Avoiding Clinton's Demand; Conservative Basher; Memorial Priorities
- All the
networks led with Paula Jones, but none told what she accused
Clinton of demanding. Only NBC mentioned how insurance is paying
for his defense, but the American Spectator had much more.
- Tonight on
PBS: a series from a man who considers Time magazine
"fascist" and thinks that conservatives will
"depress the quality of cultural and educational life for
- ABC scolds
public for forgetting the reason for Memorial Day, but they lead
with....weekend movie box office numbers.
1) The Supreme Court decision
that a President cannot avoid a lawsuit brought for acts not related
to his officials duties, thus allowing Paula Jones' case to proceed,
led all three broadcast network evening shows Tuesday night, followed
by stories on the NATO meeting. Plus, Nightline devoted its May 27
broadcast to the development.
None, however, told viewers
what, specifically, she charges that Bill Clinton demanded as none
used the terms oral sex or fellatio. But NBC's Jim Miklaszewski did
tell viewers a couple of facts ignored by ABC and CBS, such as how
insurance companies are paying for Clinton's defense.
-- ABC's World News Tonight
led with a full piece by Tim O'Brien followed by a series of three
brief Q&A sessions between Peter Jennings and: John Donvan in
Paris, Sam Donaldson and law professor Jonathan Turley.
Description of the complaint.
Peter Jennings: "...in which she accuses him of pretty overt
sexual harassment..." Tim O'Brien got close: "President
Clinton has denied Paula Jones' charges that when he was Governor of
Arkansas he had her brought to a Little Rock hotel room where she says
he exposed himself and asked her to perform a sex act."
-- CBS Evening News led with
a full report from Jim Stewart followed by a stand-up from Rita Braver
Description of the complaint:
Dan Rather: "The case: Paula Jones lawsuit against President
Clinton." Jim Stewart: "She has charged that, as Governor of
Arkansas, Clinton invited her to a room in this Little Rock hotel in
1991 and made sexual advances..."
-- NBC Nightly News, which
has devoted the least time of the three this year to Clinton scandals,
dedicated the most time to the Jones decision. NBC led with a full
report from Pete Williams followed by a story from David Bloom in
Paris which was about half NATO and half Paula Jones reaction. Later,
NBC devoted its "In Depth" segment to the Jones matter with
a lengthy piece from Jim Miklaszewski before Tom Brokaw discussed the
implications with Tim Russert.
Description of complaint: Tom
Brokaw: "Paula Jones wants to sue Bill Clinton for sexual
harassment..." Pete Williams: "...her claim that at this
hotel in Little Rock six years ago, then Governor Clinton had an
Arkansas state trooper escort her to a room where Mr. Clinton made a
crude sexual advance."
In his "In Depth"
report, Jim Miklaszewski offered the most suggestive description of
what Clinton did, speculating that if the case were to go to trial
"Ms. Jones would relate in detail her allegations that then
Governor Clinton summoned her to a Little Rock hotel room, exposed
himself, and asked her to perform a sex act." Miklaszewski noted
that "Ms. Jones also claims the President has a distinguishing
physical characteristic. Jones' attorneys could demand the President
undergo a humiliating physical examination, as lawyers did in the case
against singer Michael Jackson..."
ABC and CBS failed to tell
viewers about that possibility, or another bit of information that
Miklaszewski relayed, an item the networks have hardly emphasized:
"Meanwhile, this case is
running into some big money. The President's lawyers have already
billed more than a million and a half dollars, most of it paid by the
President's insurance companies."
It's nice that Miklaszewski
finally squeezed in a network mention of the insurance payments, but
he barely touched the potential scandal it encompasses. In a June 1996
American Spectator story the networks ignored, Byron York revealed
that two insurance companies are paying the legal bills generated by
the Jones lawsuit, but are violating their rules to do so. York
discovered that Clinton purchased "personal liability umbrella
policies" with Pacific Indemnity, a division of the Chubb Group,
and when that expired in 1992, with State Farm.
York explained the oddity of
the insurance companies agreeing to pay:
"How could two big insurance companies decide that a client's
umbrella policy covered a case in which he is accused of coming on to
an unwilling woman in an overtly sexual fashion? The decision seems
all the more curious when one looks at the several legitimate reasons
State Farm and Chubb had to turn Clinton and [lawyer Bob] Bennett
harassment is clearly not covered under any insurance policy I'm aware
of,' says Richard Giller, a Los Angles attorney who specializes in
representing insurance companies....
"Second, the policies
specifically do not cover any intentional act...
companies routinely deny coverage to clients who do not make claims in
a reasonable amount of time. Jones filed suit on May 6, 1994; State
Farm says it received a notice from Bennett on June 8, 1995...."
With all the media excitement
about how Newt Gingrich would pay his penalty and whether Dole's loan
would create a conflict of interest because of the tobacco companies
represented by Dole's firm, it's interesting to note the media's lack
of concern about this insurance maneuver. Clinton's defense fund will
not accept contributions from corporations, but York observed:
"Yet when two giant
corporations pitch in $900,000 for the same cause -- Clinton's legal
defense -- no such ethics rules apply. Given the highly unusual
circumstances of the payments, a close reading of ethics standards in
today's Washington might view the money as little more than a gift
from State Farm and Chubb to the President."
