Public Afraid of Ken Starr and Should Fear Bill Gates
1) Every network led with
Vernon Jordan, but only NBC detailed his Hubbell history. A CBS poll
discovered, surprise, that most don't think "Republican special
prosecutor" Starr is impartial.
2) Barbara Boxer and Bill
Clinton convince celebrities from Danny DeVito to Cheryl Tiegs to fork
3) The networks re-capped
the Senate hearing on the software battle. ABC explored "whether we
consumers should be afraid of Bill Gates."
night, March 3, ABC, CBS, NBC led with Vernon Jordan's grand jury
appearance, emphasizing how Jordan maintained he remains friends with
Clinton. FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report, CNN's World Today at 8pm ET, and
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams at 9pm ET/PT also began with
Jordan, though CNN bumped him to the second story slot for the later 10pm
ET/7pm PT World Today.
Only CNN's Bob Franken, briefly, and
NBC's Lisa Myers, in more detail, recalled for viewers how Jordan is
suspect because he arranged payments to Webster Hubbell just as Starr was
pushing the Clinton crony for information. Dan Rather highlighted a poll
showing that most don't think "Republican special prosecutor Ken
Starr" is impartial and hope he ends his probe.
Here's a rundown of March 3 evening show
-- ABC's World News Tonight.
Anchor Peter Jennings opened the broadcast: "Good evening. When the
President's friend Vernon Jordan went before the grand jury in
Washington today to be asked about Monica Lewinsky and the President, and
whether Mr. Jordan had done anything to influence the story that Monica
Lewinsky has already told under oath, Washington wondered out loud whether
he would support the President's version of what happened, or what
didn't. Mr. Jordan is the most important witness that the independent
counsel Kenneth Starr has had on the stand so far."
Reporter Jackie Judd began: "Vernon
Jordan ended his day long appearance telling reporters he answered
prosecutors' questions truthfully and completely. And he seemed to
suggest that his old friend, Bill Clinton, had nothing to worry about from
Jordan outside courthouse: "Ours is an
enduring friendship. That was true yesterday, that is true today and it
will be true tomorrow."
Judd proceeded to outline the time line of
events and how Jordan insisted that Clinton assured him there was no sex.
A critical time for Starr, Jennings asked?
Yes, replied Judd as he's "getting back to the basics of what this
legal investigation is supposed to be about."
-- Dan Rather topped the CBS
Evening News by asserting Jordan testified in "what could be
a make or break day for all involved in the case."
Scott Pelley started his story: "Lewinsky
has claimed that Jordan encouraged her to lie about whether there was an
affair with Mr. Clinton and then arranged a job for her to keep her quiet.
Mr. Jordan denies all of this and today, after a day before the grand
jury, he seemed very much like a man supporting his friend, the
Pelley provided a time line which more
pointedly showed why Jordan's activities are under scrutiny. Pelley
noted that the Paula Jones lawyers subpoenaed Lewinsky on Friday and on
Monday Jordan placed job calls for her. On January 7 Lewinsky swore in an
affidavit that she and Clinton did not have sex. The next day Jordan
called Revlon's Ron Perelman about a job.
Next, the day after CBS ran a story
denouncing Starr's "police state tactics" and five days after
running a story listing the supposedly unethical behavior of Starr's
staff, Dan Rather delivered a news item which incorporated the very bias
which influences what CBS reported:
"New indications in a CBS News poll
out tonight of how the public perceives Republican special prosecutor Ken
Starr's investigation. Our poll suggests only 27 percent believe Starr
is conducting an impartial probe. And 55 percent think it's time for
Starr to drop his investigation."
-- CNN's The World Today.
Like everyone else, Bob Franken said that Jordan made "clear his
friendship with Bill Clinton is as strong as ever." Unlike ABC and
CBS Franken raised the issue of Jordan's previous efforts to keep
another Clinton associate quiet: "Vernon Jordan is a major reason
Starr sought jurisdiction in this case. He had already been investigating
whether Jordan helped another Clinton friend, former Assistant Attorney
General Webster Hubbell find a job in exchange for his silence..."
-- NBC Nightly News opened with two pieces on Jordan's
appearance. First, Claire Shipman began her story: "What prosecutors
most want to know from Vernon Jordan is just why he was offering Monica
Lewinsky so much help. Vernon Jordan spent a full day answering questions
under oath and as he left he sent a reassuring message to the White
After Shipman's piece Tom Brokaw
announced: "Friends of Jordan say he believes Starr is out to get
him, but Jordan is determined to remain cool. As NBC's Lisa Myers tells
us tonight, Starr's team is interested in Jordan for more than the
Myers gave detail to a theme ignored by ABC
and CBS and barely touched on by CNN, explaining:
"Jordan is on the hot seat in the
grand jury because not once but twice he arranged jobs for key witnesses
just as they were in a position to provide damaging information about the
President ....Jordan insists he didn't know Monica was a potential
witness when he began to help her, but sources close to the case say
prosecutors have evidence that contradicts key parts of Jordan's version
of events. First there's the story sources say Monica once offered to
tell prosecutors, that she told Jordan she had a sexual relationship with
the President. What's more, sources say, prosecutors have tapes on which
Monica ties her official denial of a sexual relationship with Clinton to
Jordan getting a job. At the legal core of all this is one question: Why
Jordan helped her."
James Cole, former independent counsel:
"I think it's very difficult to prove that the reason he did it was
to silence somebody."
