GOP Blocks Great Reform; Hitting Jones for a "Scurrilous" Attack
1) ABC more upset by
failure of campaign reform than by Clinton obstructionism. CBS focused
only on Bennett denouncing the Jones lawyers. Only FNC told viewers that
Clinton may refuse to testify.
2) Many highlighted a
study showing exorbitant reliance upon weakly sourced material in
Monicagate, but reporters didn't bother telling viewers that's no
different than how they handled Iran-Contra.
3) A special treat
tonight: two hours of Bryant Gumbel.
Correction: The March 27
CyberAlert referred to how the CBS Evening News ran a story on an
"anti-impotency bill." Congress did not solve the problem.
That's an anti-impotency "pill."
the first time since last Tuesday's shooting in Jonesboro, it led none
of the networks Monday night. Though NBC's Tom Brokaw asserted the
Clinton scandal front "is very active again," ABC's World News
Tonight did not utter a word about the subject. Instead of telling viewers
what the Jones lawyers asserted in their filing, Dan Rather simply relayed
the angry response from Bon Bennett.
NBC and FNC led with Clinton scandal with
FNC the only network to consider newsworthy the likelihood that Clinton
will refuse to appear before the grand jury. The other three networks were
all over the place. The refusal of Republicans to pass campaign finance
reform topped ABC. The CBS Evening News started with El Nino-caused
tornadoes in Minnesota and CNN's The World Today began with the
discovery of a protein which inhibits the HIV virus.
Some highlights from the Monday, March 30
-- Peter Jennings teased at the top of the
broadcast: "On World News Tonight this Monday. All
that money in politics. So many promises about change. They'll be no
reform from this Congress. All that money in politics and what is it doing
to the debate about drunk driving? Is the liquor industry calling the
Linda Douglass began her opening piece:
"For the first time it appears there are enough votes in both houses
of Congress to pass sweeping campaign finance legislation. But today top
Republican leaders made sure it will not happen, prompting outrage among
"For nearly three years House Speaker
Newt Gingrich has promised to follow up on a deal he made with President
Clinton to clean up the money in politics..."
Douglass concluded: "Some Republicans
are vowing to try again. They say they'd rather defy their leaders than
try to explain to the voters at home why they failed once more to get the
big money out of politics."
Next, John Cochran looked at how MADD is
getting outspent by industry lobbyists in its effort to impose a national
.08 blood alcohol level.
-- CBS Evening News. After
the first ad break Dan Rather intoned:
"President Clinton's lawyers today
accused attorneys for Paula Jones of quote 'scurrilous harassment'
unquote and asked a judge to find Jones's lawyers in contempt. Among
other things, they said claims by the Jones camp that the Clintons had
obstructed justice by withholding letters written by Kathleen Willey were,
quote 'ludicrous.' They also blasted Jones's lawyers for re-raising
a twenty-year-old, unsubstantiated rape allegation against Mr. Clinton.
"There was a setback of sorts for
special prosecutor Kenneth Starr today at the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices
rejected Starr's request for access to notes taken by a lawyer for late
White House aide Vice Foster just days before Foster's suicide in 1993.
Starr insists he wants these notes now while his criminal investigation of
Hillary Clinton. The high court says it will hear arguments on Starr's
request but not until next fall."
Unlike NBC viewers, ABC and CBS viewers
don't even know the woman's name. Rather's one sentence dismissal of
the 1978 incident means CBS viewers really have no idea what the Jones
team is charging happened. As recounted in the March 30 CyberAlert, here
is all March 29 Evening News viewers learned from Sharyl
"...The White House describes as
outrageous and false other allegations in the new Jones documents --
unsubstantiated claims that Bill Clinton raped a woman back in 1978 when
he was Arkansas's Attorney General, then suppressed her story through
bribes and/or threats. Outraged Clinton defenders say the woman is on the
record denying that it ever happened."
After a soundbite from Torricelli,
Attkisson delivered this less than definitive conclusion:
"And adding to the confusion, when we
asked the woman's attorney about the rape allegation he told CBS News,
quote 'we do not deny it, we do not admit it. People will have to judge
this kind of crock on their own,' end quote. But with overlapping
investigations and sealed documents that will be hard to do."
-- CNN's The World Today
at 8pm ET. Bob Franken explained how Bob Bennett was seeking
sanctions against Jones's lawyers, noting that Bennett called the attack
"'an ongoing plan to taint the jury pool, an act of desperation, a
stalking horse for the investigation being conducted by the independent
counsel.' He provided as support an affidavit from a University of
Southern California student who claimed to be among those at a meeting
with Paula Jones spokesperson Susan Carpenter McMillan. Benjamin Baker
said McMillan had 'explained that it was her job for Mrs. Jones to
poison the jury pool so that no potential juror would like President
Franken allowed McMillan to deny the charge
and while he noted that the woman at the center of the assault story said
it never happened, unlike Rather, Franken added: "The Jones team
counters the woman was pressured to change her story."
