Gumbel Whacked Willey; McCarthyite Fears; Willey's Motives
1) Bryant Gumbel launched an
attack on Kathleen Willey Tuesday night and disparaged Linda Tripp as
"a Clinton-basher who seems to be at every ugly turn in this
2) Charles Osgood denounced
the investigation and what it has sown: "I dreamed an apparition
swarthy, the unshaved ghost of Joe McCarthy."
3) Willey the top story
Tuesday night as ABC and CBS led with how it has yet to impact Clinton's
approval. NBC impugned Willey: "New revelations about a book deal,
new questions about her motives."
4) GMA and Today bring on
Anita Hill as a sexual harassment expert; Eleanor Clift insisted the White
House is not slandering Willey.
Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel Tuesday night seemed more like Private Eye
with Bryant Gumbel as the CBS show began with Gumbel picking up where Mike
McCurry and Ann Lewis left off, passing on accusations meant to destroy
the credibility of Kathleen Willey. At the top of the March 17 show Gumbel
"Kathleen Willey's credibility is
being eroded tonight, not by the White House but by her own sworn claims.
Although only two people know what really happened, Kathleen Willey's
detailed account of her version of her relationship with President Clinton
has sent some stunning aftershocks through the White House and the nation
as well. Tonight, an attorney who is suing Willey levels troubling charges
that she may have falsified her account of her meeting with the
Gumbel conducted three short interviews
meant to tear down Willey. First, with Richmond attorney Joseph Kaestner
who is representing a man suing Kathleen Willey to recover over $200,000
Willey's husband embezzled. Kaestner read an account from Willey of what
she did on November 29, 1993, the day her husband committed suicide and
the day she says she had the encounter with Clinton. In her 1995 statement
she did not mention meeting Clinton. Gumbel exited the interview with this
exchange: "The statements she gave you in 1995 leads you to believe,
versus what she told 60 Minutes, leads you to believe what about her
Joseph Kaestner: "Boy, let me tell
you, there's some substantial questions about it."
Second, Gumbel turned to Baltimore Sun
reporter Carl Cannon to ask about his interview with Nathan Landow, the
Democratic donor whom Willey claims tried to keep her quiet. Cannon told
Gumbel that Landow denies she told him details of her encounter with
Clinton and denies he tried to quiet her, though Cannon conceded
Landow's friends don't doubt he did.
Third, Gumbel defamed Linda Tripp:
"And Kathleen Willey also spoke about Linda Tripp, a Clinton-basher
who seems to be at every ugly turn in this controversy. Tripp was outside
the Oval Office when Willey emerged from her encounter with the
President." After a 60 Minutes clip of Willey recounting how she
talked to Tripp just after the Clinton incident, Gumbel continued:
"Just how is it that Linda Tripp is so often conveniently involved in
the President's troubles? For some clues let's bring in the New
Yorker's Jane Mayer who has profiled the controversial Miss Tripp in
this week's issue."
Gumbel's one question to the woman whose
story put the 1969 Tripp arrest into play: "You write that co-workers
often viewed her as an inveterate busybody. Has she always been a snoop
and a gossip with a particular interest in other people's romantic
Yes, answered Mayer who co-wrote Strange
Justice, an anti-Clarence Thomas book which defended Anita Hill. She's
now out discrediting the accusers, but she is consistent -- she's always
on the liberal side.
CBS it's okay to besmirch people's reputations as long as they are on
the anti-Clinton side. If anyone impugns those on Clinton's side, then
CBS will condemn them, going so far as to denounce them for McCarthyite
tactics. Gumbel's fusillade against Willey reminded me a diatribe from
Charles Osgood a few weeks ago caught by MRC analyst Steve Kaminski. On
the February 28 Saturday Morning he condemned mud slinging which hurt
"Indeed, it is confusing. As can be
right now in Washington D.C. With everybody and his brother investigating
one another, right up to the highest rung, most every day the mud is slug.