But it's a story the networks
have avoided. Even NBC. Back on May 15 when the Clinton's released
their financial statements, NBC made no mention of insurance payments,
as Tom Brokaw declared:
"From the White House
tonight we have a detailed look at the President's personal financial
status, and he is deep in the red. The numbers show the high cost of
being the target of so many legal investigations."
2) Starting Wednesday night
(May 28) most PBS stations will carry "American Visions: The Epic
History of Art in America," an eight-part series produced and
narrated by Robert Hughes, art critic for Time magazine. Knopf has
published a companion book and Time has just released a special
edition with excerpts. Hughes told the May 26 Boston Globe that he
considers the TV series and book "a love letter to America."
MediaWatch and Notable
Quotable readers will recognize Hughes as a liberal who has used the
pages of Time to blast away at conservatives, especially anyone who
dares to suggest cutting a dollar from the National Endowment for the
Arts. But Hughes was so far to the left when he interviewed for his
Time position that he considered the magazine "fascist." As
recounted by the Boston Globe's Fred Kaplan in his May 26 profile of
"'One night in 1970,' he
recalls of the job offer, 'they rang me up -- or, actually, they rang
up the guy in the flat next door because my phone had been cut off,
owing to nonpayment of bills. I was, at the time, fairly stoned. I
thought it was the CIA on the line. This was at the time of the
Vietnam business, and I was indignantly marching a lot. They didn't
identify themselves, they just said, 'I want you to come work for us.'
So I said, in my somewhat deranged state, 'I wouldn't work for you,
you bloody fascists!' And I hung up.'
"'Very luckily,' he goes
on...'they called again and I figured, 'Why not?'"
Not so lucky for Time
readers. More than 20 years later his political take hadn't changed
much. Here are a couple of quotes plucked from back issues of Notable
Quotables that may provide a preview of the tone Hughes will take in
his PBS platform:
-- In the February 3, 1992
Time: "We are seeing a public recoil from formal politics, from
the active, reasoned exercise of citizenship. It comes because we
don't trust anyone. It is part of the cafard the '80s induced: Wall
Street robbery, the savings and loan scandal, the wholesale plunder of
the economy, an orgy released by Reaganomics that went on for years
with hardly a peep from Congress -- events whose numbers were so huge
as to be beyond the comprehension of most people."
-- Also from February 3,
1992: "Meanwhile [in the 1980s], a considerable and very
well-subsidized industry arose, hunting the lefty academic or artist
in his or her retreat. Republican attack politics turned on culture,
and suddenly both academe and the arts were full of potential Willie
Hortons. The lowbrow form of this was the ire of figures like Senator
Helms and the Rev. Donald Wildmon directed against National Endowment
subventions for art shows they thought blasphemous and obscene, or the
trumpetings of folk like David Horowitz about how PBS should be
demolished because it's a pinko-liberal-anti-Israel bureaucracy."
-- Hughes, concluding August
7, 1995 cover story on plans to cut funding for the National Endowment
for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities:
agenda, if it goes through, is going to depress the quality of
cultural and educational life for everyone in America, young and old,
black, brown, male or female. This is one of the most ill-conceived,
profoundly anti-democratic ideas ever to get loose in Congress.
Private philanthropy will never be able to restore what seems about to
be taken away. Some will not notice it; others won't care; given the
shortness of American social memory, perhaps the next generation won't
know what happened. Partial lobotomies work that way. They favor
Beavis and Butt-head. Is that the business of American
3) Introducing the very last
story on Monday's World News Tonight, a series of video clips from
Arlington Cemetery and Vietnam Memorial ceremonies, anchor Forrest
"Finally this evening,
remembering their sacrifice. It is perhaps too easy on Memorial Day to
think of the holiday as just another long weekend. Easy to forget that
a holiday which originated after the Civil War now honors all those
Americans who sacrificed their lives in all the wars this nation has
Just who forgot? Here's
Sawyer at the top of the show, 25 minutes earlier:
"Good evening. It has
been a most quiet Memorial Day across the country with people coming
together to enjoy cookouts, parades and the great outdoors. And, this
holiday weekend, millions of Americans have something new in common:
dinosaurs, financially successful dinosaurs. So successful, they
opened this weekend in what is certain to become the most profitable
movie in history."
Cookouts, parade and the
outdoors. No mention of those who sacrificed their lives.
In addition to reporter Bill
Redeker's lead piece on the box office success of the movie the Lost
World, ABC aired stories on:
-- efforts to get black women to detect breast cancer earlier
-- the Cumberland, RI police getting parents permission in advance to
enter their home when parents are away if police suspect a teen
-- a look at the controversy over "adventure vacations" to
Papua New Guinea to see natives battle.
All legitimate stories, but
hardly ones that had to run on Memorial Day or were more relevant than
Memorial Day ceremonies.
It's "easy to
forget" that the holiday "honors all those Americans who
sacrificed their lives in all the wars this nation has fought"
when the most watched network evening show leads with movie box office
results and doesn't get around to the meaning of the holiday until the
very last story.
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