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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday, February 13, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 26)

Qualms About Agent Fox; Starr Abusing Mother & Daughter; Killer SUVs

1) Thursday night ABC and CBS caught up with NBC by relaying what Secret Service agent Fox remembered. CBS aired a Reality Check on whether Starr's political drive is behind "squeezing" Marcia Lewis.

2) Today wondered why anyone would believe Gennifer Flowers over Bill Clinton and suggested that the sex allegations put Starr on trial.

3) Clean air and fairness in dying are "under assault" from SUVs which, in turn, are under assault from the networks.  


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Former Secret Service agent Lewis Fox's arrival in DC prompted ABC and CBS, which had ignored his story Wednesday night, to catch up and tell viewers Thursday night about how he once showed Monica Lewinsky into the Oval Office. The CBS Evening News added a Reality Check on whether Starr's decision to force a mother to testify against her daughter suggests he "is politically motivated to damage the Clintons at all costs."

Here's a rundown of Thursday, February 12 broadcast evening show coverage of Monicagate:

-- ABC's World News Tonight opened with Defense Secretary Cohen's clash with Russia over Iraq, followed by two stories on El Nino. After the first ad break reporter Jackie Judd re-capped the day's developments, beginning with Lewinsky's return to DC and the cancellation of her mother's grand jury appearance.

She then got to Lewis Fox, telling the former Secret Service agent's story, a revelation ABC ignored Wednesday night though it first appeared in that day's Washington Post. Lewis arrived Thursday in Washington to appear before the grand jury but was not called. Judd relayed that sources say "that in the fall of 1995 Fox remembers letting Lewinsky into the Oval Office to see the President, but cannot say for certain whether they were alone."

Asserting that ABC had confirmed a Wall Street Journal story, Judd explained that four White House staffers "have banded together in what's called a joint defense agreement. That means their lawyers can all share privileged information even with the President's legal team." The four: Betty Currie, John Podesta, Ashley Raines and Bayani Nelvis. Judd added: "Routine and legal, but such arrangements, some lawyers say, could effect testimony..." Judd recalled that the White House used the same strategy in Whitewater and the campaign finance probe "to avoid surprises and to contain those scandals."


-- CBS Evening News. Two Iraq stories led with Monicagate in the third slot. Scott Pelley began by saying that Marcia Lewis was a no-show because of emotionally draining testimony the day before. He then reported the Secret Service is in the middle of a new fight as the White House will oppose the subpoena of a uniformed officer who worked in a security office downstairs from the Oval Office. Like Judd, Pelley also got to Lewis Fox, saying he will testify that he let Lewinsky inside the Oval Office, but does not know if she was alone with Clinton. Pelley wrapped up:

"All of this is leading to the central question of did Mr. Clinton encourage Lewinsky to lie in sworn testimony in order to cover up an alleged affair. Lewinsky won't be called for days, her testimony is likely to a last a week and the investigation is settling in for a long haul. Dan."

Next, Dan Rather delivered this rather slanted intro:

"Some analysts say forcing Monica Lewinsky's mother to testify about intimate mother-daughter talk fuels the view that Kenneth Starr is politically motivated to damage the Clintons at all costs, and/or he's tone deaf to public distaste with squeezing a mother and daughter this way. Starr says his job is to get and gather the facts. So what does the law say? Time for a Reality Check from CBS's Eric Engberg."

Eric Engberg determined that "it might look cruel, but it has always been the law. No privilege frees parents from having to testify against their children."


-- NBC Nightly News aired just one Iraq story before getting to Monicagate. David Bloom, who was the only broadcast network reporter to report Wednesday night on Lewis Fox, began by tempering the agent's recollection:

"Tom, it turns out that retired Secret Service officer, who's been subpoenaed to testify in the Lewinsky case, is not prepared to say he saw the President and the former White House intern alone in the Oval Office...." Bloom explained that while he escorted her in and knows she stayed at least 20 minutes, he cannot be sure she was alone with Clinton. Turning to the dispute over Secret Service testimony, Bloom introduced a soundbite denouncing Starr: "Today, Lewis's lawyer accused prosecutors...of trying to drive a wedge between mother and daughter."

Bloom ended by highlighting the joint defense deal, but did not draw the implication that it could encourage the participants to adjust their testimony: "The White House confirmed that the President's lawyers are conferring with lawyers for a number of other witnesses, greatly complicating, sources say, the work of independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Tom."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) In the rush of daily Monicagate tracking we went right by two bits of bias from NBC's Today on Sunday worth detailing, though they are a few weeks old. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught both examples and took the time yesterday to get them both transcribed in time for this CyberAlert.

In the first, even after Clinton admitted he had an affair with Gennifer Flowers, co-host Jodi Applegate wondered why people should believe her over Clinton and quizzed her about the authenticity of her tapes. In the second, days before it became fashionable in the media, NPR anchor Scott Simon was out in front Starr bashing, claiming that the independent counsel "stones every turn of" Clinton's life.


-- From the January 25 Sunday Today:

Jodi Applegate: "Some people doubted your credibility because reportedly you did receive a lot of money from the Star newspaper for your story. We don't know the exact number. It's reported generally to be above $100,000. There were experts who listened to your tapes of yourself and President Clinton who said they had been edited at least some what. Given all of that these are still only allegations against the President. Why should people believe you now even still?"

Gennifer Flowers: "Well in the first place he admits that the relationship took place, so I mean the truth is out."

