Complaints About Over-Coverage; Hillary's GMA Slide; Rather Nutty
night CBS and NBC aired pieces contending that the public believes the
media are overplaying the scandal; only ABC reported Charlie Trie's
2) On Good
Morning America Lisa McRee mostly tossed softballs to Hillary Clinton,
sympathized with how the scandal has distracted from "things that
really do matter."
3) Tom Brokaw
hit Republican and Democratic Senators from the left; Dan Rather declared
the State of the Union "the biggest" story "this reporter
has ever seen."
Bumped but bouncing back. MRC Chairman L.
Brent Bozell was bumped at the last minute from Wednesday's Today show.
Apparently, he failed to clear his appearance with the VRCCC (Vast
Right-Wing Conspiracy Control Center). But, he is scheduled to appear in
the 9:30am ET half hour of CNN's Morning News, this morning, Thursday,
January 29. No guarantees, however. After all, CNN President Rick Kaplan,
who produced CNN's Wednesday night media self-flagellation session
"Investigating the President: Media Madness?" doesn't think
much of Bozell or liberal bias.
Recall this from a January Vanity Fair
profile: "Right-wing critics such as Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media
and columnist Brent Bozell have charged that Kaplan let his friendship
with the President cloud his news judgment at ABC, and will now turn CNN
into the 'Clinton News Network.' Kaplan brushes Irvine and Bozell
aside contemptuously. 'If they weren't such liars they wouldn't make
whatever money they make,' he said. 'There'd be no purpose for them on
night the broadcast networks led with Clinton's Midwest trip and all
reported on Leon Panetta's grand jury testimony as well as how a lawyer
for an Oregon man with whom Lewinsky had an affair suggested she likes to
exaggerate. CBS added a tidbit about Lewinsky's dress. Both CBS and NBC
featured stories on how the public believes the media are overplaying the
sex scandal story. ABC's "A Closer Look" and NBC's "In
Depth" segments examined the danger to presidential-agent trust posed
by Ken Starr's decision to subpoena Secret Service agents. Tom Brokaw
wondered: "Will the vow of silence that is part of the job be
shattered by Monica Lewinsky and the scandal?" Only ABC mentioned the
indictment of Charlie Trie.
Some other notes and quotes from the
January 28 evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Following a
pieces from Sam Donaldson on Clinton's trip, which Donaldson began with
video of the presidential 707 stuck in mud, Cokie Roberts on reaction to
the State of the Union and Jackie Judd on the day's scandal
developments, Jennings took 28 seconds to inform viewers:
"We learned today about the first
major indictment in the campaign fundraising investigation. ABC's Linda
Douglass reports that Charlie Trie, the elusive Little Rock businessman
and friend of the President, has been charged with several counts,
including obstruction of justice. During the 1996 campaign Mr. Trie
funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal foreign campaign
contributions to the Democratic Party. But although he has been charged,
he has not been arrested because he cannot be found."
-- CBS Evening News. Up first, Scott Pelley.
He explained how Starr and Lewinsky had yet to make an immunity deal.
Switching to Clinton's trip, Pelley noted: "Today Mr. Clinton began
a new campaign, the campaign to save his presidency." Pelley moved on
to report that the FBI had completed DNA tests on Lewinsky's dresses.
Next, CBS ran a full story from Sharyl
Attkisson on Air Force One getting stuck in Illinois and an item skipped
by ABC and NBC: how Air Force One experienced a near miss while leaving
the Washington area.
The show ended with a piece on the warm
reception for Clinton in Champaign Illinois, but reporter Harry Smith also
highlighted people who felt the media are overdoing it. Some excerpts:
Harry Smith: "Even Republicans, like
Joe Ricks (sp?), waited for more than two hours to see Bill Clinton."
Joe: "I think things are great in the
country right now. Unemployment is lower than it's ever been. People are
making more money than they're ever made. I think we need to get behind
and rally behind and support him."
Smith: "The President came to
Champaign today perhaps looking for a little comfort. He got darn near a
Joe is quite the model Republican, just the
model loved by liberal reporters.
Smith later continued "...It was as if
the President left his troubles behind in Washington and a hostile media
too. Lee Roberts says the media just doesn't get it."