A mixture of half truths and lies with lawyers and their private eyes, so
busy now and getting busier. The dizziness gets ever dizzier. In every
corner can be found detectives slithering around. Following somebody's
orders with hidden mikes and tape recorders. When one goes on the attack,
someone investigates him back. And the accuser comes to be in record time
"The best defense it seems some how is
going on the offense now. While seedy stories in the media seem to be
getting ever seedier. Each reporter in his turn sounds more and more like
Howard Stern. A great investigative boom reporting who did what to whom.
We see so many different styles of accusations and denials. When so much
mud around you flies, you are bound to get some in your eyes. When such a
war has been declared, everyone's in, nobody's spared. The jokes, the
snickers, and the flippery. The slope we're on is long and slippery. And
there is something in the air which this country best beware. For there is
danger in the dirt and lots of people could get hurt. And what we sow, we
someday reap. Last night as I laid down to sleep I dreamed an apparition
swarthy, the unshaved ghost of Joe McCarthy."
The show's co-hosts piped in with their
Susan Molinari: "Thanks Charles."
Russ Mitchell: "It makes you think, a
Molinari: "It sure does."
Every network led Tuesday night with the aftermath from Willey. NBC
highlighted attacks on Willey with "new revelations about a book
deal, new questions about her motives." ABC and CBS emphasized what
CBS dubbed "the Clinton phenomenon," how Americans approve of
his job performance despite the allegations. CBS found most men believe
Willey but most woman buy the President's denials. FNC's Jim Angle
caught up with ABC's Sam Donaldson from Monday night and pointed out how
Ann Lewis is using the same argument against Willey she condemned when
used against Anita Hill, but CBS, CNN and NBC have yet to illustrate the
hypocrisy. Only FNC even mentioned the appearance of witnesses before the
Here's how the evening shows handled the
scandal Tuesday night, March 17:
-- ABC's World News Tonight.
Anchor Forrest Sawyer opened the broadcast:
"Good evening. In the wake of new
allegations of sexual harassment President Clinton's approval ratings
today appear to be holding fairly steady. In a number of polls, including
one by ABC News, Americans continue to express concern about the
President's moral and ethical standards, but they are satisfied with his
conduct on the job. In the ABC News poll, fully 78 percent say Mr. Clinton
is handling the economy well, which doesn't mean there are no problems
Sam Donaldson showed Clinton with Newt
Gingrich at a St. Patrick's Day event on Capitol Hill, noting
Clinton's job approval is "unshaken" and the public is evenly
split on who to believe. Donaldson warned, however, that danger for
Clinton lurks as only 35 percent consider him honest and trustworthy and
if he lied under oath 63 percent said he should resign, 53 percent would
then favor impeachment.
From Capitol Hill, Linda Douglass looked at
how Republicans who spent weeks watching in silence today spoke out in an
effort to make Americans care.
-- CBS Evening News.
Anchor John Roberts declared at the beginning of the show:
"We're starting tonight with what
could be described as the Clinton phenomenon: despite the cloud of sex
accusations hanging over the White House Americans overwhelmingly approve
of the job Bill Clinton is doing as President."
He recited CBS News poll numbers showing
that by 52 percent to 33 percent the public believes Clinton "engaged
in reckless sexual conduct while President," but 67 percent still
approve of the way he is handling the job.
Reporter Richard Schlesinger highlighted
the gender gap: "If the Kathleen Willey story boils down to he said,
she said, who you believe depends on whether you're a he or a she. The
results of a CBS News poll released just today show what some consider
surprising results. More women believe what he said, more men believe what
Specifically, 55 percent of men believe
Willey, 34 accept Clinton's version; 52 percent of women believe
Clinton, 41 buy Willey's story.
Concluded Schlesinger: "The voters
seem to have built a firewall between their opinion of his private life
and his public life. By a margin of two-to-one most Americans say the
President's sexual behavior is a private matter, not one effecting his
Next, Bill Plante reviewed the day's
events: reporters asking McCurry why letters released which "don't
seem to be the work of someone angry or estranged," Orrin Hatch
complaining about character assassination, and the latest charge that
Willey was trying to sell a book.
