CBS Highlights Starr's "Police State Tactics;" Clift's Warning
1) Monday night ABC skipped
Monicagate while NBC, CNN and FNC previewed Jordan. CBS denounced
Starr's "ominous" grand jury in which his deputies
"pelt" innocent witnesses, leading to "emotional
collapse" and rage "about police state tactics."
2) Just back from Mars,
GMA's team says Monicagate has "finally shifted" to Starr's
conduct as "Republican" Leahy denounced him.
3) Eleanor Clift warned that
if House Republicans take up Starr's case against Clinton the media will
probe their private lives.
4) NBC's Matt Lauer tried
to get Bill Gates to agree that "we as journalists have gone
overboard on this story."
night the CBS Evening News featured another hit on Ken Starr's tactics,
as all his witnesses "felt the ominous chill that comes with the
arrival of a grand jury subpoena" and then are "pelted" and
"shaken" by his team. NBC, as well as CNN and FNC, ran
preview/background pieces on Vernon Jordan, expected to testify Tuesday.
Tom Brokaw asked in reference to his friendship with Clinton: "Will
his testimony drive a wedge between these two old friends?" NBC's
David Bloom noted that for the first time Lewinsky's lawyer, William
Ginsburg, conceded Lewinsky met alone with the President, but he insists
nothing happened. ABC, which ran a Jordan piece Sunday night, went
Monicagate-free on Monday's World News Tonight.
All three broadcast shows on Monday night,
March 2, featured lengthy pieces on a new anti-cancer vaccine breakthrough
and all ended with stories on new recollections from the bodyguard in
Diana's crashed car. After the cancer story which led the CBS Evening
News, Dan Rather announced: "President Clinton is going after another
leading killer of Americans, the drunken driver...."
Late in the show Rather noted Jordan's planned Tuesday appearance,
adding: "As CBS's Eric Engberg reports, appearing before any grand
jury, especially this one, can be a gut-wrenching experience."
Eric Engberg then launched a less than
balanced look at the grand jury system, a look that portrayed prosecutors
as the bad guys who hurt innocent people:
"It is now the one invitation in
Washington no one wants, a call to testify before Ken Starr's grand
jury. It left some [video of Marcia Lewis] near emotional collapse, others
[video of Sidney Blumenthal] raging about police state tactics. And nearly
all the witnesses, it is safe to say, felt the ominous chill that comes
with the arrival of a grand jury subpoena. [video of Betty Currie hounded
Bob Weiner: "The fear starts when you
are outside the grand jury room, actually it starts days before when you
start losing sleep wondering what's going on."
Engberg: "Bob Weiner, a press
spokesman in the White House drug policy office doesn't know Monica
Lewinsky but he did call some friends to support an effort to start a
Maryland state investigation of Linda Tripp for taping Lewinsky's phone
calls. Starr hauled him before the grand jury to ask if his bosses ordered
him to make the calls as a way to hinder Starr."
Weiner: "It was a very nerve racking
experience. You walk in there not knowing what he's really after."
Engberg then explained that as an
information gathering tool a grand jury is not like a trial, so the
"tools of impartiality" like a judge are missing. It's just
the witness, grand jurors and prosecutors. CBS was not allowed to see room
being used by Starr, Engberg complained, but CBS learned "the
witnesses are ushered by a prosecutor into a windowless, rose pink
carpeted room with eggshell colored walls..."
Engberg painted a dire picture of
prosecutorial abuse: "Front and center at a large table are the
prosecutors, who may try to shake the witness by acting as a pack. When
Lewinsky's mother Marcia Lewis testified, five different prosecutors,
some ranked among the toughest in the nation, pelted her with questions
until she couldn't continue."
A former prosecutor confirmed Engberg's
theme, calling it a "threatening environment" for a witness
before Engberg concluded:
"And always the witness must consider
that any untruth uttered in this secret room may be considered perjury, a
crime that has brought dozens of scandal figures to the doorsteps of
Earlier, Rather had delivered this short
item on the upcoming Thompson committee report: "CBS News
reporter/producer Mary Hagar and correspondent Phil Jones have obtained a
final copy of the report due this week by the Senate committee looking
illegal contributions to the 1996 presidential campaign. CBS can now
report that the committee will say, quote 'it cannot conclusively
determine whether the Chinese government directed or encouraged illegal
contributions,' unquote. Committee Republican claim there is, quote now
'strong circumstantial evidence China's government was involved,'
time warp at Good Morning America where Starr has yet to be doubted or
attacked? Patrick Leahy is a Republican? Here's a transcript of the
first 45 seconds or so of Monday's 7am news update on Good Morning
America, a bit of news I watched at the urging of a CyberAlert recipient.
Read it and see if you note anything odd.
Kevin Newman: "Good morning everybody.
The Kenneth Starr investigation is starting to get as much as it gives.
