NBC's Turn: "Has Starr Gone Too Far?;" Puppet-Master Scaife
1) Monday night NBC followed
ABC and CBS in picking up the anti-Starr agenda. Tom Brokaw set up the
story: "Has Starr gone too far in his pursuit of Monica Lewinsky and
2) Richard Scaife is the
puppet-master controlling Ken Starr according to reporters. One problem:
Scaife cut off money for a magazine which failed to denounce Starr.
3) Tonight in Manhattan:
Stars to come out for Ted Kennedy.
made it three for three. Last Thursday CBS did it. (See the February 13
CyberAlert) On Friday ABC did it. (See the February 16 CyberAlert) And
Monday night NBC got around to it: giving airtime to the anti-Starr agenda
espoused by the White House by running a story on whether the independent
counsel is too aggressive, too rough or has gone too far.
Monday night February 16 Diane Sawyer took
24 seconds on ABC's World News Tonight to report that Secret Service
officer Lewis Fox would testify Tuesday. On the CBS Evening News Scott
Pelley told viewers that the OIC maintains there never was an immunity
deal because Lewinsky's lawyers changed the terms, that Fox is scheduled
to appear before the grand jury and that Starr's office has subpoenaed
records from the White House paging system because Lewinsky supposedly
paged Clinton repeatedly.
Much like ABC's Friday story by Linda
Douglass, NBC's hit on Starr gave time to his supporters, though one
soundbite damned with faint praise, but only within the context of a story
matching the agenda of his detractors.
Leading into the first ad break on the
February 16 NBC Nightly News viewers were treated to this plug:
Tom Brokaw: "Still ahead tonight.
Investigating the President. A growing backlash against independent
counsel Kenneth Starr. Is he out of bounds or just tone deaf?"
Victoria Toensing: "Ken Starr has a
political tin ear. And that is what has really hurt him."
Brokaw: "Has Starr gone too far in his
pursuit of Monica Lewinsky and the President?"
Reporter Lisa Myers began the subsequent
piece by reciting how William Ginsburg had "hammered" Ken Starr,
"accusing him of prosecutorial misconduct." Myers elaborated:
"It's no longer just the White House
and Lewinsky's team taking aim at Starr, he's taken a public relations
beating since this spectacle last week -- Monica's mother, Marcia Lewis,
leaving the grand jury, distraught, unable to continue....Even some former
prosecutors now say Starr's tactics are overkill, tactics usually used
against Mobsters and drug lords."
Stanley Brand, defense attorney: "As a
matter of practice I think he's crossed the line."
Myers: "By essentially going nuclear
in terms of his tactics?"
Brand: "By getting much more
aggressive than anything we've ever seen in Watergate or in Iran/Contra
or in any of the other independent counsel cases to date."
Myers then gave time to Starr's side:
"But other former prosecutors insist Starr's tactics are both
reasonable and justified." Following a clip from former federal
Victoria Toensing, Myers noted how family
members often testify against each other and, like Douglass, she cited the
McVeigh bombing case. Myers then contended that even if he is legally
correct Starr is unwise:
"But even those who approve of
Starr's tactics say he has hurt himself by not realizing how the public
would react. Polls show that almost two-thirds of Americans now believe
Starr is on a partisan crusade."
Toensing: "Ken Starr has a political
tin ear. And that is what has really hurt him as opposed to any tactic he
Myers: "Sources close to the
investigation say Starr has made a conscious decision to continue to play
rough, hoping his results will outweigh criticism of his tactics..."
Speaking of Mob-like tactics, Myers'
comment that Starr is employing "tactics usually used against
Mobsters and drug lords" reminded me of a comment about some others
who act like the Mob, Democratic fundraisers, but that didn't generate
any media interest. As noted in the December 19, 1997 CyberAlert, here's
an exchange from a December 9 House Government Reform and Oversight
Dan Burton: "Mr. Freeh, over 65 people
have invoked the Fifth
Amendment or fled the country in the course
of the committee's
investigation. Have you ever experienced so
witnesses in any matter in which you've
prosecuted or in which
you've been involved?"
Louis Freeh, FBI Director: "Actually,
Burton: "You have? Give me a rundown
on that real quickly."
Freeh: "I spent about 16 years doing
organized crime cases in
New York City. And many people were
So, the FBI Director compared Democratic
donors fleeing the country or refusing to
talk to how the Mafia
react to investigations. You'd think that
would make a great,
provocative soundbite. But none of the
networks, not ABC, CBS,
CNN, or NBC, showed it.
