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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday, January 20, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 8) 

Reporters Interested in Jones, When Clinton Hurt; Rather in Cuba

1.  With Clinton's credibility being damaged, NPR's Mara Liasson displayed a sudden concern that all the facts get out in the Jones case, but where was she in 1994? Tim Russert repeatedly questioned Jones' motives, but let Carville off.

2.  In Cuba Dan Rather discovered that the US embargo means no tubing to fix a '58 Olds and most don't care about the Pope.

cyberno1.gif (1100 bytes)Two observations about Sunday morning talk show coverage of the Paula Jones case: a NPR reporter suddenly concerned with getting all the evidence out, and NBC's Tim Russert's uncharacteristically imbalanced questioning on Meet the Press.

     a) When Paula Jones came forward in 1994 with her charge against the President, reporters were not much interested in her case or her evidence. ABC's World News Tonight gave her 16 seconds while the other networks passed. But with President Clinton now in the hot seat and his credibility threatened, one major reporter is demanding full disclosure, demanding the Jones team provide the evidence for their question's about Clinton's behavior.

     Mark Honig, head of the MRC's Parents Television Council, alerted me to this exchange on Fox News Sunday between NPR's Mara Liasson and guest Wes Holmes, a member of the Paula Jones legal team:

     Mara Liasson: "You know, a lot of people have charged that President Clinton has committed adultery, and in some senses the President has almost admitted that himself. But you are the only people who have charged that he's committed sexual harassment in the legal sense. Now do you have evidence of other episodes of the President committing sexual harassment?"

     Wes Holmes: "I'm sorry. I'm probably going to be pretty boring in this interview because of the confidentiality order. But I certainly can't reveal anything that's come up through discovery, and I wouldn't reveal anything that's come up through our investigation."
     Liasson: "Well, that raises another question. I mean, you must think that what happened yesterday is pretty significant, right?"
     Holmes: "The fact that we took the President's deposition?"
     Liasson: "Well, yes, and what happened in it. I mean, don't you think the American people have a right to know what the evidence is behind your charges? Why not petition the judge to lift the gag order so the American people can judge for themselves about these very serious charges that you have made against the President?"
     Holmes: "Well, that's an interesting question. The confidentiality order was by the agreement of the parties, and we signed off on it and are glad we did that. As far as what the American people have a right to know, I'm sure that your good First Amendment lawyers at Fox will tell you that the right to know increases when things are filed with the court and decreases when it's just products of discovery. And so once things begin to be filed with the court, then, you know, that First Amendment calculus might change. But it's certainly nothing -- that's not our point, isn't to try to get information out to the American people. Our job is to try to develop a case for Paula Jones and prepare it for trial."
     Liasson: "Right. But just if you'll indulge me for a minute. mean, doesn't this gag order completely help your client? I mean, you're able to go on television now over and over again and make the charges, but not present any of the evidence."
     Holmes: "Your question is does the gag order help my client?" Liasson: "Well, sure. You're able to make the charges, but you're not under any responsibility to actually present the evidence that you have backing it up. Why not petition that judge to let you talk in public?"

     Now that Clinton could be hurt she's concerned with truth, justice and the American Way, but where was she in February of 1994? 

     b) Tim Russert has earned a reputation for playing devil's advocate to both sides, but on Sunday he pressed the guests representing Paula Jones with more than three times as many challenging questions as he put to Clinton's defender. The guests on the January 19 Meet the Press: James Carville, Jones lawyer David Pyke and Jones adviser Susan Carpenter McMillan.

     MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens counted up the questions and determined that Russert made Pyke and McMillan reply to seven negative questions about sinister motives and funding, but asked Carville just two negative questions. Russert asked Carville about a Newsweek story on Kathryn Willey and whether the deposition spectacle embarrassed the administration. Here are four of Russert's seven inquires posed to Pyke and McMillan:

     -- "Some of the concerns expressed, where there is also the Paula Jones legal foundation or legal fund. And some of that money has been used to pay for car repair bills and telephone bills. Miss Carpenter-McMillan there has been a lot of discussion about the Paula Jones makeover. The new look. Who paid for that? Herself or her legal fund?"

     -- "Let me just turn, keep pressing on this money issue because New Yorker magazine reported that you went and floated the idea of a book, pitched a book, the still standing, The Inside Story of Paula Jones. Is there a book proposal? Is a book being written? Will Paula Jones benefit from a book contract?"

     -- "So Paula Jones does not wish to make one nickel on this lawsuit for her own use. Or will she sell her book rights or movie rights?....But now and in the future will she pledge not to receive any money from this lawsuit and refuse to write a book or participate in a movie?"

     -- "Mr. Pyke, in terms of the political agenda. Could someone make a case that Paula Jones and her husband received $1,000 to appear in The Clinton Chronicles, a movie which was hocked by Jerry Falwell. That she came to Washington and appeared at the Conservative Political Action Committee. And that the Rutherford Institute, whose now representing her, or paying for her representation, never took on a sexual harrasment case until this one. How do you speak to the issue that this is an attempt by 'right wing conservatives,' quote, unquote, 'to get Bill Clinton?'"

     Anita Hill did not appear on Meet the Press during her book tour last fall, but two other NBC News shows helped her promote her book and version of history: Two Dateline segments and a two-part interview on Today. Neither challenged her as Russert did the Jones team. For details on how those shows treated Hill's tale, for which she supplied much less corroboration than did Jones, see the October 2 and October 6, 1997 CyberAlerts.



cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) All would be just swell in Cuba if it weren't for that darn US embargo. Of the big three anchors Dan Rather was the first to land on Cuba to cover the Pope's visit which begins on Wednesday. Monday night, clad in his trademark safari shirt, Rather told CBS Evening News viewers how Cubans were reacting to the impending visit.

     Over video of a man working under the hood of a old car, Rather asserted:
     "Resourcefulness, in Cuba, is a 40 year old religion. Virgilio Riveran's [spelling a guess] '58 Oldsmobile is a case in point. I'll soon have it running he told us, once I've fixed the fuel line. In fact, that won't be that simple. The U.S. embargo has made such tubing hard to find in Cuba."

     As if the US is the only nation in the world exporting tubing. Standing beside a baseball game Rather insisted that rural Cuba is no different than, say, Iowa:
     "For a moment at least this could be the United States. In some ways rural Cuba resembles some of small town America -- a lot of pride here, strong sense of community. The difference of course is that here they're so poor and so repressed, but when you travel outside Havana this is what you find in little towns such as Boratha Nueva [it sounds like that]. The game, another religion here in Cuba. Milk producers versus grapefruit pickers this day. [Over video of players arguing] This is one place in Cuba where open debate is permitted. By mid-afternoon they were back at work loading the last of this year's crop. Some of these people will board buses into Havana next Sunday for the big mass, but most of them care little about the Pope..."

     The Cuban regime has hardly made it easy to practice any religion, so maybe the real story is how many do want to see the Pope.

-- Brent Baker




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