For the last couple of weeks most politicians on Capitol Hill have been
keeping their distance from Starr and the allegations he's
investigating. But now some leading Republicans are joining Democrats in
saying Starr is out of line. ABC's Michel McQueen is at the White House
for us this morning with more on this. Good morning Michel."
McQueen: "Good morning Kevin. The
President returned from several days down time in Utah to slightly more
favorable political terrain here in Washington as the debate has finally
shifted from his conduct to that of independent counsel Kenneth
Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D) Judiciary Cmte:
"The fact of the matter is Kenneth Starr has gotten totally out of
control. He has this fixation with trying to topple the President of the
United States and he's doing everything possible to do it."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R) Judiciary Cmte:
"It looks to me like he's getting pretty close to getting to the
bottom of this. And I suspect before it's all said and done the
President is going to be in some degree of trouble."
McQueen, moving on, oblivious to how her
story so far has made no sense: "Now the grand jury reconvenes
-- The CNN ad making fun of the banality of
Today and GMA isn't that far off: Newman and McQueen say "good
morning" three times in a mere 17 seconds.
-- "The debate has finally shifted
from his conduct to that of independent counsel Kenneth Starr."
Welcome back to Earth Michel. "Has finally shifted"?? It shifted
to Starr weeks ago in the media.
-- "But now some leading Republicans
are joining Democrats in saying Starr is out of line." Leading
Republicans like Patrick Leahy, a Democrat? The above transcript
identifies the Senators just how they were correctly labeled on screen,
Leahy from Meet the Press and Hatch afterwards outside NBC's DC
building. The Republican soundbite from Hatch says Clinton, not Starr,
"is going to be in some degree of trouble."
On Sunday Republican Senators John McCain
and Arlen Specter did criticize Starr, so this part of ABC's thesis
might have worked if they had bothered to coordinate soundbites with their
of the debate finally shifting to Starr's conduct, here are a few hits
on Starr issued a few weeks ago by Newsweek's Eleanor Clift that ABC's
morning crew must have missed. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught
and transcribed these attacks announced on CNBC's Equal time back on
February 12, but I haven't had space to fit them in until now.
-- On Marcia Lewis being forced to testify:
"On a human level I think the image of Mrs. Lewis emerging from that
courthouse, looking distraught, and when we have to remind ourselves what
this is all about. That Ken Starr is trying to get from her corroborating
evidence that her daughter allegedly had an affair with the President you
have to ask yourself, what century are we living in? I don't recall
Timothy McVeigh's mother having to testify against him. And that was a
bit more serious crime."
-- On Ken Starr, to co-host Bay Buchanan:
"Bay, I'm not gonna let that just slide by. Portraying Mr. Starr as
this innocent. I mean he has flaunted his right wing connections. He's
the one who wired a woman. He's the one who is now taking subpoenas from
the Paula Jones case from women who've signed affidavits that they did
not have a physical relationship with Bill Clinton. And going to check all
those women out and see if they are lying. If that isn't a witch-hunt I
don't know what is."
-- If Congress gets Clinton, we in the
media will get those Republicans who dare bring down our great President:
Bay Buchanan: "Eleanor, George
Stephanapolous has said that basically if there is a movement to bring
down this President that he will then go after, all his goons, will go
after all the people on the Hill, anybody in the press, their personal
lives, expose them. Do you approve of this strategy?"
Clift: "I don't speak for George
Stephanapolous but...may I finish? If in fact the House committee
investigates the President's private life after Ken Starr has
investigated the President's private life the news media will then
investigate the people who are investigating the private life the same way
they investigated the campaign funding donations of people who inquired
into the campaign funding habits of the Democrats. It's how the game is
played. White House isn't going to have to do that. We're gonna do
that and it's called doing our job."
CEO Bill Gates testifies Tuesday before a Senate Committee chaired by a
Senator from the state where Novell and Corel's WordPerfect division are
headquartered -- Utah. The Gates appearance reminded me of how last week
NBC's Matt Lauer tried to enlist Gates in his crusade to denounce the
media for overplaying Monicagate. Gates resisted, saying the public can
make up its own mind, but Lauer kept trying.
Here are Lauer's February 24 questions to
Gates, joining Today from Selma, Alabama, where he was promoting Internet
use in schools, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- "Based on your dreams for the
information age can you give me your reaction to the type of information
we are hearing in the current situation between the President and Monica
Lewinsky. Is that the way you envision the information age turning
-- "But in this particular case do
you think it's gotten to the point where possibly there is a chance
that there is too much information on this particular subject?"
-- "As our partner I'm sure you
watch our programming, you're probably a news junkie like the rest of
us. Do you think though that we as journalists have gone overboard on
Lauer's new credo for journalism:
Don't give the public "too much information" -- at least not
about Presidents who are doing great things policy-wise for our country.
-- Brent Baker
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