Scaife: Conspirator-in-Chief? Media reports on the Vast Right-Wing
Conspiracy put Richard Mellon Scaife in the middle, as the Starr-linked
money machine that makes it all possible. There's just one problem with
the theory, a small detail reporters have incompetently or deliberately
overlooked: far from a Starr promoter, Scaife cut his funding for the
American Spectator after it ran an article defending Starr.
First, two examples of sloppy reporting
which disregarded the inconvenient facts, then a Reality Check.
-- In a February 1 CNN Impact story, Kathy
Slobogin charged: "Finally, there is the Clinton's arch nemesis Ken
Starr. His links to Clinton detractors? He agreed to write a brief in the
Paula Jones case. Once appointed independent counsel his law firm dropped
the case. A year ago he almost took an academic job funded by millionaire
Richard Mellon Scaife, a relentless Clinton opponent. And Starr is a
friend of Alfred Regnery, publisher of many Clinton attack books...."
-- A February 8 CBS Evening News story
transcribed by MRC analyst Steve Kaminski.
Anchor John Roberts: "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."
Rita Braver: "This is rare video tape
of one of the conservative movement's biggest and most private money
men, Richard Scaife. He's introducing one of his heroes -- House Speaker
Newt Gingrich....Liberals say it is Scaife who is really the behind the
scenes ideological warrior."
Elliott Mincberg, People for the American
Way: "He has invested literally millions of dollars in right-wing
organizations and media focused specifically on digging up dirt and
getting information to embarrass the President of the United States."
Braver: "Scaife, an heir to the oil
and banking fortune of Pittsburgh's Mellon family, controls three of his
family's foundations that have given away hundreds of millions of
dollars to charities, cultural groups, and conservative organizations that
have attacked the President. For example, two Scaife-funded groups set up
a Clinton sexual harassment hotline....Christopher Ruddy, a reporter at
Scaife's newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a spate of
articles claiming former White House aide Vincent Foster was murdered
rather than committing suicide. Scaife foundations have given hundreds of
thousands of dollars to The American Spectator, which broke the
story that led to the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit against Mr.
Clinton. Scaife also funded a special Clinton investigative unit at the
magazine. Scaife also helped underwrite the School of Public Policy at
Pepperdine University where, the school says, purely by coincidence,
independent counsel Ken Starr is slated to work. Ed Feulner, President of
the conservative Heritage Foundation, is a close associate of Scaife."
Ed Feulner: "Yes, he loves politics,
he loves the inside and the outside of it."
Braver: "How do you respond to the
idea that Dick Scaife is behind a right-wing conspiracy to get President
Feulner: "I say that Dick Scaife,
again, believes in certain ideas of individual liberty and individual
responsibility. And there's no big conspiracy about it, he's been
doing it more than 30 years."
Braver: "Scaife is notorious for
refusing to talk to reporters, and he turned down an interview for this
story. As his friend Ed Feulner says, 'Scaife doesn't have to stand up
and answer questions.' Rita Braver, CBS News, Washington."
Reality Check, from a December 15, 1997 AP
dispatch on Scaife's reaction to an article defending Starr's report
on the Foster case in which Starr concluded he had committed suicide:
"Conservative philanthropist Richard
Mellon Scaife is cutting off financial support for The American Spectator
after the magazine ran an article criticizing those who believe White
House lawyer Vincent Foster may have been murdered.
"Scaife owns the Tribune-Review, a
Pittsburgh-area newspaper that has published a number of stories by
reporter Christopher Ruddy questioning the conclusion that Foster
committed suicide. Scaife's decision to end financial support for the
Spectator reflects the debate among conservatives over whether Foster's
death deserves further investigation....
"Scaife did not return telephone calls
seeking comment, but his newspaper published a column Dec. 5 in which his
decision to cut off support for the magazine was recounted by Reed Irvine
of the conservative group Accuracy in Media....
"Irvine said Scaife's decision to cut
off the Spectator was tied to a John Corry article in the December issue
that questions those who refuse to accept the conclusion of Whitewater
prosecutors that Foster shot himself in a Virginia park in July
Quite a coordinated conspiracy. The funding
source can't even control what his fellow conspirators conclude in their
reports or what his puppet magazine writes about that report.
Partying down with Senator Ted. Senator Ted Kennedy turns 66 on February
22 and tonight he'll hold a fundraiser in Manhattan to mark the
occasion. Some Hollywood stars promise to show, reported Jeannie Williams
in the February 12 USA Today: "The $1,000-a-ticket party will draw
assorted other Kennedys, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Lauren Bacall, Chevy
and Jayne Chase."
For those of you in the Tri-State area who
wish to pop in, it's being held at some place called St. Regis Roof.
-- Brent Baker
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