Friday night CBS fired the first network shot at Lucianne Goldberg,
issuing the kind of character attack a liberal would label as "McCarthyistic"
if done by a conservative about a liberal. The January 23 CBS Evening News
included a piece by Wyatt Andrews on the relationship between Linda Tripp
and Monica Lewinsky. Noting that both were exiled to the Pentagon for
upsetting people at the White House, Andrews claimed "sources"
told him Lewinsky acted "starry-eyed, like a groupie."
Andrews moved to the woman
who taped her calls with Lewinsky, but instead of portraying her as a hero
with the courage to battle corrupt officials, he painted her as just
another political hack with an anti-Clinton agenda. And then he got to
meanwhile, was becoming aggressively anti-Clinton, testifying about
Whitewater and alleging an affair between the President and this woman,
Katherine Willey. When the subpoena came for Tripp to be a witness in the
Paula Jones case, sources say she was pumped and excited to be back in
action. And there's more. Tripp has given two of the Lewinsky tapes to
Lucianne Goldberg, a conservative book agent also known for performing
dirty tricks during the Nixon White House. It was late last summer when
Tripp, concerned about her credibility, betrayed her friend Lewinsky and
began taping Lewinsky's stories about Mr. Clinton. That's how mentor
and protege, two woman gossiping about the powerful, came to shape the
A nice touch, tainting
Goldberg's by dismissing her as a corrupt Nixon hack. A front page
profile in the January 24 Washington Post offered a more complete resume,
one that suggests she just as accurately could have been "known for
performing dirty tricks for the Kennedy White House." Reporters David
Streitfeld and Howard Kurtz explained:
"This is not the first
time Goldberg has been involved in presidential politics. She worked for
Lyndon Johnson during the 1960 presidential campaign. 'When you're
tall, thin, blond and have big boobs, you can have any job you want,'
she told People magazine in 1992. She later worked for President
Kennedy's speech-writing staff." Streitfeld and Kurtz also noted
another aspect of Goldberg's past, a journalistic one as she
"worked at the Washington Post as a copy aide in the mid-1950s."
World News Tonight on Friday picked up on a question asked by CBS on
Thursday night about Kenneth Starr's jurisdiction, emphasizing his
partisan Republican credentials. And just three days into the scandal ABC
was worried that by overplaying it media coverage had unfairly hurt
Following two soundbites
critical of Starr's performance, reporter Tim O'Brien elaborated:
"Some say it was
unfair from the start to have Starr, a life-long Republican, to be the
Independent Counsel. Ronald Reagan appointed him a federal appeals court
judge, President Bush made him solicitor general, his administration's
top courtroom advocate. Still, supporters say it would be unreasonable to
name a new Independent Counsel every time a new allegation of wrongdoing
After a comment from former
Justice official Theodore Olson, O'Brien continued:
"If people don't
understand how the Whitewater investigation in Little Rock has stretched
to sex and perjury scandal in Washington, Starr himself has done little to
O'Brien then showed a
clip of his sidewalk exchange with Starr, an incident cited in the January
O'Brien, behind Starr:
"How's this Whitewater?"
Starr asserted: "I
can't comment on the specifics with respect to a specific jurisdictional
O'Brien picked up with
his report: "In one sense he doesn't have to comment. The Attorney
General and a special three judge federal court that oversee the
investigation have signed off on Starr's looking into this new chapter
on Whitewater. But appearances still count and at least to some there is
the appearance of a partisan showdown between a Republican prosecutor and
a Democratic President with the careers of both men riding on the
Next, Peter Jennings turned
to ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, asking about the appropriateness of
Starr, before his appointment, considering a legal brief on behalf of
Jones. Toobin saw no legal problem, raising the question of why ABC even
highlighted the issue.
Moving along, Jennings
worried if he media had been too tough on Clinton: "We know from just
answering the phone around here that the amount of attention we are giving
this story is, at the very least, debatable. We in the news, as you can
see [video of TV broadcasts], are devoting major time and resources to
these events, but have we been carried away, are we doing too much and are
we not being fair?" The subsequent piece focused on analysis from the
Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.
But whether the media have
gone too far or not, the public, ABC set out to demonstrate, don't care
all that much about what Clinton allegedly did. From a stock show in
Denver, reporter Tom Foreman began his story by showcasing one citizen who
supports Clinton and one opposed to him. Foreman claimed:
"But as news of this
scandal has spread, many voters are questioning just how big this story
really is. In Chicago some are saying the media have already taken it way
After a soundbite of a
woman, Foreman continued:
"In Sacramento some
point out almost nothing has been proven."
Foreman ran clips of a man
and a woman decrying media focus on the scandal, before running a talking
head defending media coverage. Concluded Foreman: "However, it seems
clear that this story is a still much bigger crisis in Washington and
media circles than it is out here. Then again, the story has just begun.
Tom Foreman, ABC News, Denver."
Anchor Peter Jennings
turned to Tom Rosensteil of the Pew Research Center to assess coverage.
Rosensteil complained about speculation and worried that rumors have
"gotten ahead" of facts.
worry, the Paula Jones case will not really hurt Clinton. So two members
of the Washington press corps assured viewers just days ago.
-- MRC news analyst
Geoffrey Dickens caught this promise from Chicago Sun-Times Washington
Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet. Just two days before Clinton deposition, on
CNBC's Equal Time, she insisted:
"He has had so many
bad days and then the President bounces back. He's at sixty-something
percent in approval ratings. And unless there's some bombshell that
leaks out of this thing, it won't. You know and I don't see how this
is going to have any bigger effect on the bigger picture here....It's a
bad day. And no President has had to sit for a sworn deposition like this
before but, you know, look at what this guy has weathered so far."
-- Hours after Clinton left
Bob Bennett's office, The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt disparaged
conservatives for thinking the sleaze issue will amount to anything. MRC
news analyst Eric Darbe reminded me of these less than authoritative
comments made by Hunt on the January 17 edition of CNN's Capital Gang:
"I don't think it
portends much for Bill Clinton. I sort of disagree with Kate [O'Beirne]
on that. You know, I think they're -- instead of battling Clinton on the
substantive issues, there are some right-wing activists who keep thinking
this sleaze issue will be the magic wand for them. It hasn't worked before
and it's not going to work now. And the reason that the American people
don't much believe Paula Jones and don't much like Paula Jones. She has
become, I think, a pitiful pawn of some right-wing activists..."
Don't take any stock tips
from Hunt. --
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