Politics: The Hotline Extra

CNN has conquered Hollywood, so why not Madison Avenue? After littering summer movies with its logo and journalists in simulated newscasts, the cable news network has allowed a correspondent to be featured in a credit card advertisement.

The episode provoked the latest in a series of news media reports questioning whether CNN has crossed a line of journalistic ethics. Stuart Elliott of The New York Times reported that CNN's Jonathan Karl will be featured in a Visa print ad.

"The line between editorial and advertising content in the news media, which seems to become blurrier every 60 minutes, is being fuzzed further," Elliott wrote. (6/13)

Visa is using Karl in a series known as the "Generation-X wallets campaign." Besides displaying Karl's Visa card, the ad names retail shops in which Karl has charged purchases. Included is his purchase of "books from the Strand," with a handwritten comment, "Just because I'm on television doesn't mean I can't read."

Columbia Journalism Review editor Marshall Loeb said, "If you are a journalist, you do not lend yourself to the promotion of any goods or services."

CNN spokesman Steve Haworth said that Karl "received permission" from network executives, but that it had not come to the attention of network chief Tom Johnson, who "disapproves." Haworth said Johnson determined that Karl's ad "does violate our policy against allowing our name and talent to endorse a commercial product, and Tom is making it clear to his senior executives that that is the case."

Haworth stays busy these days answering such questions. CNN's logo or talent appears in films this summer about dinosaurs, aliens, a nuclear explosion and the crash of Air Force One.

Bob Longino of Cox News reported that this summer's silver screen synergy isn't a first for CNN. Larry King appeared as himself in 1993's Dave and "may well show up" in the film version of Primary Colors, Joe Klein's once-anonymous novel based on the 1992 presidential campaign. CNN's logo also flashed on the screen during mock news reports in 1995's Crimson Tide, Longino wrote. (6/13)

CNN anchor Bernie Shaw prefers not to talk about his portrayal of himself in The Lost World, the sequel to Steven Spielberg's dinosaur pic, Jurassic Park. When The Washington Times wrote about his Hollywood debut, he didn't return the newspaper's phone call. (6/12)

The Readings of Sun Myung Moon

C-SPAN carried live the recent 15th-anniversary party of The Washington Times. But for nearly an hour, viewers saw a speech that few if any of them could understand. The newspaper's Korean founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, tried to read his remarks in English, rather than using an interpreter.

Unfortunately for those who wanted to understand, the religious leader's heavily accented delivery proved impossible to follow, although his tone was passionate.

Moon's aides later produced a copy of the 30-page address. "I cannot help but feel deep emotion," the text said. "Fifteen years ago, when the world was adrift on the stormy waves of the Cold War, I established The Washington Times to fulfill God's desperate desire to save this world. Since that time, I have devoted myself to raising up The Washington Times, hoping that this blessed land of America would fulfill its worldwide mission to build a heavenly nation. Meanwhile, I waged a lonely struggle, facing enormous obstacles and scorn as I dedicated my whole heart and energy to enable The Washington Times to grow as a righteous and responsible journalistic institution."

Editor in chief Wesley Pruden had introduced Moon, saying: "I have been determined that our newspaper will always be faithful to his vision of a newspaper that is a mirror of the world, and to the values that bind God's children together."

In a speech to the celebrants, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said, "It was a great day when the Rev. Sun Myung Moon launched The Times, and I want to commend all the editors and the staff for their many, many journalistic contributions."

And Oh Yeah, Daschle

Republicans got most of the attention, to their dismay, in the recent public relations debacle over flood relief. And most stories portrayed the White House as engineering the GOP mess. Nancy Roman of The Washington Times was among the few who profiled Capitol Hill's top-gun Democrat in the matter: Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota.

