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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday, March 20, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 48)

Steele & Star Sting Willey; CNN's Liberal Women; Travolta Hugs Clinton

1) Julie Steele's tale falls apart, but ABC and CNN claim she causes "more credibility problems" for Willey. Nets upset by Willey talking to the Star, but Steele made deal with another tab.

2) CNN's Century of Liberal Women. Columnist Cal Thomas dissected the bias in the series hosted by Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda.

3) Primary Colors star John Travolta told Today that he doesn't want to know anything about Clinton's possible perjury. If your plane is crashing do you care who the pilot had sex with last night?

      "Plain as the News on Your Face: Clinton Lies and Obstruction That TV News Has Ignored," a just released MRC Special Report is now available at the top of the MRC home page.

     "Major media figures reprimanded themselves for going 'too far' with too little information on the Monica Lewinsky story. But a Media Research Center analysis of past TV coverage by Tim

     Graham presents five Clinton practices that deserve investigation in the Lewinsky case that the network news has downplayed or ignored in non-sexual scandals." Those are: "Hush Money for Friendly Witnesses," "Destruction or Hiding of Documents,"

     "Violating the Privacy Rights of Adversaries," "Failing to Comply with Subpoenas," and "Keeping Meetings Secret by Filing False Statements."

     To read the full report that MRC Web Manager Joe Alfonsi has posted, go to the top of the MRC home page: http://www.mrc.org or to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/specialreports/cov0319.html

Correction: The quote from NBC's Josh Mankiewicz cited in the March 19 CyberAlert was missing an "of." It should have read: "...And that's made a lot of current and former agents wonder who they're supposed to protect the President from -- an assassin, or a character assassination?"

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Reacting to the release of an affidavit from Kathleen Willey's friend Julie Steele, on Thursday Newsweek's Michael Isikoff told his colleagues that Steele's the one with credibility problems since her story keeps changing. But ABC and CNN were oblivious, leading their coverage with "more credibility problems for Kathleen Willey." ABC at least mentioned Isikoff's take, but not CNN. All the networks highlighted how Willey supposedly tried to make a deal with the Star tabloid, though only ABC and CNN noted that Steele already sold material to the National Enquirer. Despite the willingness of the media to pick up on all of the White House's anti-Willey spin, NBC's Lisa Myers concluded that "even some in the President's circle find Willey to be believable."

     Neither ABC or NBC mentioned who appeared before the grand jury. ABC and CBS skipped the floor comments from House Majority Whip Tom Delay condemning Clinton, but while CNN, FNC and NBC showed Delay they each ran a different soundbite. An Independent Counsel for Bruce Babbitt was picked Thursday, but ABC didn't bother telling viewers.

     Here's how the evening shows covered Monicagate on Thursday, March 19:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. "More credibility problems for Kathleen Willey. Did she ask a friend to lie about what happened in the Oval Office?" So teased Forrest Sawyer at the top of the show. Jackie Judd, in the show's first story, led with doubts about Willey:

     "A friend of Kathleen Willey claims Willey asked her to lie to back up her account of what happened in the Oval Office with President Clinton. Julie Steele says Willey wanted her to say that she had been told about the alleged encounter by Willey and that Willey had been disturbed by it. In an affidavit signed last month Steele claims Willey 'never told her of any sexual advances' by Mr. Clinton and that 'it would be all right if Steele lied' about it."

     Only after impugning Willey did Judd get to questions about Steele: "But the affidavit represents the third version of Steele's story. At one point Steele said Willey told her the President made a pass, but Willey didn't appear to be upset. Her first account, to a Newsweek reporter, had Willey graphically describing the alleged incident the same day it occurred."

     Michael Isikoff, Newsweek: "And that Kathleen Willey was, in Julie Steele's words, humiliated by it and upset about it."

     Judd: "After Steele recanted and accused Willey of asking her to lie, she sold her story to the National Enquirer for $7,000. Meanwhile, another tabloid, the Star, claims that it tried brokering a deal last month to buy Willey's story..."

