Praising Bill Lan Lee; X-Files on the Military's Cold War Hoax
1) Whether it involves the Vice President, White House delays in document release or evidence the President made false statements in Whitewater, developments in all these scandals have one thing in common: the networks don't care about any of it. Here's what viewers haven't learned about each:
Like the Wednesday evening shows, Thursday's morning shows failed to mention the House subcommittee hearing about allegations of favors for donations in the Al Gore/Peter Knight/Molten Metal Technology matter.
What if you have hearings and nobody hears that they even occurred? On Thursday, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chaired by Dan Burton held its second day of hearings, but none of the broadcast networks Thursday night told viewers anything about them. Even CNN's Inside Politics skipped the event. When the committee first met back on October 8 the CBS Evening News devoted half of a story to the proceedings while both ABC and NBC ignored them.
In Thursday's hearing committee members questioned White House lawyers about the delay in releasing documents and the coffee videos. CNN's AllPolitics Web page recounted that lawyers Charles Ruff and Cheryl Mills "were questioned on the 15-month delay in handing over a White House staffer's memo. The note suggested that President Bill Clinton wanted a White House database integrated with one belonging to the Democratic Party. Mills said she and former counsel Jack Quinn made the decision to withhold the note from the committee since it did not fall into one of the seven categories of information requested by Indiana GOP Rep. David McIntosh's reform subcommittee. Burton characterized the White House legal staff as engaging in an unprecedented stonewalling of investigations.'"
The memo made Washington Times and Washington Post headlines last Friday, October 31, but the networks ignored it then too.
"Check From S&L to Clinton Found in Ark. Junkyard: President Said Madison Never Gave Him Loan," announced a November 6 Washington Post headline on page A-15. The Washington Times put the discovery on the front page. But the broadcast networks didn't pick up on the story Thursday morning or night, though CNN's Inside Politics ran a piece. Bob Franken explained:
"The vicious tornadoes that ravaged Arkansas last March brought President Clinton back to his home state to inspect the damage. They also may have churned up a strange new lead in the Whitewater investigation, one that's raising new questions about the President's sworn testimony. There in the trunk of one of the many wrecked cars were documents, thousands of pages from a bank owned at the time by Jim McDougal, Whitewater partner of the Clintons, now in prison for fraud and conspiracy. According to the repair shop owner who claims to have discovered them, among those documents was a 1982 cashier's check from McDougal's bank. The check was for over $20,000, and payable to Bill Clinton. Last year, President Clinton denied under oath during pre-taped testimony for the first Whitewater trial that he ever received a loan from McDougal's bank. The President's lawyer, David Kendall, called the whole story far-fetched...."
To see if any of these matters get mentioned on Friday's morning shows, check the MRC Web site Friday afternoon for the latest MRC Media Reality Check fax report put together by Tim Graham.
2) The three broadcast shows led Thursday night with developments on the Iraq front, observed MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens who stayed late to track coverage for today's CyberAlert. CBS had no time for the fundraising hearing, but the Evening News did make time for a story on another hearing -- about the dangers of music lyrics which urge suicide. On the "El Nino Watch," Dan Rather ominously warned that a forecast from UN predicts food shortages in 25 countries. NBC Nightly News aired a lengthy piece on how Florida seniors don't think doctors understand their medical needs.
Only World News Tonight picked up on the battle over Clinton's nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General in charge of civil rights. While Linda Douglass allowed Senator Orrin Hatch to explain his opposition, he was outnumbered four-to-one in soundbites. ABC framed the story as a tale of a mistreated American success story, not as a story of how the nominee, Bill Lan Lee, wants to further the racial spoils system and insists on fighting public will in California's Prop 209 vote. As transcribed by Geoffrey Dickens, ABC offered this sympathetic picture of a victim of conservative racial apathy:
"In Washington today there is a nasty political battle going on about the fate of a man who everyone seems to acknowledge has been, at least up until now, a classic example of an American success story. His name is Bill Lan Lee. And he is the President's choice to run the civil rights division at the Justice Department. Mr. Lee who is Asian-American has been a supporter of affirmative action as is the President. Which makes Mr. Lee's nomination the latest battleground in the campaign to end affirmative action. Here's ABC's Linda Douglas."
Linda Douglas: "Bill Lan Lee seemed to be the perfect candidate to be the nation's head of civil rights. He grew up in Harlem, the son of penniless Chinese immigrants and watched his father suffer discrimination as he worked in a laundry. But Lee went on to win a scholarship to Yale and later became one of the country's leading civil rights lawyers representing the NAACP."
Edward Kennedy: "He's devoted his life and career to finding practical solutions to real life problems of discrimination and bigotry."
Douglas: "But today the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee described Lee as an affirmative action zealot who would twist the law to fit his political agenda."
Orrin Hatch: "It's time for us to take a stand against these policies that are dividing America and ripping us apart."
Douglas: "Hatch's stance is only recent. Coming after weeks of pressure by conservative groups to defeat Lee. And last week House Speaker Newt Gingrich took the unusual step of sending a letter to the head of the Senate arguing that Lee, 'seems to ignore the color blind nature of the Constitution.' But Democrats charge Republicans are just using Lee as a way to attack President Clinton for supporting affirmative action."
