Richard Cohen, made his last appearance on Inside Washington. Seen on PBS stations around the country, the show is produced at Gannett-owned WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C. While panelists on shows like the McLaughlin Group are paid a few hundred dollars per appearance, Rowan had a bit of a better deal.
Rowan is leaving because negotiations broke down over a new contract. The December 13 Washington Post reported that Gannett "insisted he take a 65 percent pay cut in his annual salary of $123,00 and that he work without a contract."
$2,500 a week for a half hour show. Not a bad gig while it lasted.

-- Brent Baker