Book & Debt Discredit Willey; Clinton's Orchestration Barely Touched
1) More hits on Willey in the
guise of news stories Wednesday night as CNN and NBC skipped the
revelation that Clinton is personally organizing the assault on Willey.
2) Dateline NBC declared Bill
Clinton the true victim as Secret Service officers ask "who they're
supposed to protect the President from -- an assassin, or a character
Network producers were greeted with two Willey-related stories Wednesday
morning on the front pages of Washington's newspapers. A Washington Post
headline read: "Willey's Lawyer Sought Book Deal for Her." The
top story in The Washington Times: "Clinton Directs White House's
Attack on Willey." Reporter Paul Bedard's exclusive:
"President Clinton has taken charge of the aggressive White House
campaign to attack accuser Kathleen Willey's credibility." Bedard
learned that last Saturday "Clinton had aides collect fawning letters
from Mrs. Willey to him and then asked his advisers if they thought
releasing the notes would offset her jolting testimony." Amongst
those he consulted: James Carville, who was asked about it in a deposition
So, which story do you guess got picked up
by the morning shows and the evening newscasts and which was ignored in
the morning and buried in the evening, if raised at all? Wednesday's
Good Morning America and Today featured interviews with book publisher
Michael Viner, the man supposedly approached by Willey's lawyer. On CBS,
This Morning did not touch the book deal. None of the three morning shows
uttered a word about how Clinton is orchestrating the impugning of Willey,
reported MRC news analysts Gene Eliasen, Steve Kaminski and Geoffrey
ABC's Kevin Newman didn't even get to
it in a lengthy discussion with Time's Margaret Carlson.
In the evening:
## CNN and NBC refused to mention
Clinton's personal role. ABC called it "limited involvement"
while CBS described Clinton as "deeply involved."
## ABC, CNN and NBC highlighted how in a
1995 statement Willey did not say she discussed her financial woes with
Clinton that day, a conflict with her current story. This is the angle
pushed Tuesday night by Bryant Gumbel when he interviewed the lawyer
representing a company suing Willey. (See the March 18 CyberAlert.)
## ABC and NBC ran stories dedicated almost
entirely to relaying White House attacks on Willey's credibility. ABC,
CBS and CNN all raised the quest for a book deal.
## CNN delivered a piece packed with
soundbites from Clinton touting his economic successes and union members
saying he's doing a great job, but couldn't squeeze in a mention of
## Only the Fox News Channel portrayed
Willey as the victim of White House dirt digging and only FNC mentioned
Jim Guy Tucker's appearance before a grand jury.
Here are the details on how the networks
handled Willey Wednesday night, March 18:
-- ABC's World News Tonight
opened with a report from the Pentagon's Inspector General which found
excessive costs for airplane spare parts, followed by anchor Forrest
Sawyer citing two fresh examples of computer hacking.
ABC then aired a story right in line with
the agenda preferred by the White House, running through all the reasons
to not believe Willey while maintaining that Clinton has had only
"limited involvement" in coordinating the anti-Willey strategy.
Jackie Judd asserted:
"The President flew to Las Vegas,
leaving behind the controversy over Kathleen Willey which gets more
complicated every day. Her credibility was challenged with the release
today of testimony she gave back in 1995. In a lawsuit connected to her
family's financial problems Willey swore 'she did not talk with anyone
at the White House' about money her late husband owed a client or a note
she had signed to cover the debt. But three years later Willey told
lawyers for Paula Jones she had talked to the President about the
financial note during the Oval office meeting where she now says he made
the unwanted advance.
"Another salvo came today from a
publisher approached by Willey's lawyer regarding a book project.
Michael Viner says he was told it would have been positive about the
Michael Viner of New Millennium Press
insisted that she proposed a positive book about Clinton, just the
opposite of the tone displayed in her 60 Minutes interview.
Judd continued: "The most serious
challenge to Willey still remains the friendly letters that she sent the
President even after he allegedly groped her. Aides said today that Mr.
Clinton had very limited involvement in the decision to release them,
though he was not entirely passive."
Judd ran a clip of Carville, in a March 16
deposition video, recalling Clinton calling him to ask whether he should
release the letters.
Concluded Judd: "The letters, the book
project, the testimony, none of it helps Willey, but none of it goes to
the core issue: Did Mr. Clinton make an unwanted pass at her in the Oval
office and later deny it under oath."
Of course, the networks aren't spending
much time on that "core issue."
-- CBS Evening News. More
than halfway through the show, after the lead piece on how falling oil
prices are hurting U.S. producers and another on Al Gore announcing an IRS
reform plan, CBS got to Clinton. Bill Plante began by noting that Clinton
is happy to be out of Washington and in Las Vegas for a union convention.
Plante quickly got to relaying attacks on Willey:
"Back in Washington the President's
supporters continue to raise questions about the credibility of Kathleen
Willey. His lawyer suggested she had accused Mr. Clinton of unwanted
sexual advances because she was trying to make money by selling a
After a soundbite from publisher Viner,
Plante contradicted ABC's Judd who claimed Clinton had "limited
involvement" with the attacks on Willey:
"Even before Willey's story appeared
last Sunday, the President himself was deeply involved in preparing a
defense. On Friday he talked about releasing her letters to him. On
Saturday he called his friend and consultant James Carville to ask his
advice. Carville described the conversation in a deposition he was forced
to give in another case."
