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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday, February 9, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 23)

Starr "Suborning Perjury;" Conspirator Scaife; Special Monicagate NQ

1) A weekend of Starr bashing. ABC used Susan McDougal to suggest "Starr's tactics border on abuse." Eleanor Clift claimed Starr is "the one who is suborning perjury;" Al Hunt compared Starr to OJ Simpson. And CBS profiled the conspirator-in-chief: Richard Scaife.

2) Everyone's sex life is not equally sacrosanct: Walsh probed Weinberger's but that didn't bother the media.

3) The February 9 edition of Notable Quotables: a special Monicagate edition -- Six Years of Clinton Adulation; Ten Days of Guilty Consternation.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)On Fox News Sunday yesterday Brit Hume observed: "The remarkable thing about this whole leaks business is it's gotten pretty straight-faced coverage from a lot of reporters, none of whom believe this is about leaks..."

They may not believe it, but as Hume has noticed, they are playing along with the White House game plan. Friday's revelation about how Betty Currie took control of the gifts given to Monica Lewinsky by President Clinton raised a real possibility of obstruction of justice, but over the weekend instead of exploring that issue the networks examined Ken Starr. (The February 7 CyberAlert detailed how the White House distraction strategy worked Friday night.)

Some brief quotes to give you a flavor network coverage, followed by fresh attacks on Starr from Al Hunt and Eleanor Clift:

-- The tease at the top of Saturday's (February 7) NBC Nightly News:

Anchor Brian Williams: "The war of words over leaks in the White House crisis. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office stands accused."

Starr: "We'll look into those charges."

John Palmer's subsequent story focused on the latest criticism from William Ginsburg of Starr's office.

-- ABC's World News Tonight on Saturday also honed in on Starr and Ginsburg, as Michel McQueen relayed the opinion of a convicted felon as valid criticism of Starr. She concluded her story:

"Ginsburg told ABC News he is not coordinating with ABC's lawyers, but he is not the only one to complain that Starr's tactics border on abuse. Whitewater figure Susan McDougal has long maintained that she's in jail on contempt charges only because she won't invent facts to fit Starr's story. The question now is whether Starr's tactics will prove more offensive to the courts and the public than any alleged wrongdoing by the President that Starr is investigating."

-- Sunday night, of the broadcast network evening shows, only ABC's World News Tonight led with Newsweek's story that another White House staffer has heard messages Clinton left for Lewinsky.

The February 8 CBS Evening News didn't even mention the Newsweek discovery, but the network had time for a full story on a more pressing concern. Anchor John Roberts intoned:

"It was Hillary Rodham Clinton who first charged a right-wing conspiracy is out to get her husband. When asked who the main conspirator is, the President's supporters keep coming up with one name in particular. Rita Braver tells us about the mystery man on the right."

The mystery man: Richard Scaife.

Just as on Saturday, Sunday NBC's Nightly News highlighted attacks on Starr. Here's the top of the show tease:

Anchor Len Cannon: "The President's popularity continues to climb while new leaks raise more questions about this crisis and about the special counsel who is running the investigation."

Paul Begala on Meet the Press: "Ken Starr has become corrupt in the sense Lord Acton meant when he said absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Reporter John Palmer looked at the controversy over leaks from Starr and how Sunday brought more calls from Democrats for an investigation of him. Deep into the story Palmer did take a few seconds to relay the basics of the breaking Newsweek report, but before that he cited some NBC News poll numbers. First, that even if the allegations are true most don't think the President should resign. Second, asked about Starr's investigation, 64 percent said it's "partisan and political" while only 22 percent characterized it as "fair and impartial."

Hard to where they got that idea.


-- Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt on CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night: "For Ken Starr to say he's going to investigate the leaks is as believable as OJ Simpson looking for the real killer."

