Tailgate Tailing Off; NBC Gives Susan McDougal Prime Time to Tar Starr
1) Network interest in
Monicagate has plummeted. Wednesday night: 24 seconds on ABC, 17 on CBS.
Only NBC aired a full story.
2) Tuesday night CBS
uniquely illustrated how Clintonistas speak alike; NBC found an intern
expert: their own Brian Williams, who toiled for Jimmy Carter and now
empathizes with Lewinsky.
Dateline NBC provided Susan McDougal with a soapbox to claim that
"it's deja vu all over again" as Starr also asked her to lie
about having a sexual relationship with Clinton.
Frank and Dick Armey confused by the Washington Post.
Wednesday night, of the broadcast networks, only NBC aired a full story
about Monicagate and only NBC, in a brief item read by anchor Tom Brokaw,
mentioned the successful House vote on renaming National Airport after
Ronald Reagan. While NBC is in a partnership with Microsoft to run MSNBC,
NBC Nightly News did not air footage of the pie attack on Bill Gates,
footage featured by both ABC and CBS.
Here's a brief rundown of the February 4
-- ABC's World News Tonight led with an
Iraq update and a story on Capitol Hill reaction followed by a report from
Italy on Italian anger at the US over the Marine jet which cut a cable
car's cable, plunging 20 to their deaths.
After noting the not guilty plea from the
Army's McKinney, Peter Jennings offered a 24-second item on the sex
scandal. He explained that the grand jury heard from a White House steward
who from his pantry job may have seen Clinton and Lewinsky together. With
exaggerated emphasis on the word "alleged," Jennings added:
"Mr. Starr's investigation of the President continues to focus on
potential witnesses to the President's ALLEGED relationship with Monica
-- Iraq also topped the CBS Evening
News. In the number two slot: 17 seconds from Rather on the Lewinsky
matter. Rather relayed that the AP reported that Starr had rejected an
offer from Lewinsky for her testimony in exchange for immunity.
Later in the show Rather treated the attack
on Bill Gates as if it were carried out by deadly terrorists. He ominously
intoned: "Police and security guards in Belgium were caught
flat-footed today by a cowardly sneak-attack on one of the world's
wealthiest men. The target was Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, arriving for
a meeting with community leaders. Watch what happens when a team of hit
men meet him first with a pie in the face...."
-- NBC Nightly News started with the
east coast storms followed by a minute-by-minute recitation of how two
teenage girls were rescued on Tuesday from a flood in Los Angeles.
For the third story anchor Tom Brokaw
introduced a Monicagate piece by outlining a Wall Street Journal report on
its Web site that asserted the White House steward saw Clinton and
Lewinsky alone, but his lawyer denied the report. NBC's Claire Shipman
said that Starr had rejected an immunity deal and then she moved to a NBC
exclusive, a look the second and third pages of the memo Lewinsky gave to
Tripp about what to say in order to clear Clinton. The additional pages,
Shipman claimed, are less formal, less legalistic than the first and may
have been drafted by Lewinsky with the advice of a lawyer.
Later, NBC ran an "In Depth"
segment from Lisa Myers on Lewinsky lawyer William Ginsburg, focusing on
critics who say he's in over his head and has hurt his client with
ill-advised comments to the media.
Tuesday night the three broadcast shows all led with the then-impending
(at least in the Eastern and Central airings) execution of Karla Faye
Tucker. The surrender of fugitive fundraiser Charlie Trie generated just
brief items read by the anchors on ABC and NBC, a full piece on CBS. On
Wednesday morning CBS's This Morning skipped Trie while both NBC's
Today and ABC's Good Morning America each did the least they could while
still being able to say they covered the news: one brief mention from the
news reader during just one of the half-hourly news updates. CNN's The
World Today on Tuesday night, MRC news analyst Eric Darbe determined,
followed the broadcast pattern, giving Trie just a few seconds.
Here are some highlights of the February 3
-- ABC's World News Tonight. After
stories on Tucker, the cable car plunge in Italy, the impact of El Nino on
California and then an ad break, ABC got to Monicagate. Reporter Jackie
Judd said that ABC had learned more about Lewinsky's account,
specifically that last July Clinton told her the physical relationship had
to end because lawyers for Jones were asking about another woman. (No
wonder Clinton's so mad about Paula Jones.)
Judd also relayed the revelation that after
Lewinsky left her White House position she had been cleared in three dozen
times. She ended by noting the grand jury appearance by George
Next, Jennings took 13 seconds to report
-- CBS Evening News. Tucker and two weather
stories topped the broadcast. After the first ad break Phil Jones
explained how Trie had surrendered at Dulles Airport and listed the
charges against him. Rather then turned to Scott Pelley for a Monica
update. He began by reporting that the Secret Service determined that no
agent saw a Clinton liaison with Lewinsky. Pelley noted how Lewinsky had
been cleared in 37 times by Betty Currie, then showed a clip of the
statement from Stephanopoulos after talking to the grand jury.