Roberts: "I don't care about his
Smith: "Are they two separate
Roberts: "Two separate issues. It's
not any of my business about his personal life."
-- NBC Nightly News. Reporting in from
Clinton's stop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, David Bloom explained that
investigators are probing why Clinton associates made such an effort to
find Lewinsky a job when the official line is that she was transferred
from the White House for poor performance, (work-wise that is). Leading
into a clip from Hillary Clinton's appearance on Good Morning America,
Bloom declared: "Despite the President's assurance last week that
the President would not dodge such questions, the First Lady made clear
today the White House has now settled on a different strategy:
Brokaw noted that NBC's latest poll
pegged Clinton's job approval at all time high of 68 percent. Next,
reporter Claire Shipman outlined the latest three-pronged White House
strategy: keep the President busy, discredit Starr and raise questions
about Lewinsky's character.
The media can help with numbers two and
For the last story Roger O'Neill checked
in from Eagle, Colorado where, surprise, surprise, he discovered:
"The drumbeat of accusations in Washington registers as a dull thud
here." Getting reaction to Clinton's State of the Union speech,
O'Neill effused: "What these five baby boomers judged Clinton on
last night were his plans to rescue Social Security and help education,
presidential visions of the future rather than the frenzied melodrama of
On Tuesday, NBC's Matt Lauer stuck to
the intern scandal when he interviewed Hillary Clinton on Today. His
questions may not have been particularly tough and he failed to challenge
her wacky conspiracy theory, but at least he didn't wander from the
scandal and Bill Clinton's honesty. The same can't be said for Lisa
McRee's interview live from the White House on Wednesday's Good
Morning America. Other than a couple of questions at the end about the
right-wing conspiracy idea, McRee tossed a bunch of softballs to the First
Lady. She started by portraying the scandal as an annoying distraction.
Some of her questions included more admiration than inquiry while others
wandered far from the scandal. Afterwards, she praised Mrs. Clinton for
talking "about things that really do matter in terms of the country
and the world."
Here are McRee's questions:
McRee: "The State of the Union last
night -- how did he do? One to ten?"
McRee: "Weren't you worried a little
bit, was the President worried that the nation's attention and
Congress' attention might not be focused on the policies and the
programs he wanted to talk about?"
McRee: "I think it also proves he does
have an amazing
ability to focus. Just minutes before the
State of the Union
address, this is such an important speech
for him, particularly
this year, there is another news report
regarding the Monica
Lewinsky story. A former lover comes
forward, makes allegations in a news conference. How do you not become
distracted for even a moment by that?"
McRee: "We're heading down a
dangerous road with Iraq, and the President has been saying that he can
focus on it, he can do this, he can do both at the same time. But
doesn't this matter really need to be wrapped up quickly for him to
devote his full attention to Iraq?"
McRee: "We have to ask the Monica
Lewinsky question. You said that you heard of the allegations as the story
hit the press last week, as most of the nation did. Did you privately ask
your husband if it was true?"
McRee: "Do you believe he's told you
the whole story?"
McRee: "What is it about your husband,
Mrs. Clinton, that
seems to make him a lightning rod for these
types of allegations?"
McRee: "You've also talked about
your husband's generosity and his warmth, and his, you know, his warmth
with people even, you know, people he hardly knows."
McRee: "I think you called him
emotive. Have you ever talked to him about sending mixed signals?"
McRee: "Did you want him to come out
though, because you are known for your
political wisdom as well as your legal skill and after several days of an
uncomfortable silence, he finally made a statement on Monday and the polls
went up. Did you want him to come out and make that what seemed to be a
very almost emotional statement, and very forceful? Did you want him to
make that earlier than Monday?"
McRee: "In the last few days, you,
other members of the
President's team have been talking about
conspiracy. Kenneth Starr said last night
it's nonsense. Your
reaction to his comment?"
McRee: "Last week the President gave a
sworn deposition in the Paula Jones case, and there have been many
reports, sourced different ways, that the President admitted to an
extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers some years ago. Is that
McRee: "You've said you don't know
the exact nature of the President's personal relationship with Monica
Lewinsky. Monica Lewinsky apparently had some help, though, legally, some
advice, professionally, from Vernon Jordan. Has the President explained to
you why Vernon Jordan would help this young intern get a job offer?"