-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group: "What Starr is doing is trying to construct the truth according to Ken Starr and according to Miss Lewinsky's lawyer he's reneging on his offer of immunity because she's not saying what he wants and what he's doing is trying to get people to say what he wants. He's the one who is suborning perjury here in my view. He has gone way beyond the pale in term of his treatment of witnesses."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)One line of complaint against Starr focuses on how he has supposedly had an improper interest in Clinton's sex life, but the media didn't care when Lawrence Walsh looked into the sex life of a prominent conservative.

Last year when the Washington Post revealed his questioning of Arkansans about with whom Clinton had relationships, in an effort to learn with whom he may have confided information, much of the media were quick to condemn the technique. Matt Lauer opened a June 26 Today interview of Jones adviser Susan Carpenter-McMillan with this question right out of the White House playbook:

"The fact that this line of questioning from Whitewater

investigators has turned personal to the President's, or then

Governor's sex life, does it show you that this investigation is


Last week MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski reminded me of a paragraph from a back issue of the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter which demonstrates the media's hypocrisy. The front page article in the January 1993 issue reviewed negative coverage of Bush's pardon of Casper Weinberger. The last paragraph:

"Evans and Novak reported that former Pentagon spokesman Henry Catto said James Brosnahan, the attorney prosecuting Weinberger for Walsh, asked him whether Weinberger had an extramarital affair. Catto believed Walsh wished to 'denigrate Weinberger's character' before a jury, but the networks ignored this story of improper conduct."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)The Monicagate Edition of Notable Quotables, a special four-page issue we put together last Thursday and which mailed on Friday.

At least half of the 33 quotes have not appeared yet in a CyberAlert, including most of the historical quotes from 1992 and 1994. The issue takes you through ten media phases, from promoting Clinton in 1992 to promoting the idea of a right-wing conspiracy in 1998, with phases in between for disparaging Paula Jones, portraying the Clintons as icons of family values and regretting how much coverage they allocated to the Lewinsky affair. MRC analysts Gene Eliasen and Steve Kaminski caught the new Time and Newsweek quotes cited in phases nine and ten and MRC research associate Kristina Sewell hunted through back issue to find the old quotes.

I realize this is quite lengthy, but it only makes sense to send the whole issue at once. -- Brent Baker

Special Monicagate Edition:

Six Years of Clinton Adulation; Ten Days of
Guilty Consternation

February 9, 1998 (Vol. Eleven; No. 3)

Media Phase One: Campaign for Clinton

"The group of people I'll call The Press - by which I mean several dozen political journalists of my acquaintance, many of whom the Buchanan administration may monica.jpg (43253 bytes)someday round up on suspicion of having Democratic or even liberal sympathies - was of one mind as the season's first primary campaign shuddered toward its finish. I asked each of them, one after another, this question: If you were a New Hampshire Democrat, whom would you vote for? The answer was always the same; and the answer was always Clinton. In this group, in my experience, such unanimity is unprecedented....

"Almost none is due to calculations about Clinton being 'electable'...and none at all is due to belief in Clinton's denials in the Flowers business, because no one believes these denials. No, the real reason members of The Press like Clinton is simple, and surprisingly uncynical: they think he would make a very good, perhaps a great, President. Several told me they were convinced that Clinton is the most talented presidential candidate they have ever encountered, JFK included." - New Republic Senior Editor Hendrik Hertzberg, March 9, 1992 issue.


"I must say I was struck by the expanse of their chests. They may have to put out their stats." - Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on Clinton and Gore, CNN's Inside Politics, July 10, 1992.

"They got more positive coverage on this bus tour than the Beatles got on their first tour of America. More reporters were oohing and aahing. It was almost embarrassing. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to do it until now." - Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, July 25, 1992 .