Pelley entertainingly illustrated the
coordinated wording uttered by those called before the grand jury:
"A key target of the grand jury
investigation is the origin of a document Lewinsky used to try to
influence the testimony of her friend Linda Tripp. Tripp was due to
testify against Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones suit. The document suggests
she can change her testimony and clear Mr. Clinton by saying she 'never
observed the President behaving inappropriately with anybody.'
Prosecutors don't know who wrote that, but the words ring familiar among
the lockstep lines of White House witnesses."
Leon Panetta outside courthouse: "I am
personally not aware of any improper relationship."
Evelyn Lieberman outside courthouse:
"I know of no improper relationship."
Former intern Caroline Self outside
courthouse: "I know of no improper relationship."
Panetta: "By this President and any of
the White House interns."
Lieberman: "Between the President and
Self: "Between the President and
Panetta: "Or anyone else for that
Lieberman: "Or anyone else for that
Self: "Or any other White House
They certainly know how to stay "on
-- NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw
allocated 29 seconds to Trie after stories on Tucker, bad weather in
California and Florida and the Italian cable car disaster. A story from
Claire Shipman covered the Monica news of the day: her 30 plus
post-employment White House visits, Stephanopoulos before the grand jury
and how Bruce Lindsey is prepared to claim executive or attorney-client
NBC's "In-Depth" segment
explored the who and how of getting into the White House. Noting that the
White House was eager to release visitor records for donors in order to
beat the congressional committees at revealing the information, reporter
Andrea Mitchell aired a clip of Johnny Chung saying he was treated like a
VIP. Mitchell then got some expert comment on intern access:
"Most interns are not treated like
VIPs, rarely if ever go back. But a former Carter White House intern,
NBC's Brian Williams, says he understands wanting to."
Over a photo of him with President Clinton,
Williams recalled: "Candidly, as an intern, I made it my business to
get into that West Wing as many times as I could, so I don't blame
anybody for wanting an in for return visits."
VRWC Angle Involving the MRC: Attention
reporters looking at the VRWC (Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy): After his
surrender Tuesday at Dulles Airport, the FBI drove Charlie Trie to the
federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia -- that's just five blocks
from the MRC's headquarters.
Coincidence or conspiracy?
Dateline NBC can't get enough of Susan McDougal trashing Ken Starr. Last
October the show ran a two-part profile which allowed McDougal and her
mother to equate Ken Starr with the Gestapo. (See the October 21 CybrAlert.)
Tuesday night of this week the show's Stone Phillips provided McDougal
with another opportunity to air her gripes about Starr and claim his
demand that Lewinsky tell about sex with Clinton matches his effort to get
her to lie about sex with Clinton.
Phillips set up the February 3 Dateline NBC
"Susan McDougal. The silent shackled
figure at the center of the original Whitewater investigation speaks out
about the President she defends, the prosecutor she detests and the
24-year-old woman whose dilemma she knows all too well."
Phillips opened his piece by asking what
advice she'd give Lewinsky and explaining how she was jailed for
contempt for refusing to testify about the Clintons. "Now, as she
watches Starr zero in on Monica Lewinsky, McDougal says, it's deja vu
all over again."
Phillips let McDougal claim that Clinton is
just a misunderstood flirt, someone who "loves people." Then, as
transcribed by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Phillips gave McDougal
time to claim that Lewinsky just reflects Starr's latest attempt to
smear Clinton with a false sex tale:
"Almost overnight those tapes of
Monica Lewinsky, secretly recorded by her friend Linda Tripp, shifted
Kenneth Starr's investigation from the arcane intricacies of an Arkansas
land deal to sex, lies and audiotapes. A new turn? Maybe not. Susan
McDougal claims two years ago before she went to jail, another Whitewater
figure who had been meeting with Starr's staff to cut a deal for
leniency paid her a visit."
Susan McDougal: "Jim McDougal, my
ex-husband at the time came to me and even asked me to say that I had an
affair with the President. He said that I could write my own ticket if I
would say such a thing."
Phillips: "Jim told you what?"
McDougal: "If I would say that I had
an affair with the President that would be enough for me to get a deal
from them. That I could walk away. I remember Jim saying, 'You can walk
away from this. You won't have to spend a day in jail. If you'll just
say that.' And I told him then, I said, 'Jim I can't say that, that
is not true.' And he said, 'Well that is what they want from
Phillips: "Starr's office says it
never suggested to anyone that Susan McDougal should lie about an affair
or about anything else. And even though his new investigation of Lewinsky
was authorized by Attorney General Janet Reno. A member of the
President's own cabinet, McDougal says the current investigation is
about prying into people's sex lives. Reaching into the gutter."
When McDougal insisted that "Bill
Clinton would never ask anyone to lie for him," Phillips did at least
ask how that matches the audiotapes played by Gennifer Flowers on which
Clinton tells her to lie. But, Phillips ended on a light note, observing
that like Clinton she craves Big Macs.
Ooops. Here's the caption for a photo which accompanied a February 4
Washington Post "Style" section story: "Rep. Barney Frank
(D-Mass.) at last night's Washington Press Club Foundation Congressional
Dinner, where he joked about the President." Only problem: the photo
shows not Frank but House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
At least CyberAlerts don't have photos we
can misidentify. -- Brent Baker
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