     After a soundbite from Star Managing Editor Phil Bunton, Judd concluded:

     "At this point it is impossible to know where the truth lies, but Clinton aides feel that sufficient damage has been done to Willey's credibility, some inflicted by the White House itself, that she is not a threat to President Clinton in the way she appeared to be just several days ago."

     Indeed not when her accuser's consistency is shown lacking but a network leads with how it is Willey with the credibility problem.

     Next, Linda Douglass checked in from Capitol Hill with a look at how Henry Hyde and Newt Gingrich are "struggling" with what to do when Starr forwards his report.

     -- CBS Evening News led with how the El Nino effect will soon be over. About halfway through the show, after pieces on the Dodgers sale to Murdoch, school violence and New York City's decision to make students wear uniforms, anchor Bob Schieffer noted that the grand jury heard from Clinton friend Marsh Scott.

     Bill Plante then summarized the other developments, starting with GOP leaders figuring out how to handle the report from Starr. Plante soon moved on to Willey:

     "The President's friends continued attacking Kathleen Willey's credibility. And the New York Daily News says Willey tried to sell her story to the supermarket tabloid Star magazine. Phil Bunton, the Star's Managing Editor, says he initiated a bid for Willey's story."

     Bunton: "Initially she didn't want to do any deals with us, didn't want to talk. But suddenly the beginning of February this year her attorney said she might talk if we were prepared to pay at least $300,000."

     Unlike Judd, Plante emphasized questions about Steele: "And today there is new information that Julie Hiatt Steele, who contradicted Willey's story may have credibility problems of her own. Steele claimed in sworn testimony that Willey never described sexual advances by the President, but did ask her to lie and tell Newsweek that it had happened. Newsweek said today that Steele did originally tell them that Willey had 'graphically described being fondled by the President' on the day it happened, only later did Steele change her story to the magazine to match her sworn statement."

     Plante concluded: "As one of the attorney's told CBS News earlier in the case, the President may have been boorish but he wasn't causing sexual harassment."

     Next, Schieffer introduced a story on "yet another independent counsel." Phil Jones explained what prompted the appointment of an IC to look into Bruce Babbitt.

     -- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Anchor Joie Chen read a brief item on Babbitt, then went to John King who explained how

     Hyde and Gingrich are having preliminary discussions on how to proceed while protecting grand jury material. King ran a soundbite from Delay, observing that "conservatives aren't shy about questioning the President's candor."

     Delay: "If the President would just tell the truth to the American people it would go a long, long way toward bringing this ordeal to an end."

     King: "But sources tell CNN that Gingrich is highly sensitive to the election year politics of investigating a President whose poll numbers are sky high..."

     Following King, Chen reported that a friend of Monica Lewinsky and Marsha Scott, a long time Clinton aide, testified before the grand jury. CNN then went to Wolf Blitzer who led with the Star deal and failed to note questions about Steele, treating her affidavit as more proof that Willey made it all up:

     "For President Clinton's supporters, there's more evidence Kathleen Willey may have had a financial motive in accusing him of groping her. The editor of the Star tabloid says Willey's lawyer last month asked for at least $300,000 to tell her story..."

     After a clip of Bunton and a denial from Willey's lawyer, Blitzer regurgited yesterday's news: "Earlier this week, a Los Angeles publisher, Michael Viner, said Willey's lawyer had also asked for $300,000 for a book deal...

     "On Wednesday, Willey's former friend, Julie Steele, released a sworn affidavit accusing Willey of asking her to lie about the incident to a reporter. In her 60 Minutes interview, Willey had this explanation for Steele's accusation. 'The White House wanted to discredit me and they found a pawn in her.' Steele already has cashed in. Her lawyer confirms to CNN she sold a picture of Willey and the President to the National Enquirer for $7,000, and for thousands of dollars to other news organizations as well, including to CNN..."

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. Carl Cameron began his top of the show story: "For the first time, a senior member of the Republican congressional leadership has suggested on the floor of the U.S. House that White House stonewalling could lead to impeachment proceedings."

     Tom Delay: "I can't think of a better way to bring on formal congressional proceedings than to go on hindering, obstructing and belittling the judicial proceedings that are now underway."