Applegate: "According to the Washington Post."

Flowers: "According to the Washington Post. But let's get something very straight once and for all. The tapes were never altered or edited in any way. I have documents to verify that. And I'm getting real tired of the James Carvilles and the Dee Dee Myers out there continue to spin and lie and accuse me of that. And I don't want to hear that from them anymore. They have nothing to prove that those tapes were edited or doctored. And I have documents to prove that they were not. So I don't want to hear that. That those little tapes were not doctored they are what they are and they say what they say out of his own mouth."

Applegate: "Alright I don't want to dwell on this too much but just for the record at the time the President of the Forensic Audio Laboratory said that the tapes had been edited selectively. Which doesn't necessarily mean that the content had been altered."

Flowers: "No, no that is absolutely, that is absolutely, that is absolutely not true."

Applegate: "That he said that or that they had been altered."

Flowers: "My documents, my document say that those tapes were never altered in any way. They were never edited. They were never altered to say things that they didn't say. They were never touched in that way at all, ever."

Applegate: "Let's move onto something more relevant to this past week's...."


-- From the February 1 Sunday Today, what NPR anchor Scott Simon probably considers profound analysis. The occasional Today contributor did at least concede that the sex charges is relevant, but his bottom line is that Starr is on trial:

"Against all expectation President Clinton had an awfully good week. Ugly charges were thrown against him and his approval rating only soared. Every new rumor seems to give the President a new point in the polls. But the allegations still have the potential to be incendiary. And the question is now who do they threaten to burn more? The President, his accusers, the press or the public? Who ever thought that parents would want to use the v-chip on CSPAN? Most us thought that when independent counsel Kenneth Starr was accused of going through the President's dirty laundry it was mere metaphor, not the wording for a search warrant. Who would have thought that history could turn on the question, 'Would you want your daughter to be a White House intern?' Government proceeds regardless but government is grounded in politics. Any proposal the President so ably makes, from standing tall against Iraq to shoring up Social Security, still raises a wonder of if a clever politician is making policy to obscure his problems.

"It would be nice to say that a President's private life has nothing to do with his or her fitness for office. But one of the ugliest parts of John F. Kennedy's legacy is that a President's personal involvements, be it with gangsters, moles, and alleged spies, as with President Kennedy or state employees and former interns sent to the Pentagon, the allegations against President Clinton, can raise at least as many questions about a President's official integrity as who contributes to his campaign.

"As this week's polls confirm many Americans have fierce affection for Bill Clinton. Not because they believe he's ever been husband of the year but because they find him a smart and charming leader who has been a good President and on the whole a good man. They remember him in New Hampshire standing up nobly and humbly under the first assaults of scandal and pledging:"

Bill Clinton: "I'll never forget who gave me a second chance and I'll be there for you till the last dog dies. And I want you to remember that."

Simon: "Many of his supporters took that as a promise. If you forget or forgive what's past I'll make you proud in the future. So over the next few weeks President Clinton's most delicate relations may not be with an independent counsel who stones every turn of his life or an old intern spinning astounding stories, but with millions of Americans who've come to like and admire Bill Clinton and don't want to feel foolish for believing in him.

"And to be sure prosecutor Kenneth Starr has also put himself on trial. If after all of the agony over these past few weeks it doesn't produce a single plausible actual charge against President Clinton, and probably soon, it may be the independent prosecutor who could be dismissed by the American public."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Tobacco came first. Now they are coming for your SUV. Doubt the media interest in eradicating the SUV menace. Well look at what Tom Brokaw said a couple of months ago and how the networks jumped on a study which showed how unfair SUVs are since those in cars they hit are more likely to die.

In the midst of the Kyoto conference Tom Brokaw anchored the NBC Nightly News from Los Angeles. After admiring how much less polluted the area had become, on the December 11 newscast Brokaw delivered this sermon about how evil SUVs will drive California back to dirty air:

"Clean air here is once again under assault. The threat: the fastest selling new cars. Actually, they're not cars at all, so-called SUVs, sport-utility vehicles. They emit two to three time as much air pollution as cars and they're not classified as cars. Instead, for pollution purposes, they're called light trucks and they're allowed higher emissions. Now California has proposed all sport-utility vehicles meet the tougher pollution standards of normal cars. No decision is expected until next year, but now since fully half of all cars sold here are SUVs, experts warn the skies could darken again. Do Californians really want to be driving back to the future?"

Watching February 9 stories on an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study contending that in SUV versus car crashes those in the car are much more likely to die, MRC Free Market Project Director Tim Lamer noticed the networks treated the issue as a matter of fairness and failed cite CAFE rules as a reason for more dangerous cars.

Tom Brokaw asserted that "insurers say design changes, especially to strengthen the size of cars, are now needed," but failed to mention how the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) rules, which are tougher for cars than SUVs, have made cars more vulnerable and driven people to bigger SUVs.

On the CBS Evening News reporter Bob Orr emphasized the unfairness of how SUV owners don't pay enough insurance for all the harm they cause passenger car owners: "The new findings could help trigger higher insurance costs. With many rates now under review, the report is strong ammunition for those who claim SUV and pick-up owners are not paying their fair share of the risk."

Liberal do-gooders will certainly have an enthusiastic partner in the media when they start their campaign to rid America of SUVs because they ruin the environment. And, besides, it's just not fair that their owners don't die so often in two-car crashes. Fairness demands we all get killed or injured more often so we can live in a healthier environment. -- Brent Baker

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