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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday, February 20, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 31)

No Jumping on Jordan's Meetings; CBS Hires a Clinton "Shill"?

1) News of more meetings than previously known between Lewinsky and Jordan skipped Thursday night by NBC and explained away on CBS.

2) "Who's thinking about Buddhist nuns when the issue is illicit sex in the White House?" Not NBC viewers since the network decided to help Al Gore by ignoring Maria Hsia.

3) On Friday's 20/20 Monica Lewinsky's father will liken Starr to Hitler. Just like Susan McDougal did last year on NBC.

4) CBS News has just hired a former Clinton operative who once described Clinton as "the moral leader of the Universe."

Correction: While putting together a new edition of NQ on Thursday we noticed an error in the February 9 CyberAlert. It quoted ABC's Michel McQueen as saying "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..." She actually said "Ginsburg told ABC News he is not coordinating with the President's lawyers..." Makes a lot more sense though the error had no impact on the bias in the rest of the quote.

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Thursday morning's disclosure that Vernon Jordan met with Monica Lewinsky four times after she was contacted by lawyers for Paula Jones, a sign of how much high-level effort went into finding her a job, hardly stirred the networks. It got brief mention in the morning with two items read by the GMA anchor and on Today David Bloom included the news in his story from the White House which aired once. Thursday night NBC ignored the front page news, ABC gave it a few seconds and CBS allowed Lewinsky's lawyer to dismiss its relevance.

Maria Hsia pleaded not guilty Thursday and made an appearance on the courthouse steps, but the three broadcast network evening shows failed to use that as an opportunity to explore her case, though FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume ran a full story from Carl Cameron and CNN's Inside Politics, MRC analyst Eric Darbe noticed, gave Hsia a sentence. Neither GMA or Today Thursday morning, MRC analysts Gene Eliasen and Geoffrey Dickens documented, uttered a word about Hsia's Wednesday indictment.

"Jordan, Lewinsky Met 4 Times, Source Says: Contacts Followed Currie's Dec. 8 Call to Lawyer," announced the February 19 front page Washington Post story. Reporters Susan Schmidt and Amy Goldstein explained:

"Washington lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr. was asked by President Clinton's secretary to help Monica S. Lewinsky find a job three days after lawyers for Paula Jones disclosed that they wanted to question Lewinsky about whether she had a sexual relationship with Clinton, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.

"As a result of the Dec. 8 telephone call by White House secretary Betty Currie, Jordan met four times and conducted seven phone conversations with the 24-year-old former White House intern over the next month, the source said. It was that intervention that ultimately helped Lewinsky secure a job offer from Revlon. Jordan, a close confidant to Clinton, publicly acknowledged last month that he helped Lewinsky find a job as well as a lawyer, but the extent of his efforts to aid Lewinsky and their timing in relation to the Jones sexual harassment case were not previously known...."

All three evening shows Thursday night led with the biological weapons arrests in Las Vegas followed by an Iraq update. Highlights of February 19 evening Monicagate coverage:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings noted Bruce Lindsey's grand jury appearance "surrounded by lawyers today. At one point we think we counted ten." Why all those lawyers, he asked Jackie Judd? She explained they came for a meeting with the judge about executive privilege. Jennings then asked about Jordan: "A brief answer on this. The Washington Post reports that Vernon Jordan, the President's closest, or one of his closer confidants, has a lot of meetings with Monica Lewinsky after she was subpoenaed to give testimony in the other case, the Flowers case. Can you explain that?"

Jennings later corrected himself to say he meant Jones not Flowers. After Judd's brief summary of the Post story, ABC ran a clip of Lewinsky's father responding to a question from Barbara Walters about why Jordan and UN Ambassador Richardson would give such help to his daughter. The interview will run on Friday night's 20/20.

-- CBS Evening News. Starr is a Republican, but the affair is still just alleged. Dan Rather declared: "The Republican independent counsel is casting far and wide and digging deep, investigating the alleged affair between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. And, whether anyone urged Lewinsky to lie about it. There were new questions today about the role of presidential friend Vernon Jordan in all of this."

Bob Schieffer then summarized the new information about Jordan, but let Lewinsky's lawyer say it didn't really mean much. Leading up to a soundbite from Ginsburg, Schieffer asserted:

"Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, confirmed to us today that she did meet with the President's close friend Vernon Jordan at least three times and only after the White House learned that Paula Jones's lawyers wanted to talk to her. But he told us that her search for a job outside Washington had begun long before that and he put down any suggestion the White House tried to find her a job to keep her quiet."

Ginsburg can pretend that these power brokers by coincidence suddenly became interested in her quest for a new job, but CBS doesn't have to play along.

-- NBC Nightly News. Vernon Jordan, who's he? Wednesday night NBC skipped Hsia's indictment. Thursday night the network didn't bother telling its viewers about Jordan's more extensive than previously known efforts to find Lewinsky a job. NBC stuck to Lindsey. Tom Brokaw announced: "The President's closest friend in the White House, Bruce Lindsey, was back with enough lawyers to make up two basketball teams..."