McRee: "But when you talk about a
and people planning particularly this
situation, The Washington
Post, Janet Reno, who agreed to let Kenneth
McRee: "And we promised we would let
you talk about your agenda, and we will honor that as well....And it's a
very Democratic agenda. Last night's State of the Union speech was sort
of tailor made for the Democratic Party, a dream come true. And people
several years ago were saying ago it couldn't be done.
How did he do it? How did he get this
Republican-led Congress to agree and work and allow him to make this
speech that, again, became a dream come true for the Democrats?"
McRee: "Does the President have to
address the Lewinsky matter again before he can energize this agenda of
McRee: "Have you been at all concerned
about some of the Democrats who have come out and said publicly if any of
these allegations are proven true then the President may have to step
aside? Has that been -- have those things felt outrageous as you've
McRee: "You've said before that in
the near future people will learn the whole story and there will be more
details. Do you think that this young woman when she came to the White
House as a 21-year- old intern was part of some right-wing conspiracy and
placed there by your husband's enemies?"
Clinton: "Oh, I'm not suggesting any
McRee: "All right. But in general,
this sort of wide approach that the White House is using now -- that
it's someone else's fault -- those reports came from the press. They
came from secret tapes that were made. It didn't seem to anyone
observing that it could have been anything that was orchestrated."
McRee: "I know you're very
interested in the future. You and the President have spent a lot of time
talking about the millennium and what this nation is going to do as we
the next century. You've been
orchestrating and working on
programs that would make this country, you
say, stronger and
better. Are you worried at all about how
you, your husband will go down in history because of this crisis, because
McRee: "Just a few seconds left, and
you can see even in
this interview, and I'm sure every
interview you do in the near future, it's going to be hard to focus on
your political agenda.
When will the President come out and give a
detailed explanation, sit down and talk about this matter and be able to
put it behind us? When can that
Not soon enough for McRee. She returned to
ABC's Washington bureau about a half hour later and MRC news analyst
Gene Eliasen caught this admission from her:
"Tense. It was tense and, you know, it
was tense for everyone. It's difficult to ask another woman about those
questions, you know, it's a hard conversation to have to have and I
think she handled it, as she always does, with great skill. She is a very
good politician and she wanted to talk about the President's agenda and
she manages to do that and, you know, to her credit, talk about things
that really do matter in terms of the country and the world."
Two items of note from January 27 State of
the Union coverage:
-- Tom Brokaw is consistent. He poses
liberal agenda questions to Republicans and liberal agenda questions to
Democrats. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed the similar angle to
the one question each Brokaw put to two Senators after Clinton and Trent
To Democratic Senator Bob Kerry: "Do
you think Kenneth Starr has been too much of a zealot?"
To Republican Senator John McCain: "Do
you think he's [Clinton] a victim of some kind of right wing
-- Here's how Dan Rather opened CBS News
coverage at 9pm ET, as transcribed by MRC analyst Steve Kaminski. It's
impossible to summarize as you will learn after reading it.
"Climate in Washington these days is
commonly described as a media feeding frenzy. For our part, we here at CBS
News have sought for the past week to provide complete but responsible
coverage on a number of disturbing allegations. We have tried, so far as
we could, to separate truth from rumor, that which may be proven from that
which cannot be proven at all.
"Tonight we're covering a different
story. It will inevitably be colored by Kenneth Starr's investigation
into the President's sex life, but it is not the same story. Today's
scandal may or may not have significance tomorrow. We can't know yet. We
don't have the facts.
"But we can know that the State of the
Union, the President's speech and the Republican response is significant
to all Americans. So we will try tonight to keep our primary focus on the
State of the Union. We do this not because we believe it is what the
President deserves, or what Monica Lewinsky or Kenneth Starr deserves, but
because we believe this is what the American people deserve.
"We the people are the union.
And the state of the union is who and what we are. That's a big
story. The biggest this reporter has ever seen."
Talk about "frenzied melodrama."
I bet that no matter how the current scandal is resolved we'll remember
it long after we've forgotten Clinton's speech. -- Brent Baker
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