-- CNN's The World Today at
10pm ET ran just a single story, a report from Eileen O'Connor who
began: "As the President focused on peace in Northern Ireland and
Medicare expansion, his Press Secretary Mike McCurry was denying the
letters the White House released were designed to undermine Kathleen
O'Connor showed reporters asking why
letters from Lewinsky were not released, aired a clip of former
Communications Director Don Baer saying the White House must deal
carefully with Willey, noted that Bob Bennett is threatening to take the
gloves off, and reported that Hatch and Republicans are urging Clinton to
-- FNC's Fox Report
at 7pm ET opened with a live report from Jim Angle. Like Sam Donaldson did
the night before, Angle pointed out that while White House Communications
Director Ann Lewis is taking the lead in showing how Willey remained
friendly to Clinton, "during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas
controversy Lewis lambasted those who criticized Hill, saying [text on
screen of 1991 Chicago Tribune comments] 'that if you step forward,
especially against someone who holds power, you will be victimized again
by his friends and allies. At the same time, your very reluctance to step
forward will be held against you.'"
Leading into a soundbite from Senator Susan
Collins, Angle observed: "Critics on Capitol Hill argue that is
exactly what is happening to Willey."
Angle also highlighted a Clinton
contradiction: "When the original story about Willey ran in Newsweek
last August, Mr. Clinton said through his lawyer that he had no
recollection of meeting Willey in the White House. But this week the
President said just the opposite, saying that he has a very clear memory
of the meeting and that he did nothing wrong."
-- NBC Nightly News.
In his top of the show tease Tom Brokaw intoned: "The White House
versus Kathleen Willey. New revelations about a book deal, new questions
about her motives."
Claire Shipman began her story from the
White House: "Cautious White House officials say they are not
attacking Kathleen Willey, despite the fact they are taking her story
apart piece by piece. White House officials now say that Kathleen Willey,
shown here in 1992 [hugging] with candidate Bill Clinton, had a clear
motive for making up her story: she wanted to make money from a
Shipman ran a clip of Michael Viner of New
Millennium Publishers claiming Willey and her lawyer approached him,
asking for $300,000.
Later, Shipman added, "but some
question why the White House was so quick to hand out the letters from
Willey but has refused to turn over any documents related to Lewinsky."
NBC's In Depth segment consisted of two
pieces. First, Pete Williams on Clinton's "pattern of denial and
revision." He compared Clinton's initial statement to later ones on
Flowers and Willey. Second, Andrea Mitchell talked with a group of five
"These women all find the Willey case
distressing, but still."
Woman, 29 year-old third year medical
student: "I wouldn't want him to be my father, but politically
I'm still in favor of his policies."
Mitchell: "A conversation that went on
after the cameras stopped as women continue to talk around the country
about the man, the women and the presidency."
Both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today brought aboard Anita
Hill Tuesday morning as an expert on sexual harassment while Eleanor Clift
appeared on GMA to defend how the White House has attacked Willey.
-- On Today, MRC news
analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Matt Lauer managed to set up a corollary
between how Clinton's team is mistreating Willey and how Republicans
"There is an editorial in the New York
Times today that talks about Ann Lewis' appearance here on the Today
show yesterday and her mentioning of these letters and these attempted
phone calls to the President on the part of Kathleen Willey. And the
editorial says her appearance here yesterday started what Senator Danforth
tried to do to you, and other Republicans by the way back in 1991, to
paint you as someone who had an erotically obsessed fascination with the
person you accused of harassment."
-- On ABC's Good Morning America,
MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen caught the latest example of Eleanor Clift
as Defender-in-Chief, but she warned the White House they could go too far
even for her:
"Well, I think the letters don't
necessarily tell us whether this encounter occurred or not. They may go to
her state of mind, I mean, I think if she did suffer great trauma it does
strain credulity to think that she was trying to maintain this very
friendly relationship. But I think the White House is going to be
criticized for trying to slander Kathleen Willey and in a way I think that
charge is unfair. The facts they've released so far do go to the heart
of this encounter; the fact that she may have been looking for a book
deal, the fact that she wrote these letters. If they start getting into
probing her past sexual history, I think that gets beyond the pale."
That would be a historic first: the Clinton
team going too far for Clift. Sounds like Clift may have been delivering a
bit of advice to her White House friends on what her media colleagues will
accept. -- Brent Baker
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