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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday, March 11, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 42)

Willey "Adds Up to Nothing;" Brock Makes the Morning Show Rounds

1) Kathleen Willey's appearance generated stories on all the networks. NBC concluded, though: "Said one White House official tonight, at the end of the day it all adds up to nothing."

2) Instead of letting a conservative react to Brock's mean-spirited attack, NBC's Today only allowed Newsweek to defend itself from Brock's charge it's just as awful as the American Spectator.

3) James McDougal's writing partner, the Boston Globe's Curtis Wilkie, once linked Duke to Reagan and exulted in Clinton's '92 victory.

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cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)For the second night in a row, ABC, CNN and NBC led Tuesday night with the weather: snow in Midwest, floods in South. CBS topped its show with David Martin's tip that all the services will reject the expected recommendation from a commission headed by former Senator Kassebaum that men and woman be housed separately during training.

The broadcast networks featured one Monicagate story each, a look at the appearance of Kathleen Willey before the grand jury. I didn't get a chance to see FNC, but CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET ran several scandal related pieces. First, anchor Joie Chen summarized the Willey story. Second, Bob Franken filed a report on how a comment from a Jones lawyer during the deposition of Bill Clinton is raising a new allegation of collusion with Starr's investigation. Third, Wolf Blitzer asserted that the administration plans to invoke executive privilege if Bruce Lindsey is asked about discussions he had with the President.

The broadcast stories all covered the same basic ground, recounting how Willey is a reluctant witness, explaining how she says Clinton accosted her but he denies it, how her case is tied into the famous talking points memo (Linda Tripp told to say she thinks Willey smeared own lipstick and untucked own blouse) and how Willey charged that big Democratic donor Nathan Landow tried to get her to change her story.

But the three stories set up Willey differently, so to give you a flavor of the coverage, here are some quotes from the March 10 stories:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings noted that "a couple of weeks ago ABC was the first to report that a Democratic fundraiser tried to persuade Miss Willey not to reveal damaging evidence against he President. The questions is what did she say today?" (See the March 2 CyberAlert for details)

Reporter Jackie Judd then began: "Kathleen Willey was brought to the courthouse by FBI agents. She is cooperating with Ken Starr's investigation and could support it on several points. Was there a pattern of trying to influence witnesses who could prove damaging to the President?"

Judd ran through the Nathan Landow allegation before moving to the talking points Monica Lewinsky gave Tripp: "Were there attempts to undermine Willey's credibility by shaping the testimony of another witness?"

Finally, Judd asked: "Was the President truthful in his sworn testimony? If Willey sticks to her account of the Oval Office incident she would be directly at odds with Mr. Clinton's reported denial of such an encounter. Even today the President's allies sought to undermine Willey's credibility by pointing out that a friend said she lied about what happened with Mr. Clinton. That seems to underscore that until Monica Lewinsky came along, the White House feared Kathleen Willey more than any other woman when it came to allegations of sexual misconduct by the President."

And how much did you ever see or read about her?

-- CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley opened his story: "Kathleen Willey is a tragic figure who never wanted any part of this and yet it was her encounter with the President in 1993 that ultimately led to tody's obstruction of justice investigation..."

-- NBC Nightly News. David Bloom began his piece: "Despite all the talk about Monica Lewinsky, sources say there's only one woman who's testified under oath that she was the object of an unsolicited sexual advance by the President, here at the White House..."

Bloom ended by relaying the White House spin:

"Nathan Landow, the Democratic donor, claims he did not try to influence Kathleen Willey's testimony. In fact a friend of Willey's claims she's lying and has urged others to lie. Said one White House official tonight, at the end of the day it all adds up to nothing."

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)David Brock was as busy Tuesday as William Ginsburg has been. Brock popped in for interviews on all three network morning shows, but only ABC's Charlie Gibson really challenged Brock's premise that reporters should not explore an elected official's sex life. Instead of letting a conservative or an American Spectator editor defend the appropriateness of looking at Clinton's use of state employees or the accuracy of the magazine's article that Brock wrote and now denounces, Today brought aboard Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to defend his magazine from Brock's suggestion it is just as bad as the American Spectator. (See the March 10 CyberAlert for Brock's apology to Clinton published in the April Esquire magazine.)