     Cameron proceeded to run down the debate about how to handle an inquiry, whether by naming a select group or by empowering the entire Judiciary Committee.

     Rita Cosby started the next story: "The credibility of Kathleen Willey, the latest woman to allege the President made sexual advances toward her, is coming under ferocious attack."

     Cosby explained the Star deal and Steele's affidavit. Cosby reported that the White House is adding to its payroll former Deputy FBI Director Larry Potts, now with Investigative Group International.

     -- NBC Nightly News led with how Clinton is expected to take steps to improve relations with Cuba by allowing more humanitarian aid cash to be sent to the island nation.

     NBC devoted the In Depth segment to the "complicated tale of Kathleen Willey." Brokaw slid into the story by noting that

     "Majority Whip Tom Delay said the President has violated America's trust."

     Delay: "Mr. Speaker, a presidency enveloped in scandal is good for nobody and the faith that the American people have out in President Clinton has been violated time and time again."

     Brokaw picked up again: "The Kathleen Willey story took still another turn today. NBC's Lisa Myers sorts out her sometimes conflicting tales, beginning with that fateful day when she says she had an unwelcome encounter with the President of the United States."

     Myers recounted Willey's activities on November 29, 1993 starting with her 7am train to DC from Richmond. Pointing out her financial troubles and the conflicts between her version and Clinton's version of their meeting, Myers continued: "A half hour later, upon leaving the Oval Office, Willey says she shared her story with two friends, Linda Tripp who largely confirms her account, and later with Julie Steele. But Steele now claims under oath that Willey never said anything about a sexual advance and later asked her to lie and say she did. But today a Newsweek reporter said it's Steele's story that keeps changing."

     Michael Isikoff: "As recently as three weeks ago Julie Steele did confirm to me again that Kathleen Willey had told her at some point about a sexual overture that had been made by the President."

     Returning to the 1993 events, Myers recounted how upon returning home Willey could not locate her husband and his body was found the next day. After jobs at a bakery, as a receptionist and flight attendant, she now lives on $4,500 from her kids, but still owes the $275,00 her husband allegedly embezzled. "That financial strain may be behind Willey's alleged effort to get a $300,000 book deal, maybe even sell her story to a tabloid..."

     Myers offered this unique spin in her conclusion:

     "Willey's lawyer denies it and she ultimately told her story for nothing. There are some questions about her motives and a few inconsistencies, still even some in the President's circle find Willey to be believable."

     I don't recall such interest in what the Star wants to report or reported when it ran a story headlined "Clinton's Love Letters to Monica: 'I Must See You...Call Me, Bill.'" Lower on the cover of the February 17 edition: "Monica's Shocking X-Rated Letter to Prez. 'You're Ungrateful...Didn't You Ever Think I Wanted (Satisfaction) Too?'"

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)CNN's Century of Liberal Women. Cal Thomas wrote a column this week on a subject I've been meaning to get to for a couple of weeks, CNN's Sunday night Perspectives series titled "A Century of Women." The four part series, aired at 8pm ET and 12am ET, started on March 8 with part three airing this Sunday. It's "presented by" Hillary Clinton, who makes opening and closing comments, and narrated by Jane Fonda.

     Thomas does a better job than I can of reciting the liberal slant, so here are the first few paragraphs from Thomas's Los Angeles Times Syndicate column:

     "Conservative media critics have occasionally referred to CNN disparagingly as the 'Clinton News Network' because of a perceived bias in favor of the President. But a series running this month shows it is more the network of the wife of CNN

     Chairman Ted Turner and could be named JFN, 'Jane Fonda's Network.'

     "In observance of Women's History Month, CNN is airing on four Sunday nights 'A Century of Women: Justice for All,'hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton and featuring perhaps the most one-sided, biased and distorted view of women ever seen on television. Among the women showcased are actresses Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Glenn Close and Jodie Foster (who recently announced her unmarried pregnancy), Maya Angelou, Grace Slick and R-rated author Erica Jong, who apparently believes true equality for women means being able to talk as dirty as the proverbial sailor. Also included are the grandchildren of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whose advocacy of birth control and abortion is praised, but whose racist views and endorsement of eugenics to produce a 'master race' is conveniently ignored.