Media Phase Two: Ignore Paula Jones

"Afterward...reporters conferred with each other to try to figure out whether what they'd just seen was 'a story' and...whether anybody was going to report it. The consensus was that if CNN carried it the networks would carry it, which meant The New York Times might carry it, in which case it would be a big story....Clinton is also the best President we've had in a long time. That is the unspoken reason the sex charges haven't received as much play as you might expect. Reporters are patriots, too; it's their dirty little secret...Few journalists want to see the President crippled now that he is making some progress in cracking large, intractable domestic problems." - Mickey Kaus describing media reaction to Paula Jones announcing her suit against President Clinton, March 7, 1994 New Republic.

"Why didn't we put it on earlier? It didn't seem, I think to most people, entirely relevant to what was going on at the time. These are the kinds of charges raised about the President before. They had been played out in the Gennifer Flowers episode. The American public had made a kind of decision about his personal conduct and whether it had relevance in his personal life. And it seemed at that time it didn't have the news weight." - Tom Brokaw on the CNBC show Tim Russert on May 9, 1994, after Jones filed her suit.

"Are we in an era of government by Geraldo? Have we created an atmosphere where no one with any interesting aspects of their past is going to want to get involved in politics? Are we going to look back on this time 100 years from now the way we look back on Salem?...We're going to wind up with government by goody-goodies, government by people who have done nothing in their life except walk the straight and narrow, who have no creative thoughts. We're going to look back on this 100 years from now and say we drove some of our best people out of politics. In the 20th century, having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the presidency." - Newsweek Senior Editor Joe Klein on Face the Nation, May 8, 1994.


Media Phase Three: Disparage Paula Jones

"Yes, the case is being fomented by right-wing nuts, and yes, she is not a very credible witness, and it's really not a law case at all...some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks...I think she's a dubious witness, I really do." - Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, May 7, 1994.

"I think at least the American people are more likely to believe the President than they are to believe, you know, someone without a job, from Arkansas, whose lawyer says she's not in it for money, but clearly she's in it for something - fame, celebrity, money, something. And she's aligned with right-wing groups, which also draws it into question...[Anita Hill] brought her charges to the Senate Judiciary Committee after being asked to, and very quietly. There wasn't, she wasn't going before a left-wing group in a press conference." - Time columnist Margaret Carlson on CNN's Capital Gang, May 7, 1994

"Sam, 'not trying to hurt the President'? Did she say that with a straight face?"

"Why does anyone care what this woman has to say?"

"Bottom line, Sam. Is she not trying to capitalize on this, in effect to profit from impugning the President?" - Questions from Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to Sam Donaldson about his Paula Jones interview to air on Prime Time Live, June 16, 1994.

"But [attorney Bob] Bennett says he has 'people coming out of the woodwork' to discredit Jones and her story. He need look no further than Jones' brother-in-law, Mark Brown...'She went with one man and when she got there, she spotted another one. She goes right up to him, puts her leg between the legs of the other man and rubs herself up and down on him...Promiscuity? Good gosh. Her mother is fixing to get the shock of her life when Paula's life comes out...She went out and had herself a good time. I've seen her at the Red Lobster pinch men on the ass.'" - Newsweek Washington reporter Mark Hosenball, May 16, 1994.

"We've got an awful lot to talk about this week, including the sexual harassment suit against the President. Of course, in that one, it's a little tough to figure out who's really being harassed." - Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, May 10, 1994.


Media Phase Four: Portray the Clintons as the Cleavers

"While George Bush - all whiteness - talks about 'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to adultery." - Former Washington Post reporter and current Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal in The New Republic, February 17, 1992.

"She's ecumenical but prefers Italian and Mexican. The President fixes her eggs with jalapeņo peppers on the weekends. One Christmas she served black beans and chili as part of a buffet. She carries Tabasco sauce wherever she goes....Valentine's Day at the Red Sage restaurant. Even at a romantic outing, the President can be the date from hell, talking to everyone but the girl he brung....Finally alone, they have 'painted soup' and the lamb baked in herbed bread. They exchange gifts and touch each other more in two hours than the Bushes did in four years." - Time's Margaret Carlson writing a June, 1993 Vanity Fair profile of Hillary Clinton.

