Hsia Shunned by ABC & NBC; Bruce Lindsey's Flight Attendant Cover-Up
1) ABC and NBC ignored the
indictment of the woman who organized the Buddhist Temple fundraiser; all
led with the Clinton foreign policy team's town meeting
"fiasco" and "debacle."
2) ABC's World News Tonight
featured a glowing profile of Bruce Lindsey in which reporter John Cochran
admired how he had successfully killed stories that "might erupt
about Clinton and flight attendants" by silencing one and giving
another a job.
3) Does Tripp's talk with
Jones's lawyers, Today's Jodi Applegate wondered, prove "the
whole right-wing conspiracy argument?"
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Democratic fundraiser with close ties to Al Gore was indicted on
Wednesday, but neither the ABC or NBC evening shows mentioned it. CBS gave
it 19 seconds while CNN's Inside Politics submerged the development into
an introduction to a story on Gore's trip to California to survey El
Nino damage. Not even FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report mentioned the indictment
of Maria Hsia, but Brit Hume did discuss it with Jim Angle at the White
House on FNC's 6pm ET (repeated at 11pm ET/8pm PT I think) Special
Report with Brit Hume.
The three broadcast networks mentioned
Bruce Lindsey's grand jury appearance and led with Iraq, focusing on the
hostile reception that greeted the CNN town meeting in which Clinton's
foreign policy team was heckled and shouted over for 90 minutes.
"Debacle," declared CBS. "Fiasco," assessed NBC.
Reminded him of the furor over Vietnam, asserted ABC's Sam Donaldson.
Just a day before Bruce Lindsey was
expected to invoke executive privilege, a move which should stir memories
of the Nixon cover-up, ABC's World News Tonight featured an adoring
profile of Lindsey which lauded his success at covering up Bill
Clinton's relations with flight attendants. See item #2 below for more
on this story.
Otherwise, here are some highlights of
Wednesday, February 18 evening show treatments of the town meeting and
-- ABC's World News Tonight,
like the others, led with the town meeting at Ohio State featuring
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen and
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Sam Donaldson observed a
contentious gathering where "Secretary of State Albright was stopped
dead by the kind of vocal protest not heard since Vietnam." Donaldson
described how the three officials "alternately took questions and
Later in the show ABC noted Bruce
Lindsey's grand jury appearance and aired a glowing profile. Details
below in item #2.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan
Rather led with a bad day for the Clinton administration on he Iraq front,
intoning at the top of the show:
"CBS's David Martin reports it got
much more than it bargained for today when it took part in an unruly,
disorganized and badly staged presentation broadcast to a worldwide
television audience that included Iraq."
Filing from the White House, Scott Pelley
reported that "the town hall is being viewed widely here as a
debacle..." Pelley drove the point home about how the 2pm ET conclave
demonstrated lack of U.S. unity: "The whole idea behind the broadcast
was to send a message to Saddam Hussein, but tonight many here at the
White House are afraid it did."
Two ad breaks later CBS arrived at
Monicagate. Rather summarized new CBS News poll results "about public
reaction to the alleged Clinton-Monica Lewinsky connection. 71 percent say
they closely follow news about it; 65 percent say it is not important for
the public to know the relationship details; and 74 percent say they
personally don't want to know more."
They follow every detail closely, but
don't want to learn anything. Not exactly inquiring minds.
Next, Rather led into a story on Bruce
Lindsey: "Well, special prosecutor Ken Starr showed again today how
far he'll go to find out more, right to the President's closest aide
and confidant." Reporter Bill Plante explained that the top Clinton
aide testified, but that while executive privilege came up, it was not
invoked, though it probably will be for questions about discussions he had
with Clinton. Plante ended by noting that a new defense fund had been
established for Clinton, a development not mentioned by ABC or NBC.
After Plante Rather delivered this 19
second item which constitutes the totality of broadcast network coverage
of the Hsia indictment:
"The investigation of dirty money in
campaign fundraising led to a criminal indictment today. Democratic
fundraiser Maria Hsia was charged in connection with those California
Buddhist Temple events that proved so embarrassing to Vice President Gore.
Gore says he was unaware that they were fronts for what turned out to be
-- NBC Nightly News. On
the Ohio State calamity, David Bloom began: "Even some of the
President's closest advisers acknowledged that this was a
After the first ad break, Tom Brokaw went
to Claire Shipman for an update on testimony from Bruce Lindsey. She
relayed that he did not invoke executive privilege but may in the future
to "protect" advice he gave Clinton. Brokaw then asked her about
the request from Clinton's lawyers that the Jones case be dropped.
NBC couldn't squeeze in a few seconds for
Hsia, but ran two In Depth stories on the dangers of SUVs, "a growing
threat to safety on the highway" according to a new government study.
-- CNN's Inside Politics
buried the Hsia indictment at the end of the show, treating it as no big
deal. Leading into a story from Bill Schneider on Gore's trip west to
see El Nino damage, anchor Frank Sesno announced:
"Hardly a surprise, but it was an
embarrassment today for Vice President Al Gore. His longtime friend,
Democratic fundraiser Maria Hsia was indicted by the Justice Department.
