CBS: "Trigger-Happy" Starr & His Unethical Team; Blumenthal Bio
1) CBS launched a jihad
against Ken Starr Thursday night, relaying personal attacks on his team;
NBC's Brokaw worried about the "chilling effect" Starr is
having on the First Amendment.
2) A network anchor denounced
First Amendment attacks on Starr and insisted "Starr should find it
out" if Blumenthal leaked any "nasty stuff." Obviously not
an ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC anchor.
3) Tim Russert blamed Ken
Starr for media focus on his tactics, as if the media couldn't avoid
conforming to the White House spin.
4) Today's Katie
Couric conducted a tough interview with William Ginsburg, unlike GMA's
Lisa McRee who asked if Starr is guilty of "blackmail?"
5) A MediaWatch profile of
Sidney Blumenthal. Who did he once denounce as "an incredibly
mean-spirited right-wing character."
Foul Family Hour. The Parents Television
Council, a project of the MRC, on Wednesday released a new study titled
"Bigger Isn't Better: The Expanded TV Ratings System." The AP
distributed a story on it Wednesday that you may see in your Thursday
newspaper. MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson reviewed a month's
worth of family hour shows and found that the new content ratings (L, S, D
and V) are meaningless: 65 percent of shows with obscenities did not carry
an L for coarse language and 76 percent of 8-9pm ET/PT shows with sexual
innuendo did not carry a D for sexual dialogue. To read the whole study of
ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, UPN and WB family hour content and ratings, with
illustrative graphs created by MRC research associate Kristina Sewell, go
to the top of the MRC home page where MRC Web Manager Joe Alfonsi has
posted it, or directly to:
New York Times story reporting that the White House would invoke executive
privilege prompted ABC to focus on the decision Wednesday night, but NBC
still worried more about Kenneth Starr's tactic in calling Sidney
Blumenthal, asking if it would have a "chilling effect on the First
Amendment." CBS ignored executive privilege altogether, running a hit
piece on Starr's team straight from Blumenthal's play book, a story
which employed the same methods liberals and the media have condemned
Starr for supposedly using -- leaking hearsay comments and tidbits of
harmful looking personal information, in this case about a "trigger
happy" Starr and his over-aggressive staff.
Wednesday night's 8pm The World Today on
CNN included a story on how both sides are preparing for a constitutional
showdown over executive privilege. Reporter John King showed how Clinton
ignored questions about the matter, but noted that scholars favor
Starr's position as the privilege only covers official government
business. King highlighted dueling soundbites of Starr saying it is the
grand jury's duty to check out efforts to impede its work followed by a
bite from Harold Ickes claiming Starr is out of control with what
"smacks of Gestapo tactics." FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report also
featured a full report by David Shuster on the executive privilege battle.
Here's how the broadcast networks handled
Monicagate Wednesday night, February 25, starting with the CBS hit on
-- CBS Evening News. Well into the show Dan
Rather noted that Starr called before the grand jury the Director of Oval
Office Operations Nancy Hernreich. Rather, who built his career by
detailing Nixon's efforts to hide the truth, didn't find Clinton's
expected executive privilege claim newsworthy and instead portrayed Starr
as the man with something to hide. Rather intoned:
"Starr's subpoenas to people close
to Clinton are one reason the Clintons are convinced that the special
prosecutor and his staff are out to get them. So who's on this Starr
team anyway and where did they come from. We asked CBS's Phil Jones to
Phil Jones opened: "When you listen to
Kenneth Starr and his lawyers they sound so gentlemanly."
Starr: "Our job is to get at the truth
and the truth will speak for itself."