     "The only conservative woman on the series is Phyllis Schlafly, whose name is misspelled 'Schafley' in the press release.

     "When men appear -- if they are not acting like 'Stepford husbands' -- they are opposed to women's rights and equality. They are abusers, rapists and insensitive brutes. Mothers who choose to stay at home with their children because they regard this as a higher calling than a career that pays in currency are treated with disdain when they are considered at all...."

     MRC news analyst Clay Waters informed me that to read the entire column you can go to this address where it's posted: http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a140415/htm

     It's not to late to tune in and hear the propaganda. Here are the summaries from the CNN Web site of parts three and four:

     "March 22: Writing Our Lives -- The contributions and influence of women in movies, television, art and dance are chronicled through the groundbreaking efforts of Martha Graham, Georgia O'Keefe and Lucille Ball. Interviews include Maya Angelou, Roseanne, Carol Burnett, Twyla Tharpe and Jessica Lange.

     "March 29: Bed & Board -- This episode tells the stories of women trying to balance the dual demands of work and motherhood as seen through the eyes of such diverse figures, from labor leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to Hillary Rodham Clinton. This look at women's lives in the 20th century continues as WWII puts women in the work force and changes the social fabric of American life for decades to come."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) I see nothing. I know nothing. I don't want to know anything. That's the attitude of John Travolta, star of the movie Primary Colors opening today (March 20), toward the investigation of Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Thursday morning, March 19, Today aired a taped interview with him conducted by co-host Matt Lauer. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens couldn't overlook this exchange and transcribed it so we could all benefit from Travolta's penetrating analysis:

     Lauer: "Let's talk about this guy Bill Clinton. Or let's talk about an American President. Probably the most powerful guy in the world. How much about his personal life do we have a right to know?"

     Travolta: "Personally my viewpoint?"

     Lauer: "Yeah."

     Travolta: "None."

     Lauer: "Nothing?"

     Travolta: "Nothing."

     Lauer: "That door shuts at the White House."

     Travolta: "Yes."

     Lauer: "It shuts and what happens behind it."

     Travolta: "I think when you start to ask personal questions you better be prepared for the answers, because you are invading someone's privacy. I mean, are you married?"

     Lauer: "No."

     Travolta: "Okay you have a girlfriend?"

     Lauer: "Uh huh."

     Travolta: "Okay. If someone were to say to you, 'Now look, what did you do last night when you had sex with your girlfriend?'"

     Lauer: "Right."

     Travolta: "Wouldn't that be an invasion of your privacy? Would you like, like to  tell the details of that?"

     Lauer: "No. Probably not."

     Travolta: "Oh, well then there you go."

     Lauer: "Alright let me, let me turn it around though. If I were the President of the United States and I were married and potentially I had a girlfriend, and potentially I lied about the girlfriend in a sworn deposition would we have a right to know about that?"

     Travolta: "Because, well I don't know about that but that would be between his wife and him I guess."

     Lauer: "It ties into the message of this movie. So if we've got a guy whose got great ideas for the future of this country, but who is flawed, who maybe, has a problem with women, we should still consider that guy to run this country."

     Travolta: "Why not? It would be like if you were on an airplane and the captain of the airplane, you suddenly out of nowhere, you're having a problem and you are crashing, you find out who, what happened to him that you didn't agree with last night, you're gonna pull him out of the seat? And let the plane crash?"

     Lauer: "Some would say do you not let him get in the seat in the first place though."

     Travolta: "Well then I'd say have that person who can sit in that seat with no background do it."

     Lauer: "He who can fly this plane better fly it?"

     Travolta: "There you go, you know."

Note how even after Travolta makes clear he doesn't want to know anything, Lauer poses serious philosophical questions, as if Travolta really were a presidential candidate with opinions that matter. Reality and fiction do merge.

   -- Brent Baker

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