"At the very moment that her father is in the headlines for this sexual harassment suit by Paula Jones, and I think there's always an edge of surprise in our voices that Chelsea has turned out so well. And it's not just because she's in the White House, but because, well, look at all the criticism of her father and the character question. But I think this is another example that it's not the measure of a man, it's not the total measure of a man whether he's you know, quote 'caused pain in his marriage.' The children we give to the world are a better measure of that, and I think she's a great example that there's a side and there's a goodness to Clinton as a father that we don't accept when we see her." - Time columnist Margaret Carlson in a June 5, 1997 Good Morning America segment on daughter Chelsea graduating from high school.

"In her Wednesday Commentary page column, Linda Bowles stated that President Clinton and his former campaign adviser Dick Morris both were 'guilty of callous unfaithfulness to their wives and children.' Neither man has admitted to being or been proven to have been unfaithful. The Tribune regrets the error." - Chicago Tribune correction, September 5, 1996.

Media Phase Five: Denounce Troopergate Coverage

"The American Spectator broke the story...because they're a very right-wing ideological publication....What really happened was there was a conspiracy, in my opinion, by right-wingers, including some right-wing journalists, to press this newspaper [the Los Angeles Times] into running this story before it was ready to, trying to get it out, and so they spread the rumor all around town that I had threatened to resign if it did run...I know one of the guys who was spreading it: Brit Hume of ABC, who covers the White House, who writes for The American Spectator. I know there's another conservative journalist who covers the White House, Fred Barnes, who's on the editorial board of The American Spectator." - Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson on PBS' Washington Week in Review, December 24, 1993.

"Menacing undertones: The troopers are silenced for now, but Clinton's political enemies may be just regrouping. Arkansas attorney Cliff Jackson, who represents Perry and Patterson, circulated an 'open letter' to the President last week that, while couched as an apology for inflicting 'public pain,' had menacing undertones. Referring to Clinton's 'casual willingness to deceive,' Jackson warned darkly that the presidency is at stake if Clinton doesn't change his 'fundamental nature.'" - Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift, January 10, 1994 story on Clinton reaction to troopers' sex allegations.

"One of my losers of the year is David Brock, who wrote that slimy magazine article that revived all those charges about Bill Clinton's personal behavior, and I regarded that as journalism which is truly out of bounds." - PBS Washington Week in Review moderator Paul Duke, December 31, 1993.


Media Phase Six: Express Disappointment

"Those who identified with many of the domestic, and some of the foreign, policies of the Clinton agenda made a Faustian bargain. We overlooked Mr. Clinton's past indiscretions - he was hardly the first politician with testosterone overload - on the condition that he pursue his agenda and postpone his next dalliance until after he left the White House. But he broke the bargain. I knew he was a charming rogue with an appealing agenda, but I didn't think he was a reckless idiot with an appealing agenda." - Former New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman in a January 27 Times column.


Media Phase Seven: Worry About Overcoverage

"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?" - Peter Jennings on the Janaury 23 World News Tonight, two days after the story broke.

"There is something about this story, this presidency, that has led the media to almost obliterate the standards of decency that were built up for so many years." - Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz on CNN's January 28 special Media Madness?

"The drumbeat of accusations in Washington registers as a dull thud here....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 the past." - NBC's Roger O'Neil on reaction in Eagle, Colorado to the State of the Union address, January 28 Nightly News.


Media Phase Eight: Help Hillary's Agenda

"What is it about your husband, Mrs. Clinton, that seems to make him a lightning rod for these types of allegations?....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." - Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee to Hillary Clinton, January 28.

"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." - McRee after the interview.


Media Phase Nine: Discredit the Investigator

"Scott, as you and I both know, a popular move these days is to make a titillating charge and then have the media create the frenzy. Given Kenneth Starr's track record, should we suspect that he's trying to do with innuendo that which he has been unable to do with evidence?" - Bryant Gumbel to CBS News reporter Scott Pelley, January 21 Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel.