She's accused of helping launder illegal campaign contributions raised in
connection with an event at a Buddhist temple, and then, lying about it.
Gore aides say the matters for which Hsia has been indicted do not involve
the Vice President and they are repeating the Vice President's denial that
he was involved in any alleged wrongdoing. As for Gore himself, he's in
California thinking about disasters, natural, not political..."
With ABC and NBC ignoring it and CNN
downplaying it, the indictment is hardly a political disaster for Gore.
the first ad break, Peter Jennings told February 18 World News Tonight
"In Washington the grand jury that's
hearing evidence about alleged sex and cover-ups involving the President,
allegedly anyway, and Monica Lewinsky, heard today from the deputy White
House counsel Bruce Lindsey. Outside he would not talk about his
testimony, as ABC's John Cochran tells us Mr. Lindsey is a man who knows
how to keep a secret."
Cochran opened his reverential look at Lindsey:
"All Presidents need someone like
Bruce Lindsey -- and old friend who can give frank advice on the most
intimate problems. Someone who is loyal in good times and bad. Someone who
knows how to keep his mouth shut."
Cochran showed a soundbite from former
Senator David Pryor and then explained how both Clinton and Lindsey are
lawyers from Arkansas, but while Clinton is an "extrovert,"
Lindsey is his "tight-lipped pal." Two years ago, Cochran
recalled, Ken Starr named Lindsey an unindicted co-conspirator in
Whitewater, but he was "never charged with any wrongdoing."
Cochran continued his glowing profile by
illustrating it with some very interesting footage: "He usually tries
to head off trouble before it starts," Cochran asserted. As viewers
saw video of a flight attendant dancing with Lindsey, Cochran explained:
"On election day in 1992 he celebrated Clinton's expected victory,
but he had worried during the campaign that stories might erupt about
Clinton and flight attendants."
While video rolled showing Clinton and a
flight attendant sharing a single jump seat as Clinton first put his hand
on her knee and then she wrapped her arm around his, Cochran reported:
"This attendant later got a job at the
White House. After the election Lindsey told another flight attendant she
did not have to talk to reporters."
Instead of pursuing this information about
a job for silence in light of the current situation, Cochran moved along:
"As the man in charge of damage
control Lindsey has consistently urged a strategy of stonewalling, reveal
as little as possible and emphasize the positive. In 1993 ABC News
investigated whether Clinton, while Governor of Arkansas, had ever asked
state troopers to procure women for him. Lindsey telephoned former trooper
Buddy Young while he was being interviewed by ABC and defending
Cochran concluded: "It's easy to see
why Ken Starr regards Lindsey's testimony as important. If the President
has been open with anyone other than his wife about Monica Lewinsky, it is
probably Bruce Lindsey."
Am I in a parallel universe? Here you have
a reporter, who is supposed to dig out facts and convince people to tell
what they know, admiring a Clinton operative for so successfully buying
off witnesses and silencing those in the know. Clinton and flight
attendants? Which White House position, besides Monica's of course, is a
flight attendant qualified to hold? Sounds like a great story. Cochran
should be pursuing that to see if anyone lied or bought anyone off, not
passing it along as a cute anecdote about Lindsey's skill. If the media
are as easy to dissuade as Cochran then Lindsey hasn't had a very tough
Is the kind of story the networks ran in
1973 about Halderman or Erlichman?
revelation that in December Linda Tripp approached prominent Washington
lawyer and former Justice official Victoria Toensing about getting
immunity for her phone taping, prompted NBC's Today to bring the lawyer
aboard Wednesday morning. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this
noteworthy question from co-host Jodi Applegate to Toensing:
"Linda Tripp did end up on Ken
Starr's doorstep and she ended up debriefing Paula Jones' attorneys on
the eve of President Clinton's deposition. Does all of this make the
whole right-wing conspiracy argument easier for the White House to
The MRC's Tim Graham reminded me that
Applegate won the "Lanny Davis No Controlling Legal Authority Award
(for Clinton Scandal Denial)" in the MRC's Best Notable Quotables
of 1997: The Tenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting.
Applegate to Tim Russert on the April 19,
"So a couple of White House aides
helped Webster Hubbell find work, and he did find work, some of it with
Democratic donors. It may not look good, but is there any proof anything
was done wrong?...All right, similar kind of question about Jorge
Cabrera, a convicted drug smuggler who gave $20,000 to the DNC, wound up
at a fancy dinner with Al Gore, wound up at a White House Christmas
party with Hillary Clinton. But they gave the money back when they found
out about his background. It may not look good, but is there any proof
that anything was done wrong?"
In Applegate's world the Clinton White
House drowning in allegations of wrongdoing, many supported by pretty
strong evidence, doesn't prove anything, but Linda Tripp telling a
lawyer about what she heard suggests a grand conspiracy.
-- Brent Baker
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