Nets Led with Depositions, But Where Were They When Willey First Arose?
1) The Jones court filing led
Friday night, but only one network mentioned Dolly Kyle-Browning and just
one cited Miss Arkansas. CNN's Joie Chen asked if it's all part of the
right-wing conspiracy; NBC's David Bloom highlighted a personal hit on
2) Kathleen Willey is big
news now, but the networks avoided her story when it broke in 1997. CBS
gave it a minute, NBC a few seconds and ABC followed Mike McCurry's
hopes and ignored her.
Correction/Clarification/Update: The March
12 CyberAlert reported that "NBC's Today brought together Gary
Bauer of the Family Research Counsel..." FRC is not a law firm,
it's the Family Research Council. The March 10 CyberAlert quoted
unbalanced labeling from a March 9 NBC story on the widows of former
Congressmen Capps and Bono running in elections that day to replace them.
On March 10 Democrat Lois Capps won, but Mary Bono will not face the
voters until April 7.
court filing by lawyers for Paula Jones responding to Clinton's request
that her case be dismissed led the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC Friday night
newscasts. Only FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report went first with the McKinney
Army sexual harassment case verdict of not guilty which occurred just
before 7pm ET. David Shuster then provided a rundown on what the Paula
Jones lawyers presented.
Whenever breaking scandal news is handed to
the networks they usually play it pretty straight and Friday night was no
exception. If the past pattern holds, however, they will soon return to
discrediting the investigator, denouncing the victims and disparaging the
whistle blowers, but Friday they went with the fresh material and
delivered a bad news day for the President, though there were some notable
differences among the networks. (To recall how the networks dismissed
Kathleen Willey when her case first arose last summer, see item #2 below.)
Looking at the broadcast networks and CNN,
only ABC's Sam Donaldson clearly laid out the pattern of witness
suppression orchestrated by Bruce Lindsey name by name and only Donaldson
mentioned the name Dolly Kyle-Browning. CBS plugged its 60 Minutes
interview with Kathleen Willey as Ed Bradley made clear Clinton is a
grabber not a grazer. CBS and CNN, but not the others, graphically cited
what Willey actually said Clinton did with her hand while CNN's Bob
Franken was the sole reporter to cite Clinton's approach to a former
Some coverage favorable to Clinton did slip
in: CNN anchor Joie Chen asked if the release was all part of the vast
right-wing conspiracy and NBC's David Bloom raised an upcoming New
Yorker article that supposedly discredits Linda Tripp.
Here are the highlights of Friday, March 13
evening show coverage:
-- ABC's World News Tonight.
Sam Donaldson delivered the toughest and most complete overview of the
obstruction of justice shown by the court papers:
"Perhaps there were no smoking guns in
today's material, but a lot of it does appear to be highly damaging to
the President. It all began with Paula Corbin Jones' suit, but the real
danger to the President revolves around allegations of cover-up in several
cases of alleged sexual misconduct on Mr. Clinton's part. In the court
filing released today, former Arkansas troopers Patterson, Perry and Brown
all swear they observed 'numerous sexual encounters' involving then
Governor Clinton. Patterson and Perry say Clinton dispatched an agent to
'threaten to destroy them' if they talked. Dolly Kyle-Browning says
she had 'sexual relations' with Mr. Clinton from the mid-70s until
1992 and that several agents of his, including White House aide Bruce
Lindsey, 'contacted her to keep quiet,' her own brother passing along
the word they will 'destroy you' if you told the truth. Gennifer
Flowers says she got her state job thanks to Mr' Clinton because of a
long running sexual affair she had with him. And trooper Patterson says he
overheard Mr. Clinton order a job be given her...."
Donaldson ran through the Willey story and
how Vernon Jordan tried to get Lewinsky a job before letting Clinton
lawyer Bob Bennett counterattack.
Next, Jackie Judd explored the contention
of the Jones lawyers that there is a pattern of punishing those who reject
Clinton's overtures and rewarding those who accept or keep quiet.
She named three of four names, reporting
"the four women they name are Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, a
woman identified as Jane Doe whom Mr. Clinton named a state judge when he
was Governor of Arkansas, and Monica Lewinsky..." Judd summarized how
the recollections of Willey and Clinton clash.
-- CBS Evening News began with Ed Bradley summarizing his
upcoming 60 Minutes interview with Kathleen Willey who insisted that
"efforts were made to intimidate her."
Anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Now in
the President's deposition that was released today he seems to say he
was trying to comfort her in some way. Did she take it as someone trying
to comfort her?"
Bradley replied: "Not at all. I asked
her if was just, when she said he touched her breasts, if this was just a
grazing by mistake and she said no, he fondled her breasts and said I've
wanted to do this I first laid eyes on you."
Phil Jones then suggested "the biggest
potential problem for Mr. Clinton: the numerous allegations of obstruction
of justice, of people allegedly being urged to lie or coverup for the
President, according to Donovan Campbell, Jones's lawyer..."