"But Starr's single-mindedness in pursuit of the Clintons has raised questions about his own propriety. A lot of them are being put out there, of course, by the President's die-hard defenders, notably by way of Hillary Clinton's charge that the independent counsel is a tool of the right wing - talk that Starr calls, simply, 'nonsense.' But you don't have to be a conspiracy buff to have trouble with how the Whitewater investigation ended up focused on the President's pants. Or to feel that, whatever turns out to be true about Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Starr's own methods are not always easy to stomach. Going after the President's sex life, wiring Linda Tripp to secretly tape Lewinsky, trying to persuade Lewinsky to tape Clinton - are those the actions of a conscientious prosecutor or a political hit man?" - Time magazine reporters Richard Lacayo and Adam Cohen in the February 9 issue.

"President Clinton is doing a good job and it's unfortunate that he'll be overshadowed by these events. It's a shame for the country and him. Six hours into this thing the allegations went away and it's like he'd done it. People are describing what's on the tapes as if they'd heard them. I blame Ken Starr." - Reid Collins Jr., Senior Producer for CBS News, in the January 25 Daily Record of Morris County, New Jersey.

"In Washington, the pendulum swings the other way. Confidence in the President now at an all-time high. The question: Did prosecutor Kenneth Starr make a rush to judgment?" - Tom Brokaw opening NBC Nightly News, January 30.


Media Phase Ten: Indulge Hillary's Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

"She [Hillary] is really convinced that the right wing is incredibly well-organized, and there is kind of a hate campaign going on in this country that is, is deeply and well-organized, and it poses a real threat to government and the Clinton's personally. And I mean, she may be right." - Newsweek's Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, August 13, 1994.

"Where does Lewinsky fit into this conspiracy theory? Is she victimizing the President or is she too a victim?" - Bryant Gumbel to James Carville, January 28 Public Eye on CBS.

"Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, an astringent and abstemious conservative, lambasted his fellow Republicans for their 'sin by silence,' and others started talking as well. The White House loves the exposure - for the other side: Starr, televangelist Jerry Falwell, Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge and assorted Republicans, among them Jesse Helms, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. To Clintonites, it seemed a usefully geeky crowd. 'They resemble a crew out of The Addams Family,' one White House spin doctor said, happily, 'with names by Charles Dickens.'" - Washington reporter Howard Fineman in Newsweek, February 9.

"Hillary Clinton linked Starr to a conspiracy that has even suggested the President was involved in the murder of a former campaign worker....It is Starr's past and continuing connections with very conservative organizations and causes that have brought him into the cross hairs of the First Family. As their evidence they point to his very appointment as independent counsel by a three judge panel headed by Judge David Sentelle, who is a close ally of ultraconservative North Carolina Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth...." - Correspondent Phil Jones on the CBS Evening News, January 27.


Enter Standby Mode: Say It All Disproves Any Liberal Bias

"I think we can now safely conclude that this whole notion that the liberal media elite is coddling Bill Clinton and always plays to the Democrats is absurd. I mean the fact is who's been the undoing of Bill Clinton: Newsweek and The Washington Post, those raging conservative publications..." - Former New York Times and U.S. News reporter Steve Roberts on CNN's Late Edition, February 1.


- L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors

- Eric Darbe, Geoffrey Dickens, Gene Eliasen, Denise Froning, Steve Kaminski,

Clay Waters, Media Analysts; Rebecca Hinnershitz, Karen Sanjines, Interns

- Kristina Sewell, Research Associate; Sherri Pascale, Circulation Manager

(To receive a hard copy of this special issue, send $2.00 to:

Media Research Center
Special NQ (Web site offer)
325 South Patrick St.
Alexandria, Va 22314

For multiple copy orders with a credit card, or to subscribe for $19 annually, call Sherri Pascale at 800-MRC-1423.) 

-- Brent Baker

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