Jones: "But many of the lawyers
working for Starr are known for everything but gentleness. They have
reputations as some of the toughest prosecutors in the nation who are
proud of successfully prosecuting high public officials for
Then, as picture of each appeared one by
one on a graphic of a file folder with the basic resume items announced by
Jones listed, he ran through their backgrounds:
"Jackie Bennett, a Justice Department
public integrity prosecutor has two big trophies. Convictions of a former
Minnesota Senator and a Texas Congressman. [The only Minnesota Senator I
recall being convicted was a Republican, something Jones didn't bother
"Hickman Ewing, lead counsel in Little
Rock, brought down a Tennessee Governor and ten sheriffs while he was a
"Bruce Udolf, nailed more than a dozen
judges, mayors and cops for corruption while U.S. Attorney in Miami. But,
earlier in his career, Udolf was sued and found guilty of violating a
defendant's constitutional rights.
"Michael Emmick, from the U.S.
Attorney's office in LA. In 1994 a judge attacked Emmick and his
prosecutors for being 'callous, coercive and vindictive' in their
tactics to get a woman to testify against her ex-husband.
"The boss has never been a prosecutor,
but Kenneth Starr himself may be the toughest of them all according to
Dallas attorney Dan Guthrie (sp?). Guthrie defended Arkansas banker Herbie
Branscom (sp?) when Whitewater prosecutors went after suspected illegal
contributions to Clinton campaigns. Starr lost the case, then threatened a
"In an interview with CBS News Dan
Guthrie disclosed for the first time what he described as a stunning
private conversation he had with Starr's deputy in Little Rock, Hickman
Ewing. Ewing talked candidly about the frustrations of working for Ken
Guthrie: "And he said 'well,
there's good and there's bad.' I said oh really? He said 'yeah,
the problem is Ken wants to indict everybody for everything. Ken is
trigger happy. We're constantly having to tell him, Ken, you can't
indict somebody for that.' And I was frankly stunned."
Jones, in mock astonishment which allowed
him to repeat the charge: "Hickman Ewing said that Ken Starr was
trigger happy and wants to indict everybody?"
Guthrie: "That's correct."
Jones: "We asked Hickman Ewing about
that conversation. He denied using those exact words, but did confirm that
sometimes Starr has wanted to move faster than his team of experienced
prosecutors. However, Ewing said, Starr may be the boss but he doesn't
do anything unless his senior prosecutors agree. Phil Jones, CBS News,
-- ABC's World News Tonight, in stark
contrast, led with Clinton's maneuver. Peter Jennings asserted: "We
begin tonight with a couple of questions that are important to the Clinton
presidency. Is the President trying to withhold information about the
Monica Lewinsky case from a grand jury and is it his right to do so? There
are signs today that the White House is moving to formally invoke
something called executive privilege, an effort to protect information
that the President's staff may have about the Monica Lewinsky
Jackie Judd explained that in Florida
Clinton avoided questions from Sam Donaldson and that the issue was
triggered by Bruce Lindsey's refusal to answer questions about
conversations with Clinton about Lewinsky. Prosecutors fear the White
House holds the cards, Judd noted, because Lindsey knows things no one
else does and by just making the claim they can delay Starr for months as
the battle goes through the courts.
Later, ABC dedicated the "A Closer
Look" segment to executive privilege. After Jennings noted Thomas
Jefferson first claimed it, Linda Douglass delivered a story recalling how
Nixon used it.
Jennings then told viewers that Clinton
invoked it in the Espy case and that "a court agreed that the
President does have executive privilege, but only to protect conversations
or advice that pertained to governmental business. On the face of it, to a
layman, it would seem conversations about Monica Lewinsky do not qualify.
But we thought it best to ask an expert." Former Assistant Attorney
General Charles Cooper agreed.
Finally, Jennings asked Donaldson about
White House strategy. Donaldson explained that to deflect attention from
their stonewalling the Clinton team plans to "zero in" on Starr.
Today, Donaldson noted, they faxed around to reporters public quotes
Now the White House can put Wednesday's
CBS story in their next fax.