"Some frustrated Republicans are calling him the de facto leader of the Senate," Roman wrote. "A Senate consensus on Mr. Daschle's performance--shared on both sides of the aisle--is that he is canny, accessible and a master of public relations, who often bests his chief rival, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott." (6/13)

Lott's Brat Pack

Attention, newsmakers! Lott's charge that President Clinton is a "spoiled brat" showed how you can quickly turn a phrase into nationwide headlines: Keep it short, simple and insulting. The Mississippi Republican's seemingly offhand remark on ABC's This Week proved irresistible to headline writers. In a sampling of more than two dozen headlines from around the country, the epithet made it into every one.

In a spirited example, the New York Post gave the story its trademark spin: "Lott Rips `Spoiled Brat' Bill Amid GOP's `Flood' of Woes." (6/16)

Detain Me, Please

Here's an idea to help the White House keep more witnesses out of the reach of investigators: Persuade foreign governments to "detain" them.

Republicans on Capitol Hill face a challenge as they prepare to stage public hearings on the campaign fund-raising affair. Many of their witnesses have either skipped the country or said they won't talk.

The Republic of Georgia stumbled upon a new technique for making witnesses unavailable, when officials there "detained" financier Roger Tamraz. Andrew Kramer, The Washington Post's special correspondent in Moscow, reported that that Lebanese-born naturalized citizen, long wanted in Lebanon on embezzlement charges, was picked up by local Georgian police "on the basis of an Interpol request." (6/15) He was released two days later.

Back in Washington, Tamraz could be a star in the coming congressional hearings if he stays out of foreign jails. Republicans look forward to portraying Tamraz, who gave $177,000 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 1995-96, as a shady dealer trying to trade money for Clinton Administration favors.

Yah Lin (Charlie) Trie, one of the Democratic Party's most inventive fund raisers, doesn't need foreign police to help him stay away from Washington. He has skipped the country.

A St. Petersburg Times editorial on the case of the disappearing witnesses stops short of asserting a White House plot, but draws a connection with stonewalling at the top.

"The President and Mrs. Clinton and other top White House officials have resorted to a variety of legalisms in an effort to avoid providing information sought by authorities," the 6/15 editorial notes. "Their bad example has encouraged a lack of cooperation on the part of lower-level witnesses."

If those involved in the Buddhist temple fund-raising event follow through on their threats, it could be that the most compelling scene at the congressional hearings will be the sight of Buddhist monks and nuns taking the Fifth.

She's Not Dead, She's Our Donor

From the department of self-inflicted wounds, it seems the DNC is to blame for a bum report that provoked a flurry of unflattering news media reports.

When The New York Times reported that the DNC had taken money from apparently bogus sources, one item in the story got most of the attention--a donor who was "dead." Tabloid newspapers and the morning network news programs trumpeted the "dead donor" angle, a rare bit of uncomplicated news in the maze of campaign finance stories.

But the item was wrong. The Wall Street Journal followed up with a report that before producing the list of questionable donations, DNC staff members researched contributors' backgrounds. They couldn't find a Michele Lima who had given $3,000 without listing an address. However, the DNC discovered a Michele Lima who had been dead for 11 years and assumed she was the one.

Not so. Michele Lima the DNC contributor is living, but not returning phone calls, in Queens. (6/13)

Quayle of the West

The Arizona Republic's Adrianne Flynn profiled former Vice President Dan Quayle, who seems to be basing a presidential bid in the state. "Quayle's strong personal ties to Arizona--he's registered to vote here--help position him as the candidate of the West," Flynn wrote. Quayle, who insists he's not "officially" running, said, "Western candidates in the Republican Party have done fairly well in the past." Flynn writes that Quayle could end up vying with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who's also thinking of running for President, as the party's Marlboro Man.

"Once we conclude those [1998] elections," Quayle said, "I intend to be in a strong position to decide whether to seek the presidency in 2000."


"If there were a doomsday clock on the speakership of Newt Gingrich, it would just have ticked another minute closer to midnight." -- National Review's Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru, on reaction to GOP handling of flood relief legislation. 6/16

Craig Crawford is editor in chief of The Hotline, which appears each weekday.

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