First, to give you a flavor of Brock's disgust with conservatives and how the networks are eating it up, this exchange from Tuesday's This Morning, a show which normally avoids politics, as transcribed by MRC analyst Steve Kaminski:

Jane Robelot: "...A lot of people were saying you were a reporter for the Right; you've acknowledged this morning that that was your status in 1993. Did the Right turn on you at some point, maybe after Mrs. Clinton's book, they weren't exactly happy about the way that turned out?"

David Brock: "Right, yeah, I don't know that they turned on me but clearly there was a lot of disappointment in conservative circles."

Robelot: "You weren't invited to certain parties anymore."

Brock: "That's right and I've written about how the fallout from the Hillary Clinton book taught me a lesson about the movement that I was a part of and the lesson was that I don't think they were all that interested in the truth in the first place. They were interested in what was politically useful, they celebrated that when it was working for them, when it wasn't working for them they really didn't want to anything to do with it anymore. You know, that was very disillusioning for me...."

On NBC's Today Matt Lauer first talked to Brock, running through his main points, though he also asked if Brock was just trying to get back at conservatives for shunning him. Then Today went to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. As transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Alter welcomed Brock's apology for lowering discourse:

"Well I don't think that Newsweek or the rest of the press should take any lessons from David Brock. But I do think there is some value in this apology because it does illuminate some larger facts about our times. I think when historians look back on all this they're gonna be less concerned about all the legal details of who said what to whom when and more concerned about the way we drove this truck into the muck. And if David Brock, who helped drive the truck into the muck wants to help push it out now, great...."

Alter denounced Brock's charge that Newsweek's Lewinsky coverage matched the American Spectator's trooper story:

"But I have to tell you that I'm appalled at the idea of comparing the American Spectator to Newsweek. You know we were not out rummaging in Bill Clinton's life from 10, 12,15 years ago. We actually held the Monica Lewinsky story for quite some time until there was evidence of a criminal sting operation against the President of the United States for possible conduct in the Oval Office. And that is a news story and it's quite different from the kind of work that the American Spectator and David Brock were doing a few years ago."

Only Charlie Gibson on ABC's Good Morning America challenged the foundation of Brock's remorse, MRC analyst Gene Eliasen observed. After going through why he regrets the story and how he now is sorry he made Clinton's sex life an issue, Gibson wondered:

"Well, but is not, David, is not, is there not a moral component to leadership?"

Gibson followed up with "Should we not worry about the moral makeup of the person we elect to lead us?" and, "Then why is this a bad kind of journalism?"

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)In stories about Jim McDougal's passing you may have seen soundbites from Boston Globe reporter Curtis Wilkie, who was working on a book with McDougal. Before you assume he'll be rushing to the publisher with an untold story that will be devastating to Clinton or Democrats, check out these past bits of "reporting" by Wilkie retrieved from the MRC archive.

-- From a November 15, 1991 Boston Globe story linking David Duke of Louisiana with Ronald Reagan: "Duke is exploiting the same politics of resentment that Ronald Reagan mastered. Reagan rose to power as a critic of government waste and excess, and he regaled audiences during his successful presidential campaign in 1980 with accounts of a 'welfare queen' who bought vodka with food stamps. Duke has developed his own constituency with a theme of 'welfare parasites' who are said to use their government checks to buy drugs and lottery tickets."

-- In an August 18, 1992 Globe story from the Republican convention: "Bush, the exponent of a 'kinder, gentler' approach to government at the 1988 convention, was presented with a 1992 platform loaded with puritanical, punitive language that not only forbade abortions but attacked public television, gun control, homosexual rights, birth control clinics and the distribution of clean needles for drug users."

-- The morning after Bill Clinton's win with 43 percent, Wilkie extrapolated in a front Boston Globe story: "Bill Clinton called for change, but he never dared ask for a mandate as sweeping as the one he received last night. The magnitude of the Democratic triumph was so enormous that it ensures Clinton a strong alliance with Congress and an incentive to move quickly on his domestic programs. Clinton marched to victory in state after state."

For those of you buried in snow jealous about yesterday's CyberAlert report that it hit 72 Monday in the Washington, DC area, this morning the CyberAlert Weather Center, that's the thermometer outside my back window, reports a bit chillier temperature: 25 degrees.

  -- Brent Baker

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