CBS viewers saw a clip of Carville before
Plante said Bennett will release on Friday more negative material about
Willey. Plante concluded:
"Other friends of the President are
offering a different kind of spin. They're suggesting that if something
did happen between the President and Kathleen Willey it was with her
consent because that they think makes it easier for people to
So, Plante is now just repeating spin not
based upon any reality but just made up to match what people will swallow.
-- CNN's The World Today
at 8pm ET. John King checked in with a glowing report from Las Vegas on
how the economic boom means the public is excusing the President's
"Far away from Washington, the
President had reason to smile...Another new report shows the nation's
economy is thriving, and the President traveled to Nevada for a firsthand
look at the boom times...."
After a clip of a worker praising Clinton,
"Kathleen Willey and Monica Lewinsky
are the big stories back in Washington, but when the President met with
workers Las Vegas, he says they asked about things like health care,
Social Security and raising the minimum wage."
Following another Clinton clip King
introduced a lengthy third soundbite from Clinton: "It's obvious Mr.
Clinton would also like Americans to remember more than questions about
his personal character when they assess his presidency."
Clinton: "We are going to have the
first balanced budget in 30 years and 15 million new jobs in five years,
the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years, the lowest crime rate in 24
years, the lowest welfare rolls in 27 years, the lowest inflation in 30
years, and the highest home ownership in the history of the United States
King drew his piece to a close by
illustrating the President's popularity with a carpenter who "says
a union job with health insurance is what shapes his opinion of the
President." The carpenter gushed: "Anything in his private life
is his concern, it is not a public concern. Public concern is whether he
is running the country right. And the man is doing a damn good job at
running our country."
Later in the show Wolf Blitzer ran through
the doubts the White House has raised about Willey: the book deal and her
1995 statement about not discussing her financial plight with Clinton.
Blitzer ended by observing that some in the
White House are worried about going too far and generating a backlash from
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox News
Report delivered a very different spin than the other networks and was the
only network to mention Jim Guy Tucker. Willey has been under three
straight days of White House assaults relayed by the media and Wednesday
night Fox actually broke from the media pack and portrayed her as the
As the show opened co-anchor Todd Connor
declared: "When the going gets tough the tough gets personal."
Co-anchor Uma Pemmaraju picked up:
"And that's just what the White House is doing with its spin
campaign against Kathleen Willey, digging up any dirt it can and making
sure the public hears all about it. And guess who's calling the
Reporter Rita Cosby answered: "Now,
for the first time, there is evidence that the President himself was
heavily involved in the White House campaign to attack Willey's
credibility, which includes releasing these letters..."
After a brief summary of the letters, Cosby
elaborated on Clinton's role: "In this taped deposition given to
the conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, longtime
presidential adviser James Carville said he got a call from the President
the day before Willey did her explosive interview on 60 Minutes."
Next, David Shuster checked in with an
update on the real investigation front, noting that Jim Guy Tucker
testified about Castle Grande before Starr's grand jury in Little Rock
while the jurors in Washington, DC had the day off and Monica Lewinsky
popped in on a basketball game.
-- NBC Nightly News. Like
ABC, NBC put the Pentagon cost overruns at the top of the show. Then NBC
went with a story on Al Gore announcing an IRS reform plan and a story on
how the IRS selects who it audits. After the first ad break Tom Brokaw
told viewers about the enthusiastic greeting Clinton got in Las Vegas:
"The President is far from Washington
headaches tonight. He's at an AFL-CIO meeting in Las Vegas and he did
get a very warm reception from a friendly union crowd. At one point
someone shouted 'four more years.' The President said he would run for
another term if the 22nd amendment, which limits Presidents to two terms,
Without a word about how Clinton
orchestrated the attack on Willey, NBC moved to a piece from Andrea
Mitchell on the history of Willey's "tangled finances."
Picking up on what Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel focused on Tuesday night,
Mitchell described how before her husband committed suicide Willey
co-signed with him a promissary note for more than $250,000 to a Richmond
produce company, but she still has not paid the money. Mitchell's
on-camera source: Joseph Kaestner, lawyer for the produce company.
Pointing out that Willey has an affluent
lifestyle, Mitchell pondered: "How can she live well to this day and
not pay her debts? Her chief creditor says by hiding her assets, making
sure her husband's million dollar insurance policy went to her son and
daughter instead of to her. Financial problems aren't the only questions
being raised about Willey. This sworn deposition from Willey three years
ago seems to conflict with her latest account of what happened between her
and the President in November of 1993..."
Mitchell outlined the discrepancy before
concluding: "These apparent contradictions raise questions about
Willey's background, but do not speak to what happened in the Oval
office that day."
So why so much more on Willey's
disparities than on Clinton's contradictions?
On a day filled with character assassination against Kathleen Willey,
let's recall who much of the media consider the true victim: Bill
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens recently came
across this telling comment in a February 27 Dateline NBC story on the
controversy over whether Secret Service agents should be forced to
testify. Reporter Josh Mankiewicz intoned:
"But ever since agents began guarding
Presidents after the assassination of William McKinley, the Secret Service
has kept its secrets. Now the man investigating the President may want to
ask agents in the White House what they know about Bill Clinton and Monica
Lewinsky. And that's made a lot current and former agents wonder who
they're supposed to protect the President from -- an assassin, or a
It's Kathleen Willey who needs protection
from character assassination.
-- Brent Baker
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