-- FNC's Fox Report at
7pm ET. Anchor Catherine Crier led with an angle missed by all the other
"The President promised Americans
he'd tell all about the Monica Lewinsky case when the time comes, but it
looks like he won't be telling anything to the grand jury."
Reporter David Shuster filled in the
details, explaining how "now that prosecutors are actually ready for
Mr. Clinton to appear in front of the Lewinsky grand jury several members
of Mr. Clinton's legal team have advised the President not to testify at
-- Tom Brokaw opened NBC Nightly
News: "The shocking news out of Jonesboro, Arkansas last
week, that school shooting and the President's trip to Africa then, all
of that moved the White House sex scandal back a few paces. But tonight it
is very active again. The President's lawyer responding to allegations
that surfaced over the weekend, a new story about President Clinton and an
alleged old encounter."
David Bloom began: "Well Tom, this is
knock down drag the other side through the mud fight and tonight the
President's lawyers want Paula Jones's lawyers held in contempt of
Bloom relayed how Bennett says the Jones
team maneuver to raise the rape charge was an "act of
desperation" and that Juanita Broaddrick denied the allegation. Like
Saturday night, only NBC mentioned her name.
Next, Brokaw bemoaned the loss of liberal
campaign finance reform legislation: "And on Capitol Hill, after all
the political lightening and thunder about the need to reform the way
campaigns are financed in this country. In the House of Representatives
tonight a maneuver to kill off any chance of reform for this year. The
Republican leadership decided to put forward watered down bills and limit
debate with no amendments and everyone says that will end campaign finance
March winds down I've realized that there's news from February I never
had room to fit into a CyberAlert. So, before any more time passes,
here's an item I meant to run weeks ago on how despite media complaints
about the overuse of anonymous sources in the Clinton scandal, that's
actually no different than what happened during Iran-Contra. Here's the
item as run in the March MediaWatch Newsbites column:
Media Masochism Update. To demonstrate
media excess in Monicagate coverage, some networks and print outlets
highlighted a study showing exorbitant reliance upon weakly sourced
material. But reporters didn't bother telling viewers that's no
different than how they handled Iran-Contra.
CNN's Inside Politics devoted a February
18 segment to a study of major networks and print outlets sponsored by the
Committee of Concerned Journalists (CCJ). Anchor Jeanne Meserve explained
it "shows, in the first six days of coverage, 41 percent was
analysis/opinion; 25 percent was based on a single named source; 18
percent on anonymous sources; and one percent on two named sources."
During a March 5 Nightline on how the public believed the media were
over-covering the scandal, ABC's Chris Bury also picked up the study,
relaying the finding that "40 percent of all reporting based on
anonymous sources was from a single source."
But a February 23 Center for Media and
Public Affairs (CMPA) press release announced that "contrary to the
claims of some media critics," their study "showed no marked
increase in the use of anonymous sources." Looking at the first ten
days of Lewinsky coverage on the broadcast networks, CMPA found that
"more than half of all reports (56 percent) cited at least one
unnamed source. This is comparable to network coverage of the first month
of the Iran-Contra scandal in November 1986, when 57 percent of all
reports quoted unnamed sources."
Contrary to media self-loathing about
unfairness to Clinton, the CMPA noted Clinton fared much better than his
accusers: "Researchers tallied all 537 sound bites containing
judgments of Mr. Clinton, and found nearly as many were supportive (48
percent) as critical (52 percent)....Other scandal figures, however,
didn't fare as well. Linda Tripp was criticized by 69 percent of quoted
sources, and Monica Lewinsky was panned by 75 percent. For his part,
independent counsel Kenneth Starr was criticized by 70 percent of quoted
To read the whole CMPA report or to see
their other scandal analysis (they are the group which tracks the
political content of the late-night show jokes), go to: http://www.cmpa.com.
The inability of CBS to find a prime time drama anyone will watch means
that tonight we get two hours of Bryant Gumbel. First they canceled
Dellaventura, then replaced it with Four Corners. That lasted two weeks.
The entertainment division has given up and turned 10pm on Tuesdays over
to the news division, at least for the short term. Last week that meant a
second 48 Hours. Tonight, a second hour of Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel.
Definitely an NYPD Blue night.
-- Brent Baker
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