Following a summary of the Willey/Tripp/Lewinsky
story, Jones asserted: "In the documents there are ten specific
instances of alleged attempts to suppress evidence of the alleged sexual
affairs," adding, without naming any names, "Court papers
mention five other women."
Third up: Scott Pelley at the White House:
"Sources familiar with Kathleen Willey's grand jury testimony tell
CBS News quote, 'If you believe Kathleen Willey then the President is
lying. That would be perjury, a high crime and probably impeachable,'
Pelley recalled the January Clinton
deposition, reciting some of the most relevant portions of what Clinton
said about Willey, including:
"Question: 'And you're aware that
she testified that you took her hand and put it on your penis?'
"Answer: 'I am aware of that.'
"Question: 'You deny that
"Answer: 'I emphatically deny it. It
did not happen.'"
Noting that Clinton left for Camp David,
Pelley let Bennett insist "there is no proof" of any of the
-- CNN's World Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken began his
top of the show story: "Attorneys for Paula Jones, in arguing that
her case not be dismissed, are charging President Clinton with leading a
After noting the charge that Jordan helped
keep Lewinsky quiet, Franken moved on to Willey and how "the
President denies any sexual contact." He then recited the same
deposition passage as had Pelley, adding: "The Jones lawyers also
released part of Willey's sworn statement in which she says a prominent
Democratic fundraiser, Nate Landow, talked to her about her
Following a Bob Bennett soundbite, Franken
raised a name skipped by the other networks: "One new name, Elizabeth
Ward, a former Miss Arkansas and Miss America. A friend of Ward's
testified in the 1980s Ward told her Clinton had made unwanted sexual
John King provided the spin from the White
House as annunciated by Bennett in four soundbites, before concluding that
"White House officials are nervously bracing" for Willey's 60
Anchor Joie Chen inquired: "John,
certainly there have been in the past some implications that there may be
some sort of organized conspiracy against the President in all this. Did
Mr. Bennett get to that point?"
King responded: "Mr. Bennett made the
case that Paula Jones is being funded financially in her legal case and
for some personal expenses of what he says is a conspiracy of Clinton
haters, to use his term....Bennett did raise that allegation. But mostly
what he tried to do here is to say that this is an effort to smear the
President. He does blame a conspiracy, but they've been unable over the
months, as they have made that accusation, a point to any conspiracy
involving Ms. Jones. So Mr. Bennett today was trying to say that she's out
to smear the President personally and embarrass him."
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams declared:
"The President of the United States
has been hit by another round of allegations, a staggering collection of
evidence, hundreds of pages, the stories of several women who all claim to
have certain encounters with Mr. Clinton in common. It is all part of the
case Paula Jones is pursuing against the President and while the
President's lawyer is trying hard to put down this new information, the
accusations are explosive from a number of women, including a former Miss
But NBC left viewers hanging, as the
subsequent reports failed to mention the Miss Arkansas/America.
Lisa Myers explained that the Jones lawyers
"accuse the President and his aides of a vast enterprise to suppress
evidence," but only vaguely referred to how Willey accuses the
President of "accosting her." Myers added a detail not mentioned
by the other networks: "Flowers says Clinton specifically told her to
lie to an Arkansas board investigating whether she got a state job because
of a sexual relationship with Clinton..."
From the White House David Bloom observed
that Bennett "came out swinging" and in a soundbite Clinton's
lawyer denounced it all as "a pack of lies." Bloom also let
Bennett charge that a few years ago Jones said she would go away for
$25,000 and job in Hollywood. Bloom concluded with a hit on whistle blower
"She says that Lewinsky told her she
was going to deny everything and that President Clinton would deny
everything. But Tripp's credibility is likely to be called into account
by a new article out this weekend in the New Yorker which questions her
According to a story in Saturday's
Washington Post, the New Yorker article will claim that Tripp "failed
to disclose a 1969 arrest at a New York resort community on her department
security-clearance forms." Apparently, a 19-year-old Tripp, then
Linda Carotenuto, was charged with larceny in Greenwood Lake, but the
charge was soon dropped.
Let's see. What Clinton did ten years ago in Arkansas should be
irrelevant, but what Tripp did 29 years ago as a teenager is relevant.
Willey's case has emerged as potentially the most damaging to President
Clinton, but where have all the networks been? Nothing released Friday is
really new since Newsweek reported it last August after some prodding from
a Drudge Report item saying Michael Isikoff was working on a story.
Let's go back and re-live those days as
recounted at the time in CyberAlerts which detailed how CBS delivered a
short report on the charge, NBC gave a few seconds to how Willey was
"outraged about being pulled into this case," and ABC never
mentioned Willey, not even after Newsweek's story appeared. But as a new
book reveals, that's just how Mike McCurry wanted it as he played a
compliant media which refused, other than Isikoff, to do their jobs and
pursue the story.
