Accuracy in Media

    While George W. Bush and the Republicans run ads ridiculing Al Gore?s claim to invent the Internet, a more serious problem for the vice president has emerged in a federal trial. In a federal case against defense contractor McDonnell Douglas, lawyers have cited statements by a defense department official that Gore?s office pressured him to approve a controversial sale of machine tools to China—tools which were diverted from civilian to military use.

    The statements were made on a program entitled “Trading with the Enemy,” produced by Scott Wheeler and a team of investigative reporters at the American Investigator television program. American Investigator has been cited as the first to break some of the most important aspects of the campaign finance scandal and the Clinton-Gore Administration?s export of sensitive technology to China. The program airs in more than 40 television markets around the country.

    The sale of the machine tools is the subject of a federal lawsuit against the company, which is charged with conspiring with the Communist Chinese to violate export laws in the deal. At this stage in the trial, both sides are arguing over what documents should be released and made available. Although the trial is unfolding in Washington, D.C., we had to read about the new charges against Gore in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper is covering the trial because McDonnell Douglas is based in St. Louis.

    Here?s how reporter Philip Dine covered these new, explosive developments: “…more confusion—and intrigue—was generated when lawyers last week mentioned a statement by a defense employee that despite his misgivings about the McDonnell-China transaction, he?d been pressured by the office of Vice President Gore to approve it.” The official, Peter Leitner, monitors export control matters in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Defense attorneys asked the government for material related to Leitner, but the government said it was unclear whether he would be called as a witness. Gore?s office said nothing had turned up to support the allegation.

    But Gore?s credibility is lacking. Perhaps his most famous whopper has to do with illegal fund raising calls that he made from the White House during the 1996 election campaign. Gore had been warned that such fund raising was illegal but he went ahead with it anyway. In March 1997, he admitted making the calls but claimed that his attorney had informed him that there was “no controlling legal authority.” When Gore was questioned about his attendance at a Democratic Party fund- raiser at a Buddhist Temple, he claimed he didn?t know it was a fund-raiser. He claimed it was community out-reach, “donor-maintenance,” or “finance-related,” but not a fund-raiser. FBI director Louis Freeh, and Charles LaBella, head of a taskforce investigating the campaign money scandal, both urged an independent counsel investigation of Gore. But Attorney General Janet Reno refused to authorize one.

    It?s past time for the major media to investigation Gore?s claim that he had nothing to do with this illegal transfer of technology to Communist China. American Investigator has led the way in airing DoD official Leitner?s charge against the vice-president. It?s up to the rest of the media to demand truthful answers.

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