Wishing Away Whitewater
Two items today:
1) Quotes from media
stars over the last few months and years predicting (or hoping) that
Whitewater would go away.
2) An update to our
study on the lack of TV network coverage the trial has received. In short,
the networks continued to ignore the trial into the middle of this month.
On Friday's Washington Week in Review (May 24) on PBS they discussed the
RNC ad attacking Clinton for invoking the Soldier and Sailor Act,
prompting New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to note the ad was created
"Right when Whitewater seems to be grinding to a halt as a legal
issue." A few minutes later, moderator Ken Bode (also a CNN analyst),
offered his view of why Republicans decided to run the ad:
"Whitewater is sort of diminishing, sort of fading away, it's kind of
a shadowy thing now, it's going away."
After Tuesday afternoon's
convictions, MRC analysts Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters and Geoffrey Dickens
identified some very wrong wishful thinking from media stars who predicted
Whitewater wouldn't amount to anything. Here are eight quotes, from oldest
-- NPR's Nina Totenberg on Inside
Washington, January 15, 1994: "You said there is no proof of
criminality, there's no evidence of criminality! This is sort of, one of
those incidents where the protagonists fed the fire by refusing to say
'Look, here's exactly what happened.' I suspect, in fact I think I know,
that in the White House most people do not know what exactly happened in
the Whitewater investment. They haven't pieced it entirely together yet.
The Clintons didn't think, until a couple of weeks ago perhaps, this was
-- Sam Fulwood, Los Angeles Times
Washington bureau reporter, on Inside Washington, December 9, 1995:
"I can't get excited by this Whitewater thing any further. I mean, we
have had all this conversation, nobody's shown a shred of evidence about
anything that's inappropriate or illegal other than just the smoke that
maybe something's going on. We had in the bureau, at the L.A. Times, Lamar
Alexander, who is not a right wing nut or a liberal lefty saying that he's
traveled across the country, 50 cities in Florida, for example, and nobody
has asked him about Whitewater or Newt. I don't think anybody cares except
the circle in Washington."
-- Margaret Carlson, Time
magazine columnist and former White House reporter, on CNN's Capital Gang,
December 23, 1995: "Well paranoids actually do have enemies some of
the time and Senator D'Amato looks like an enemy the of First Lady there's
no doubt about that. I mean any time you assert privilege it looks bad.
Once these things get going all it looks like you're doing is saying, 'I
don't wanna to turn that over.' And the whole idea in Washington, you
know, since Watergate is you take the papers and you put them on the
table. That's what you have to do public relations wise. But, you know,
there are embarrassing things in notes and unfortunately you gotta hand
them over. But what, Al [Hunt] is right about this. As the curtains keep
getting lifted there's nothing there! There's no big, you know, there's no
big smoking gun. There's no Mogilla! And they keep going and not finding
-- Juan Williams of the
Washington Post on CNN's Capital Gang, January 7, 1996: "There's no
way possible to defend Hillary on exactly what she's doing in terms of
this, what looks to be a coverup. I think that it is possible however to
say that when we look at exactly what we're talking about with Whitewater
you can say there's nothing there! I mean if D'Amato and if all these rest
of the guys have something, bring it forward. All we're involved in is
saying that Hillary Clinton has been very slow to bring forward documents
that Hillary Clinton has to some extent shaded the truth, if you will, in
trying to present herself in the most favorable light to get this behind
her. And I think it's been a real mistake. She's behaved badly. But you
would think by the kind of flares going up in this town from Republicans
and Mona. You would think that the woman was out there beating
-- Eleanor Clift of Newsweek on
The McLaughlin Group, February 10, 1996: "Yes. If Ken Starr is a
credible prosecutor he will bring this to a conclusion and the Clintons
will be exonerated."
-- Margaret Carlson on CNN's
Capital Gang, February 24, 1996: "Clinton is doing well. 10,000
people in Keene, New Hampshire standing three hours in the
cold....Presidential trip to Long Beach giving out government contracts.
He's looking good. Whitewater via D'Amato is out of steam. I don't think
that's going to hurt him. D'Amato's done everything he can. But the
independent counsel if it hits at the right moment could do some damage
but at the moment David Hale doesn't look to be a good witness. In a mock
trial he failed against Jim Guy Tucker. So who knows? But I think the
steam is out of Whitewater."
-- Carlson on Capital Gang, March
16, 1996: "Let me give [Blood Sport author] Jim Stewart another plug.
He's a fine reporter. Alice Mayhew is editor, a fine editor. But it would
take Oliver Stone to pump political life into Whitewater. He just hasn't
really done it. Alfonse D'Amato has had all these months to do it and all
this money and he really hasn't done it."
-- Carlson and U.S. News &
World Report Editor-in-Chief Mort Zuckerman on CNBC's Cal Thomas show,
March 24, 1996: "The only way Whitewater can hurt is if the
Independent Counsel issues an indictment, that's it. We've had a Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter now, doing everything he could to write an
interesting book and there's no smoking anything in that book, it shows
the Clintons to cut corners, be ethically questionable in their
Cal Thomas, host: "And that's OK now?"
Carlson: "No, it's not OK, but it's out there, it's been out there,
it's not going to have any more impact than it's already having."
Thomas: "Quickly, Mort, then we'll go to a phone call."
Mort Zuckerman, US News & World Report: "Yeah, I mean, I think we
also have to remember that there have been three independent studies, one
recently from the FDIC, which was a follow-on after Hillary Clinton's
billing records came about, that followed on the RTC report. They have
exonerated the Clintons on Whitewater, they have exonerated Bill Clinton's
wife on her role in the Rose Law Firm. I don't think there's anything
there unless Kenneth Starr does come up with anything, and the fact that
there is a trial going on I think is not going to be relevant to what the
elections going to be all about, you can't run an election based on
attacking the President's wife."
Last week I reported that the May MediaWatch includes a study titled
"McDougal Trial, Senate Hearings Filibuster, and Other Whitewater
News Downplayed: Trial? What Whitewater Trial?" We reviewed Arkansas
Whitewater trial and related stories on network morning news and evening
news programs on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC from February 29, a few days
before the trial began, to April 30, as the trial neared its end. Analysts
also reviewed corresponding news magazine coverage in Time, Newsweek, and
U.S. News & World Report from issues dated March 4 to May 6.
We found: "In nearly two months of the
trial, the four networks aired only 16 reporter-based Whitewater stories
on the evening news shows -- an average of less than four per network over
a two-month period. Seven of the 16 (44 percent) were on the President's
testimony. Although Time carried a long cover story excerpting James
Stewart's Whitewater book Blood Sport, the news magazines devoted fewer
pages to the Whitewater trial than to the Jackie Onassis auction."
the verdict Tuesday, Tim Graham reviewed coverage from May 1 to May 15 and
discovered that "the Big Three have done only one additional
reporter-based story each, all on the evening of the 9th and the morning
of the 10th, on the jury seeing Clinton's testimony. (NBC's May 9 story
was the first reporter-based story of the entire trial period aired on
Nightly News.) CNN had four reporter-based stories on its The World Today
(10-11pm ET) -- on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th."
course, as Dan Rather keeps assuring us, Bill Clinton was not on trial.
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