Joseph Biden: "I think you all have the wrong bill. I think this is about Bill Clinton not about Bill Lee."
Douglas: "Some of Lee's defenders believe it is easier for Republicans to go after Lee because he is not black but Asian-American."
Karen Narasaki, Asian Pacific American Consortium: "The Senators have been much more aggressive about going after Bill Lee because many of them come from states where there are not large Asian-American constituencies."
Douglas: "Most Republicans chose not to speak today but with civil rights leaders looking on [video of Jesse Jackson, Mfume and others] emotions ran high. Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy choked back tears as he talked about the discrimination faced by his father, an Irish immigrant."
Pat Leahy: "There is not a Bill Lan Lee or anybody else willing to enforce a civil rights law. Had there been my father's life would have been a lot different. I do not want to see us backtrack."
Douglas: "Privately some Democrats are gleeful believing that Republican's attacks on Lee may backfire with minority voters. But many Republicans are willing to take that chance gambling that the time is right to take on President Clinton over affirmative action. Linda Douglas, ABC News, Washington."
3) Sunday night at 9pm ET the Fox drama series the X-Files will complete a three show arc that began with last season's final episode. In the second of the three, aired this past Sunday night (November 2) viewers were treated to a lengthy history lesson about how the military used fears of UFOs to fuel unnecessary Cold War spending and work on evil biological weapons, all because "the business of America isn't business, it's war."
To try to explain the X-Files would take many a CyberAlert, but if you haven't seen the show here's what you need to know: The show features FBI agents "Fox Mulder" and "Dana Sculley." Mulder thinks the Earth has been visited by aliens. Government efforts to cover up this fact have been the basis for many episodes over the show's first four years. The cover up involves murder and deception at the highest levels. Sculley is Mulder's partner. She is more skeptical, but recently got cancer, a disease Mulder thinks the government planted in order to kill her so the truth will not be revealed.
In the November 2 episode a Defense Department official upset that his son contracted a disease during the Gulf War, a disease he thinks was caused by U.S. biological weapons, tells Mulder that he has been the victim of a big hoax. In short, the military had used Mulder and others over the years to spread fear of UFOs so they could get more money to spend for more terrible weapons. As transcribed by MRC intern Chris Martinez, here's the history lesson viewers heard:
"This is the hoax into which you have been drawn. The roots go back fifty years to the end of World War II. Playing on a virulent national appetite for bogus revelation and a public newly fearful of something called the atom bomb, the U.S. military command began to fan the flames of what were being called flying saucer stories. There are truths which can kill a nation, Agent Mulder. The military needed something to deflect attention away from its arms strategy, global domination through the capability of total enemy annihilation. The nuclear card was fine as long as we alone could play it, but the generals and politicals knew what they could not win was a public relations war. Those photos from Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not faces Americans wanted to see in the mirror. Oppenheimer knew it of course, but we silenced him. When the Russians developed the bomb, the fear in the military was not for safety at home, but for armistice and treaties. The business of America isn't business, it's war. Since Antetum, nothing has driven the economy faster. We needed a reason to keep spending money. When there wasn't a war to justify it, we called it war anyway. The Cold War was essentially a fifty year public relations battle. A pitched game of chicken against an enemy we not much more than called names. The communists called us a few names, too. 'We will bury you' Khrushchev said. And, the public believed it. After what McCarthy had done it to the country, they ate it with a big spoon. We squared off a few times in Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam, but nobody dropped the bomb. Nobody dared."
Mulder asked: "What does any of this have to do with flying saucers?"
The DOD official continued:
Mulder: "Germ warfare. We were accused of using them in Korea."
DOD guy: "It was developmental then, nothing like what we or the Russians have now. The bio weapons used in the Gulf War were so ingenious as to be almost undetectable. Developed right in this very building.
Mulder: "And, all these reports of abductions -- you're saying they have all been lies."
DOD official: "Not lies exactly but citizens taken unsuspecting and tested, a classified military project above top secret and still ongoing. You have heard the recent denials about Roswell by the military and CIA. What's been the effect? Even wilder and more widespread belief, the American appetite for bogus revelation, Agent Mulder."
Mulder: "But, I've seen aliens; I have witnessed these things."
DOD official: "You've seen what they wanted you to see. The line between science and science fiction doesn't exist anymore. What this is about is control of the very elements of life, DNA, yours, mine, everyone's."
Of course, in the best X-Files tradition, this may all be a hoax -- the hoax was to convince Mulder there was a hoax. By the end of the show there were suggestions that aliens may really have visited the Earth. Tune in Sunday to learn the "truth." And before you dismiss this as some low-rated Fox thing that no one watches, since Fox moved it to Sundays last year the X-Files regularly finishes in second place, beating two of the big three network movies.
4) Marv Albert on 20/20. No way. On the October 13 Larry King Live, the Washington Post's John Carmody noted on November 4, Hugh Downs insisted that his show would not stoop to interview Marv Albert. The co-host of ABC's 20/20 maintained: "I am certain that I would say no." How about Barbara Walters, King asked. Downs was steadfast: "Barbara wouldn't do it."
On tonight's 20/20: Barbara Walters interviews...Marv Albert.
-- Brent Baker