Deposition Leak Speculation; "Darth Vader" Scaife Hit by NBC
1) All the networks led
Thursday night with Jordan and speculation about who leaked Clinton's
deposition, but differed on whether Jordan matched Clinton's story.
Johnny Chung's guilty plea got a few seconds from all; Gandhi's arrest
skipped by NBC.
2) NBC impugns Ken Starr by
insidiously linking him to Richard Scaife, "the Darth Vader of the
alleged right-wing conspiracy."
Nazi Germany = Ken
A fresh MRC Media Reality
Check has been posted at the top of the MRC home page by MRC web manager
Joe Alfonsi. It's titled: "Who Knew A 'Decade of Greed' Savings
& Loan Robber Would Become So Popular with the Media? Susan McDougal,
Celebrity Crook." The MRC's Tim Graham collated examples of the
media's fawning coverage and uncovered this bit of idiocy from Larry
King: "On February 24, she appeared on CNN's Larry King Live. Among
King's questions: 'Is this a witch-hunt?....Why do you think Starr's
popularity is so low?....In a sense, do you feel like you're a political
prisoner?' When McDougal protested questioning of Monica Lewinsky's
mother, King added: 'Germany did it, too.'"
night ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC all led with The Washington Post story
detailing President Clinton's Paula Jones case deposition and Vernon
Jordan's grand jury testimony, though they did not all agree on whether
the two men's comments meshed or clashed.
On FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report Rita Cosby
told viewers that sources say in his testimony Thursday "Jordan
testified that he got messages from Betty Currie to help Lewinsky, but
those efforts were initiated by the President himself. Legal experts say
this new information could be quite damaging to the President..."
But on CNN's The World Today an hour
later John King insisted: "For all the White House complaining about
leaks, the President's account is largely consistent with the testimony
of his friend, Vernon Jordan."
(CNN followed with a report from Wolf
Blitzer on Lewinsky's lawyer William Ginsburg and Ken Starr meeting with
the judge to decide if Lewinsky had an immunity deal and if not under what
circumstances she'll testify.)
All the broadcast and cable networks at least gave a few seconds to
reporting Johnny Chung's guilty plea and agreement to cooperate in the
Justice Department's probe of the campaign finance scandal. All but NBC
also reported the arrest of Yogesh Gandhi, suspected of giving illegal
foreign money to the Democrats, as he tried to leave the country. Only CBS
offered a full report on the two developments. The other networks stuck to
a brief summary read by the anchor. None of the broadcast network evening
shows, nor the CNN or FNC shows cited above, uttered a word about the
Thursday release from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee of it
final report on its 1997 hearings into campaign fundraising abuses.
Of the broadcast networks, only ABC's Sam
Donaldson explained how the publication of Clinton's deposition would
help guide witnesses to match his story, ABC and NBC, but not CBS, noted
that the Post confirmed that Clinton did concede sex with Gennifer
Flowers, and only NBC's Claire Shipman emphasized how Clinton had been
presented with "an all encompassing" definition of sexual
Here's how the broadcast networks covered
the deposition, Jordan, Chung and Gandhi on Thursday night, March 5:
-- ABC's World News Tonight
gave equal weight to how the information came out as to what was revealed.
Sam Donaldson began:
"Peter, this is a case of substance
and intrigue. The substance concerns what the President allegedly said
under oath in his deposition in the Paula Jones case. The intrigue is over
who leaked it. The Washington Post got the leak, writing that the
President had said he talked to Monica Lewinsky about the likelihood that
she might be called to testify about the nature of their relationship. He
had talked with Vernon Jordan about Jordan's efforts to find Lewinsky a
job, but it was Betty Currie, not him, who had initiated the job effort;
He acknowledged that he may have been along with Lewinsky on perhaps five
occasions, but they had no sexual relationship. However, according to the
Post story, the President said in fact he had had sex with Gennifer
Flowers on one occasion...."
ABC showed Clinton refusing to comment,
noting "I believe I have given all the answers that matter."
Donaldson pounced: "If the President
means by that he's now through answering questions period, that would
seem to conflict with what he said in January when the story first
Clinton, January 22: "There are a lot
of other questions that are, I think, very legitimate. You have a right to
ask them. You and the American people have a right to get answers."