-- NBC Nightly News came down between ABC
and CBS with Claire Shipman talking about Clinton and Tom Brokaw
condemning Starr. Tom Brokaw told viewers:
"Just when you thought all of this
possibly could not get any more complicated or convoluted, it in fact has.
NBC's Claire Shipman joins me now with the growing controversy over
Kenneth Starr's grand jury and President Clinton's claim of executive
Shipman, in a story which also aired on
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, stuck to Clinton, noting that
"for all practical purposes" executive privilege was invoked
last week by Bruce Lindsey when he refused to testify about some matters.
The White House, she continued, won't talk about "what it knows
will be an embarrassing move" most memorably employed by Nixon,
concluding: "Legal experts doubt that the claim would be
Brokaw insisted upon returning to Starr's
tactics, asking Shipman: "From the Kenneth Starr point of view, I
gather that he's asking a lot of these White House aides, in the grand
jury room, about the contacts that they've been having with the press.
That will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment, won't it?"
Shipman agreed, "That's right..."
"chilling effect"? Well, here's an example of how the Fox News
Channel really is different than the other networks. Wednesday night Bill
O'Reilly made this comment at the top of his 8pm ET O'Reilly Factor
"First of all, I'm a journalist and
I'm not upset because Sidney Blumenthal's being forced to testify in
front of the grand jury. After hearing many in the media decry Mr.
Starr's action against Blumenthal I can't figure out what the fuss is
all about. Blumenthal isn't a journalist anymore, he works for the
Democrats. If he tried to intimidate anyone connected with Mr. Starr's
investigation that's against the law and Mr. Starr should find it out.
Word is that Sidney Blumenthal leaked some pretty nasty personal stuff
from his White House perch. I don't know if that's true, but if it is
we all should know about it."
Starr controls NBC News and maybe the entire media? That's what NBC's
Tim Russert seemed to be saying in an exchange on Wednesday's Today
caught by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens.
Matt Lauer: "Sidney Blumenthal's
attorney said, and we just saw it, that Ken Starr has gotten out of
control. Do you think that's true?"
Russert: "Many legal professors
believe that he has overstepped his bounds. If not legally he has
certainly made a political blunder. We are talking this morning about Ken
Starr's tactics and not the White House stonewalling."
Lauer and Russert did later discuss the
White House use of private investigators, but who decided to make
investigator Starr the lead Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and not
the Clinton team's tactics? No one made the media focus on Starr. That
was the media's choice.
Katie's back and she greeted Lewinsky attorney William Ginsburg with a
much tougher set of questions than her fill-in Jodi Applegate would have
posed and Good Morning America's Lisa McRee did actually ask.
Tuesday morning, February 24, Katie Couric
returned to Today for the first morning since her husband died and she
challenged some of the default answers Ginsburg repeats in every
interview. Here are two representative questions Couric put to Ginsburg:
-- When Ginsburg insisted Starr is invading
privacy and being a keeper of morality for the country, Couric countered:
"It's not only morality though is it Mr. Ginsburg, we're talking
about real legal issues here. Perjury, suborning perjury, it's not
simply whether or not the President had sexual relations with an
-- "Bernard Lewinsky, Monica
Lewinsky's father, did an interview on Friday night with Barbara
Walters. He said he did not believe she was having a relationship with the
President and yet he said that she never told him 'Dad, this isn't
true.' Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd? It did me."
Contrast that tone, which put the burden on
Lewinsky's side, to the approach MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen noticed
GMA's Lisa McRee took Wednesday morning. She was more interested in how
Starr was improperly pushing around Lewinsky. Here are a few of her
questions to Ginsburg:
-- Note the use of the words
"taxpayer" and "girl" in this inquiry: "You say
an indictment. She could be charged with lying on an affidavit in the
Paula Jones case, whether or not she testifies before the grand jury. She
could also be charged with telling Linda Tripp to lie, according to the
tapes. What sort of punishment would she face if, in fact, Kenneth Starr
spends taxpayer's money to put this girl on trial?"