Reporter Claire Shipman called it "a real show of legal force" by the White House as lawyers for both sides met with the judge about what questions Lindsey would like to avoid.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)As noted above, Wednesday night NBC Nightly News ignored the indictment of Maria Hsia, the woman who organized the Buddhist Temple event that so embarrassed Al Gore. That reminded the MRC's Tim Graham of a sentence from a glowing Gore profile that aired a few weeks ago on Today. In the February 2 piece MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this line in Claire Shipman's story:

"On the bright side Gore's poll numbers are up and his role in last year's campaign finance scandal seems a bad dream. After all who's thinking about Buddhist nuns when the issue is illicit sex in the White House?"

She's making sure NBC News does what it can to keep Gore's role out of the news. Today and Nightly News have yet to mention Hsia's indictment, never mind her connection to Gore.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)What is it about Starr that generates such hate and analogies to Hitler? In Friday night's 20/20 interview Monica's father, Bernard Lewinsky, tells Barbara Walters according to excerpts distributed by AP:

"I feel that my daughter is about to go to the grand jury, and it is time for me to speak up about the horrors that she has gone through and continues to go through. What is going on, and what Ken Starr has brought upon her, is unconscionable in my mind. To pit a mother against her daughter, to coerce her to talk. To me, it's reminiscent of the McCarthy era, of the Inquisition, and even, you know you could stretch it and say the Hitler era. It's awful. I can't believe that this is happening."

His analysis has a familiar ring. Here's an excerpt from he October 21, 1997 CyberAlert about an October 6 Dateline NBC profile of Susan McDougal:

Susan McDougal: "They cared little for the people that they stomped along the way, the people they ran over along the way to get to Bill Clinton, and that is exactly why I liken Ken Starr to a Nazi, because the end to him justified the means."

Stone Phillips, instead of dismissing the charge as ludicrous, empathizes with it and builds her case: "Kenneth Star a Nazi? To understand the depth of Susan McDougal's hatred for the man who had her jailed, you have to understand the depth of her love for the woman who's been her inspiration."

Phillips to Susan's mother: "Susan seems to feel that she's following in your footsteps with the stand that she has taken."

Lorette Hinley, Susan's mother: "In a way it makes my sad, and in a way I'm very proud of her."

Phillips: "Susan McDougal's mother Lorette Hinley knows all about standing firm under enormous pressure. As a teenager in Nazi-occupied Belgium she saw first-hand how the Gestapo turned neighbor against neighbor forcing people to lie about loved ones who were then arrested or shot. She says her family defied them, going so far as to hide Resistance fighters in their basement....Those lessons from the war were often told around the family dinner table in Camden, Arkansas but never with more at stake than in September, 1996, the night before Susan was scheduled to testify before a Whitewater grand jury...."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)CBS News has brought aboard a Clinton insider. In the February 19 Washington Post John Carmody reported:

"Don Baer, who left the White House in August after 3 years, most recently serving as Director of Communications, has signed on as a consultant for CBS News. He'll give his perspective on several regular CBS News programs about the 'behind-the-scenes' activity in the administration as his old boss continues to fend off crises. But network sources say 'he won't be shilling.'"

Carmody noted Baer's earlier career in journalism with U.S. News where he held the title of Assistant Managing Editor when he jumped to the White House. But Carmody missed another interesting resume item: As detailed in MediaWatch at the time, the April 9, 1994 National Journal divulged that when North Carolina Governor James Hunt, a Democrat, opposed Senator Jesse Helms in 1984, Baer, then a lawyer in New York City, "organized a $75,000 Manhattan fundraiser for Hunt." Three years later, he joined U.S. News.

So can Baer keep his personal feelings out of his journalism and just how much does he adore Bill Clinton? Check out this excerpt from a September 23, 1996 Weekly Standard profile by Christopher Caldwell:

"Clinton liked the articles Baer contributed to U.S. News during the 1992 campaign. While other journalists -- David Shribman of The Wall Street Journal, Joe Klein of New York, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times -- ignored the more sensational aspects of the campaign for enthusiastic grapplings with 'Clintonism,' Baer wrote with extreme empathy about Clinton's background.

"'I think it's a southern thing' says one of Baer's journalistic colleagues, who also knows Clinton. 'Being of the South and still being rooted there, yet being driven and ambitious enough to prove oneself in the larger world -- the two of them have a lot in common.' While Baer has always been a loyal Democrat, he's not necessarily a liberal. Like Clinton, he has an idiosyncratic, instinctive, generally progressive politics that winds up at beyond-left-and-rightism. This enthusiasm can appear like ideological non-commitment or caginess. One New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner last year described him as 'bland beyond description, a fount of cliches. 'Clinton was the moral leader of the Universe,' and all that.'"

Hard to imagine why anyone would think there's a danger of him "shilling" for Clinton.

  -- Brent Baker

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