Myers: "But that's exactly what
critics claim Jordan did in another high profile case, the President's
friend Web Hubbell. After Hubbell resigned from the Justice Department in
disgrace, Ken Starr was pressuring him to provide damaging information on
the Clintons. Jordan came to the rescue, getting Hubbell a $25,000 a month
job at Revlon, allegedly to do public relations. But prosecutors suspect
this was hush money...."
So, how did the networks, and NBC
specifically, cover Jordan's Revlon deal for Hubbell when the news first
broke? Let's flip back to the May 27, 1997 CyberAlert:
The ever-growing list of Hubbell
"jobs" remains a story the networks rarely touch.
"Clinton Pal Jordan Got Hubbell
Job," read a front page USA Today headline on Thursday, May 22.
In addition to all the other previously disclosed deals for Hubbell,
reporter Edward Pound discovered: "Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan, a
close friend of President Clinton, helped land a lucrative job for Webster
Hubbell with a holding company controlled by billionaire financier Ronald
Perelman in the weeks after Hubbell resigned from the Justice Department.
Hubbell was paid more than $60,000 by Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes
Holdings after Jordan introduced him to the firm in April 1994, according
to people familiar with the arrangement."
Coverage. MRC news analysts Clay Waters, Steve
Kaminski, Gene Eliasen and Geoffrey Dickens informed me: Not a word about
either revelation on the Wednesday or Thursday ABC World News Tonight, CBS
Evening News, CNN's The World Today or NBC Nightly News.
It only took a sex scandal to get NBC nine
months later to report this tidbit of information.
celebrities continue to stick by Clinton, especially when he helps raise
money for one of the most liberal Senators. Last weekend Clinton left the
Utah home of Jeffrey Katzenberg, which the film mogul lent the Clintons
for a ski weekend, to headline a Los Angeles fundraiser for Barbara Boxer.
By adding a brief meeting about El Nino damage with local officials the
trip became official, so Boxer's campaign did not have to pick up the
A March 1 AP dispatch reported who attended
"At the Beverly Hills home of
supermarket-chain mogul Ron Burkle, around 250 donors -- including actors
Danny DeVito, Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson, Paul Reiser, Ellen DeGeneres
and Anne Heche -- were asked to give $2,500 per person for an expected
total of between $500,000 and $750,000. Boxer's November re-election
campaign was to get the first $2,000 of each donation, the legal limit for
an individual candidate.
"The balance of Saturday night's
proceeds benefitted the Democratic party as so-called 'soft money,'
unregulated money meant to be used in 'party-building' projects."
Washington Times reporter Paul Bedard added
a couple of celebrity names in a March 1 story: Cheryl Tiegs and Rob
the networks Tuesday night presented fairly balanced stories on the Senate
hearing featuring computer software executives, with the network stories
built around attacks on Microsoft's Bill Gates and his counterpoints.
ABC's World News Tonight followed later, however, with a very tilted
"A Closer Look" segment on "whether we consumers should be
afraid of Bill Gates."
Here are a few quotes to give you a flavor
of the March 3 evening show coverage:
-- On the CBS Evening News,
Dan Rather delivered this introduction heavy on analogy:
"Bill Gates appeared before Congress which is considering whether
some policing may be needed along the information super-highway. CBS's
Sharyl Attkisson reports fellow travelers say Gates is trying to run them
off the road."
-- NBC Nightly News anchor
Tom Brokaw announced:
"Now to Capitol Hill, where the richest man in America, the king of
the computer industry, faces down a skeptical Congress and a hostile
competitor. Bill Gates came to Washington to declare that the giant he
created, Microsoft, is not a monopoly. It was a tough sell."
-- ABC's Peter Jennings
picked up on Senator Orrin Hatch's drive to attack Microsoft, asserting:
"Mr. Gates was there to testify with some of his bitterest rivals and
the Senate Chairman was there to try and scorch Mr. Gates."
Later, ABC devoted the "A Closer
Look" segment to the meaning of the Microsoft versus Netscape battle.
Jennings intoned: "Now we're going to take 'A Closer Look' at
whether we consumers should be afraid of Bill Gates, and if so, why?"
Jennings soon proved he's not quite up to
speed on the technology, explaining the battle between the Netscape and
Microsoft chiefs: "The war between Mr. Barksdale and Mr. Gates has to
do specifically with network browsers..." What exactly is a
"network" browser and how is it different from a regular old
browser running on a network?
After the Jennings intro ABC ran a story by
Jack Smith on Microsoft's misdeeds and an interview segment on why the
browser war matters. From Netscape's headquarters Smith checked in with
a story from their point of view on how Microsoft is out to destroy the
only thing standing between Microsoft and a browser monopoly. One Netscape
employee showed how MS's Active Desktop default for "news"
takes you to MSNBC, not ABC's Web site.
Next, Jennings talked with ABC reporter
Gina Smith and journalist Robert Cringley, who produced the Triumph of the
Nerds series on PBS. Gina Smith explained that power and money will flow
to whoever controls Internet commerce and that's Microsoft's goal.
Asked how that would be bad, Cringley asserted, "It is bad for we the
nation in that it restricts free trade," adding that if a Korean
company did what MS is doing with Explorer "it would be considered
As one still resisting the MS onslaught
(this is being written in WordPerfect 8, I use Netscape 4.04 and I deleted
MSN from my computer), I enjoyed ABC's MS bashing. But, as a
professional media analyst, I must conclude that ABC did a disservice to
its viewers by failing to make room in their lengthy segment for an
explanation of Microsoft's case.
-- Brent Baker
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