-- "We'll talk about the leaks in a
second, but if Kenneth Starr is withholding full immunity because
Monica's 'truth' [McRee uses fingers to imply truth is in quotes]
doesn't go far enough, is that legal blackmail?"
Sidney Blumenthal expected to be called before the grand jury Thursday
morning, I thought some information on the tactics of the man who was a
Washington Post reporter in the early 1980s and is now suing Matt Drudge
might be of interest. So, below is the "Revolving Door" article
on him from the July, 1997 MediaWatch, a newsletter published by the MRC.
The article reviews how he disparages conservatives and used his media
positions to help the Clintons by tattling on his colleagues. -- Brent
Baker (Blumenthal story below)
Sidney's Clinton-Loving Slant
Sidney Blumenthal, the former Washington
Post, New Republic and New Yorker reporter, started his new
White House job on July 1. He was picked to "work on major speeches
and serve as an all-purpose message-meister," noted the June 7
National Journal. Blumenthal insisted in the Feb. 17, 1992 New
Republic: "While George Bush -- all whiteness -- talks about
'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by confessing to
Even his colleagues realized he's been
a Clinton promoter. Observed the June 23 New Republic: "We
are delighted to note that the noted Democratic journalist Sidney
Blumenthal, having worked so long for the Clinton White House outside
the Clinton White House, will now work for the Clinton White House
inside the Clinton White House." The magazine quipped: "With
any luck, one of his journalistic colleagues remarked, he'll get his
Indeed, Blumenthal told The Washington
Post's Howard Kurtz: "This is a chance to help change the
country. I was always in journalism because I thought I could help make
a difference." A June 29 Post story reported that while at
the New Yorker he began "brainstorming sessions" with
Dick Morris. "Morris said Blumenthal recommended ideas for staging
Clinton at the Democratic National Convention and for using Clinton's
appearances at the Atlanta Olympics to boost him politically."
Kurtz's June 16 profile included some
illuminating anecdotes about Blumenthal's journalism:
-- "During the 1992 campaign, says
Julia Reed, a Vogue magazine reporter, Blumenthal urged her at a
party not to write a piece questioning Clinton's character. But what,
she shot back, if it were true? 'It doesn't matter,' she recalls
him saying. 'This is too important.'"
-- "Peter Boyer, a New Yorker
writer, says Blumenthal tried to sabotage his story about the Travelgate
affair last year. Boyer says he mentioned the piece to his colleague
after learning that Blumenthal had lunched with Clinton's friend Harry
Thomason on the day the Hollywood producer pushed for the firing of the
White House travel office employees....Boyer says he was later
told...that Blumenthal had warned them Boyer was anti-Clinton and
planned to smear them."
-- "Blumenthal shied away from
writing about his friend Hillary Clinton. 'That's where [Editor]
Tina [Brown] finally said, 'This is untenable,' says a New Yorker
writer. By 1995, Blumenthal was no longer writing the Letter from
Washington. He was replaced by Michael Kelly, a fierce Clinton critic.
Kelly ordered Blumenthal to stay away from the magazine's downtown
office. 'I did not trust him...I felt his relationship...with the
President and First Lady was such that I was not sure I wanted him
around the office as I was working on stories.'"
Blumenthal has a mean-spirited streak,
offering this assessment in the April 16, 1993 Boston Phoenix:
"Bill Bennett is basically a schismatic heretic practicing his own
contrived lunatic version of the Latin Mass in the basement. That's
what Buchanan is doing, only with Confederate flags flying. You have
Phil Gramm of Texas, an incredibly mean-spirited right-wing character
backed by big- oil money. He is the kind of perverse version of Lyndon
Johnson whittled down to his vices and exaggerated. Then you have Bob
Dole: when he's most sardonic and cruel is when he's most sincere. I
think that's the Republican Party right now."
-- Brent Baker
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