-- From the Thursday, July 31, 1997
Wednesday's CBS Evening News surprisingly
allocated time for a brief story on a charge from lawyers for Paula Jones
that Bill Clinton harassed a White House employee. Bill Plante reported
the CBS exclusive:
"CBS News has learned that Paula
Corbin Jones's lawyer has subpoenaed, issued this subpoena, to a woman who
once worked here in the White House, asking her to testify in just two
weeks. Sources say that Jones's lawyers believe that the woman was
approached in a sexual way by President Clinton, who made overtures to
her, here in the White House, back in 1993. Paula Jones's attorney Joseph
Cammarata would not discuss this subpoena with CBS News, but he has said
in the past that he would try to establish a pattern of behavior upon the
part of the President.
Robert Bennett, the President's attorney,
called the subpoena an effort to embarrass the President behind the
scenes, and he notes that the woman in question knows nothing about the
Paula Corbin Jones case. Other lawyers see this as an attempt to pressure
Mr. Clinton to settle. But unless and until this case is settled, this is
only the beginning of attempts by attorneys on both sides to damage the
reputations and credibility of everyone involved. Dan."
CNN picked up on the charge and brought
James Carville and Susan Carpenter-McMillan onto Larry King Live to argue
about the charge and the Paula Jones case.
-- From the Friday, August 1 CyberAlert:
Reporters asking about how lawyers for Paula Jones issued a subpoena for a
White House staffer, supposedly sexually harassed in 1993 by Bill Clinton
in the White House, angered Press Secretary Mike McCurry. On Thursday's
Inside Politics CNN's Wolf Blitzer recounted that day's press briefing
"It got rather testy in the White
House Thursday when reporters asked about the latest potential bombshell
in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President
Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary:
"You're not going to use me at this podium to further stories that
your news organizations have to decide on their own whether or not they
want to pursue."
ABC met McCurry's hopes. World News Tonight
ignored the development on Thursday night of a story first broken by a
network on Wednesday's CBS Evening News. None of the morning shows on
Thursday uttered a word about the step. The July 31 NBC Nightly News did
include a brief item emphasizing the non-cooperation by the woman. Tom
Brokaw intoned: "Lawyers for Paula Jones served a subpoena on a
former White House aide, who they believe may have been the target of an
improper sexual advance by the President. But lawyers for Kathleen Willey,
who worked in the White House counsel's office, say their client is
outraged about being pulled into this case and said she has no knowledge
or information of any relevance to the Paula Jones case."
-- From the Friday, August 8 CyberAlert
item about Clinton's August 7 press conference:
Later, ABC's John Donvan very reluctantly approached the Kathleen Willey
story, though he avoided her name, what case she is involved with and made
sure Clinton knew he really didn't want to:"In a civil suit filed
against you, attorneys for the plaintiff have issued a subpoena for an
individual who may or may not have worked in the White House. Your staff,
when asked to clarify the status of that individual in the past, refuses
to answer the question and refers it to an outside attorney. Even for
those of us who don't have much appetite for this entire subject, this
particular answer in this particular category seems needlessly evasive. My
question to you is: Is it your wish that it be answered this way, and is
it consistent with your intention to run an open White House? That's the
principle I'm asking about here."
Indeed, Donvan and ABC don't have much appetite for the topic since the
network has yet to inform its viewers of the subpoena going to Kathleen
Willey from Paula Jones's lawyers. Not even the Newsweek story, released
on Monday, which detailed what supposedly occurred between Willey and
Clinton, interested ABC.
So far, a one minute story on the July 30
CBS Evening News followed by brief items the next day on CBS and the NBC
Nightly News noting Willey's intention to challenge the subpoena, is the
totality of broadcast network coverage.
Last Sunday, March 8, the Washington Post
Magazine excerpted the portion of Howard Kurtz's new book recounting how
McCurry convinced the media to not pursue the Willey incident. In Spin
Cycle: Inside the Clinton Propaganda Machine, Kurtz discovered that after
Drudge broke the story "McCurry told Clinton he planned to stiff the
press," denouncing reporters who approached the topic for lowering
themselves by, as Kurtz described McCurry's view, "feasting on
rumor and innuendo, no matter how personally demeaning to the
By the time the Newsweek story appeared
newspapers had run a story or two and the networks, as shown above, had
largely ignored it and none used Newsweek's details of the encounter as
a hook for another story. The story, Kurtz reported, "was at a dead
end, and the reporters, vaguely embarrassed and lacking further
ammunition, quietly let it drop."
Kurtz relayed this illuminating anecdote:
"Later that week, Clinton pulled McCurry aside for a rare word of
thanks. 'I think you handled that correctly and I appreciate it,' he
said. 'I know it's not easy.'"
Actually, with the media so compliant it
wasn't that hard. Reporters should have been less embarrassed by the
subject than by how easily they were played by McCurry and how it took a
secretary, an intern and a couple of lawyers to do their job for them.
Finally, want to get on the Sunday talk
shows? Just denounce conservatives for lacking integrity. David Brock is
scheduled to appear on the March 15 Meet the Press and Face the Nation.
-- Brent Baker
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