Donaldson then ran through a list of
denials about who leaked the deposition, running a soundbite from Bob
Bennett denouncing the President's "antagonists." Peter
Jennings asked Donaldson "Why would the President's antagonists
leak this?" and second, "But there have been some suggestions
that the President's team may have leaked it. What would be in their
interest?" Donaldson suggested a reason: "Well, it's a road
map Peter to prospective witnesses before the grand jury. They can't ask
the President what's your story, sir. They read it in the Washington
Post, they know what he's going to say..."
Second, Jackie Judd reported on Vernon Jordan's testimony in which he
"confirmed the President was in the loop at all times" about
finding Lewinsky a job and lawyer, but he denied the help was to assure
her silence. Starr and Ginsburg, she also explained, met with the
presiding judge over immunity for Lewinsky. Concluded Judd:
"The White House has to be anxious
about the outcome. If Lewinsky is given immunity, sources say, she will
say there was a sexual relationship with the President. That claim of
course would contradict what we now know Mr. Clinton has said under oath
in his deposition."
Third, Jennings took 33 seconds to explain
how Johnny Chung had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate while the FBI
picked up Yogesh Gandhi, suspected of delivering $325,000 in illegal
foreign money to the Democrats, as he tried to leave the country.
-- Dan Rather dramatically opened the CBS Evening News:
"Good evening. New and exclusive information tonight on what Vernon
Jordan, a central figure and close friend of President Clinton has told
the Ken Starr grand jury. We have agreed not to reveal the source of this
information. We can tell you it was not gathered illegally. Vernon Jordan
made his second appearance before the grand jury today. He said in public
that he helped Monica Lewinsky find a lawyer and a job. Tonight CBS's
Scott Pelley has some of what Jordan said under oath behind closed
Pelley explained that Jordan told the grand
jury that Clinton wanted him to find a job for Lewinsky, but not in order
to buy her silence. Jordan asked Clinton if they had sex and Clinton said
no. In other words, the same thing all the other networks reported, but
without the false "exclusive" bravado.
Pelley did deliver one unique detail,
saying that Jordan was confronted with information from an FBI sting
operation in which the FBI taped Monica Lewinsky asserting Jordan must
find her a job before she'll sign an affidavit denying sex. Pelley
agreed with FNC's Rita Cosby: "But Jordan's testimony appears to
be at odds with Mr. Clinton's claim that the job hunt was his
After reviewing what the Post revealed
about the deposition, Pelley concluded: "This evening, at the end of
his testimony, Jordan did not predict vindication for himself or for the
President. Instead, he said, 'I have kept the faith, we will see what
time will tell us.' Dan."
Rather next turned to Phil Jones for a full
story on Chung and Gandhi. Jones opened with video of Chung with Clinton
from the White House coffee tape collection, then moved on to Gandhi, who
contributed $325,000 in illegal foreign money "to attend a Democratic
fundraiser where he posed proudly with President Clinton."
-- NBC Nightly News. Claire Shipman launched her story:
"The battle over leaks has the White House on the defensive. At the
same time they're very happy with what they're hearing from the
testimony of the President's friend."
Noting that Jordan denied the job for
silence claim, Shipman went on: "But the day began with debate over
who was behind an enormous leak." After citing denials and running
Bennett's attack on those responsible for the "reprehensible"
leak, Shipman recounted the deposition: "10:30am, 18 people crowded
around a long conference table in the Washington law firm of Scadden Arps,
just 15 blocks from the White House..."
15 BLOCKS? More like barely two blocks, or
about 1,500 FEET.
