by L. Brent Bozell III. This article appeared in the Washington Times National Weekly Edition, P 36. It was received via TOSN on 10/22/96.
Scandal reporting in a campaign season? Not this year. The networks are too busy with substantive stories, like JFK Jr.'s wedding, another O.J. Simpson trial and the perils of fat substitutes, to bother. So, President Clinton continues to surf along on a double-digit lead, knowing he has nothing to fear from the see-no-Democratic-evil television networks, which are showing the same dedication to news reporting as, say, Pravda. Take a look at a typical week of news blackouts. On Sept. 23, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s inspector general concluded that Hillary Clinton had drafted a real estate document for the sham Castle Grande deal with the intent to "deceive" federal regulators. If he's right, Hillary's guilty of perjury, and that's a felony. Network coverage? Nothing. On Sept. 24, a House committee held hearings on charges that the Clinton administration has let criminals become citizens. The Washington Times story the next day began: "Immigration workers yesterday told a House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee of rampant abuses in the Citizenship U.S.A. program that apparently let thousands of immigrants with criminal records become citizens." Network coverage? Nada. On Sept. 25, Sen. Orrin Hatch revealed a six-month gap in the log, which listed who at the White House was accessing FBI background files on Republican White House employees. The aide who kept the log went into hiding rather than appear before Senate investigators. How much more guiltily could this administration behave, and how much more ridiculous can this get? The Washington Times correctly bannered the news the next day. Network coverage? Zilch. Also on Sept. 25, The Washington Times reported that Rep. John Mica sent a letter to Mr. Clinton's "drug czar" demanding release of a 4-month-old Institute for Defense Analysis report that concluded George Bush's inter-diction policy was far more effective than Mr. Clinton's emphasis on drug treatment. It's a huge issue in the campaign, an obvious cover-up of a policy failure. Network coverage? Zero. On Oct. 1, the White House claimed executive privilege to withhold a memo to Mr. Clinton from FBI Director Louis Freeh said to be highly critical of federal drug policy. Network response? Still waiting. On the Sept. 23 "News Hour with Jim Lehrer," Mr. Clinton held out the possibility of pardons for those involved in the Whitewater scandal. On Sept. 26, 170 members of Congress, including three Democrats, sent a letter to the White House demanding Mr. Clinton promise not to pardon anyone. The Sept. 29 Washington Times reported that House Democrats were prepared to shut down the government if Republicans demanded a vote on a resolution calling for Mr. Clinton not to pardon key Whitewater figures. Given that the networks spent months blaming the GOP for closing down the government over serious policy differences, what do you think was their coverage when the Democrats threatened the same in a shameless political maneuver? With the exception of one general question about pardons from "CBS Evening News" Sunday anchor John Roberts to commentator Laura Ingraham, absolutely nothing. So, what kind of hard-news stories were they covering during this time? Well, between Sept. 26 and Sept. 29, each of the network evening news shows aired two major stories each about . . . Newt Gingrich and his dealings with the House ethics committee. Even more amazingly, all the networks aired the truly wacky accusation (advanced by the thoroughly--and legally--discredited nuts at the Christic Institute) that Ronald Reagan's CIA helped hook black kids on crack to fund the Contras in the 1980s. At CBS, Pentagon reporter David Martin did note that several Democratic congressional committees worked years trying to prove CIA involvement in drug-running and couldn't do it. But that didn't stop CBS from running a longer "Eye on America" report on Oct. 1, with Bill Whitaker repeating the same unproven allegations. Those two Iran-Contra conspiracy stories are double the number CBS has aired on Mena, Ark., where Bill Clinton allegedly knew about drug-running. None of the other networks has touched the Mena story. A week of network blackouts like this underlines the two biggest election-season lies that come from the liberal media: (a) our only bias is in favor of a good story, and (b) our 89 percent pro-Clinton bias is personal and not reflected in our journalism. So ridiculous are these claims that even "Saturday Night Live" is spoofing the media's shameless performance. Its recent premiere began with a satire of ABC, with Tom Hanks (as Peter Jennings) questioning Bill Clinton: "Mr. President, we here at ABC News are not in the business of making endorsements, but everyone here is voting for Bill Clinton, and I personally cannot imagine how any decent person would not, in fact, do the same. In the light of this, which of your many achievements do you feel important to emphasize as we head toward the election?" And they wonder why viewers are leaving them by the millions. ============================================================ L. Brent Bozell III is chairman of the Media Research Center