Back to Shipman, who uniquely informed
viewers: "Jones lawyers asked the President whether he had a sexual
relationship with Monica Lewinsky, based on an all encompassing definition
of the term sexual relations." He "denied them all with the
exception of Gennifer Flowers." (The Post reported March 5 the
definition used by Jones' lawyers: "Any contact with someone's
groin, buttocks, breast or inner thigh if intended to stimulate sexual
arousal. No specific mention was made of kissing lips." I guess now
we know why the White House floated the "they just kissed" story
Shipman concluded by contradicting Pelley
and Cosby, but agreeing with the assessment issued by CNN's King:
"So who in this battle had the motive to leak the President's
deposition? Now, it does seem to help the President, matching both his own
story and the stories of Vernon Jordan and Betty Currie. Ken Starr's
office has denied the leak..." She ended by noting how the Jones
lawyers were planning on making it public next week anyway in a court
Following a hit on Richard Scaife (see next
item), anchor Brian Williams devoted 21 seconds to how Chung "is
pleading guilty to charges related to the Clinton campaign finance
scandal." Zilch on Gandhi.
CNN and CBS, Thursday night NBC aired its own ominous examination of the
supposed Starr tie to Richard Scaife which taints the independent counsel.
NBC's hook for the look at the "reclusive anti-Clinton
billionaire"? A complaint filed by an obscure local public defender
in Connecticut. Unlike the CBS and CNN stories, detailed in the February
17 CyberAlert, NBC's Lisa Myers, as she usually does, made an effort at
fairness by allowing Starr allies to dismiss as preposterous the idea
Starr is tainted. But NBC did still devote valuable air time to the
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams
intoned, as viewers saw "Mystery Man" under a photo of Scaife:
"Back in Arkansas, one of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's
enemies was asking a court to order an investigation into the
investigator. Part of the reason: Starr's ties to a controversial
conservative. More on that tonight from NBC's Lisa Myers."
Myers asserted: "A long time critic of
the independent counsel today urged a court to fire Ken Starr because of
alleged ties to a reclusive anti-Clinton billionaire."
Frank Mandanici, identified on-screen as
"Connecticut Public Defender," whatever standing that gives him
for such a complaint: "This is a situation where a person has an
awesome amount of power and it's being tainted by his conflicts of
interest." [AP labeled him "an assistant public defender in New
Myers laid out the liberal case against
Starr: "The alleged conflicts involve this man, Richard Mellon Scaife,
an heir to the Mellon family fortune and the 148th richest American
according to Forbes magazine. Scaife is the financial patron of
conservative causes, donating tens of millions of dollars a year. To the
Clinton White House Scaife is the Darth Vader of the alleged right-wing
conspiracy against the President, having helped bankroll a Pittsburgh
newspaper that specializes in anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, the
American Spectator which broke the story about Arkansas troopers
soliciting women for Clinton, lawyers once involved in Paula Jones' suit
against the President and a group that ran ads in search of other women.
[clip of radio ad run by the Free Congress Foundation]
"A conservative media critic says the
groups funded by Scaife share this opinion of the President:"
Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media, subtle as
ever: "They think the President is a disgrace to this country. He has
scandal after scandal that should disqualify him from being the occupant
of the Oval Office."
Myers continued with the liberal argument:
"But what do Scaife and his views have to do with Starr? Well, a
Scaife foundation helps fund the deanship at Pepperdine University, a job
Starr accepted last year, then had to reject after a firestorm of
criticism. Today, judges appeared skeptical of the charge against Starr
and his defenders called the idea that he's tainted by the Pepperdine
C. Boyden Gray, Bush White House counsel:
"These connections were all well-known to the Department of Justice
when they assigned him and the special panel assigned him this particular
Myers concluded: "Today, four former
attorneys general, one a Democrat, also came to Starr's defense, saying
he has the highest integrity. They called attacks on Starr orchestrated by
the White House improper and designed to impede this investigation. Lisa
Myers, NBC News, Washington."
As Tim Lamer, Editor of the MRC's
MediaNomics newsletter, pointed out in the February issue, in a February
11 editorial Investor's Business Daily observed that the Scaife
conspiracy to send Starr to Pepperdine doesn't match the claim that
Starr is doing the bidding of Scaife by destroying the President. IBD
explained: "Here was Scaife helping fund a new position that tempted
Starr -- allegedly 'his' man -- away from the work of probing the
President." In other words, the whole premise of NBC's weak story
And I'd add that if NBC News and the rest
of the media were doing their job the evil Scaife would not have had to
fund the divisive American Spectator in order to make sure Americans
learned of how Clinton used state employees as personal pimps.
-- Brent Baker
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