Reporters Buy the Champagne; Starr the Peeping Tom of Salem
1) CBS complained that
independent counsels hurt the innocent; for weeks the networks ignored how
taxpayers are picking up the tab for Clinton's personal lawyers, then
NBC's John Palmer obligingly relayed the White House spin blaming GOP
2)In Senegal last week,
Clinton aides celebrated the Jones decision with champagne. Champagne
bought by reporters.
3) Newsweek's Jonathan Alter
suggested Paula Jones "get a life" and that Ken Starr "will
go down in history as the Peeping Tom prosecutor." Not quite how he
assessed things in 1991.
4) Eleanor Clift hailed
Clinton's victory over Jones: "We don't live in Salem and I think
the country is sick of the witch hunt."
5) In the race to fill Sonny
Bono's seat today Hollywood stars contributed to the Democratic
6) Letterman's "Top Ten
Other Ways Bill Clinton is the Luckiest Man in the World."
time devoted to Monicagate and/or Paula Jones has fallen day by day since
the Jones decision last week.
-- On Monday night, April 6, all the
networks led with the new breast cancer prevention drug and ABC, CBS and
NBC did not run anything on the Clinton scandal front. All featured full
stories on the Clinton move to ban importation of some types of weapons.
On the CBS Evening News, after Scott Pelley pointed out how many loopholes
Clinton's proposal still allowed, reporter Jim Stewart came at the issue
from the left: "Pick almost any scene from a slaughter in recent U.S.
history and at the core of it you'll find a madman and his assault
On CNN's The World Today anchor Joie Chen
took a few seconds to note that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear
arguments about whether the lawyer for Vince Foster must turn over to Ken
Starr his notes of conversations with Foster. Only FNC's Fox Report at
7pm ET aired a full story. David Shuster ran through how Starr was in
Little Rock Monday, how the Supreme Court is expected to hear the Foster
case in June and rule by July, how Newt Gingrich said Clinton is trying to
confuse the public by claiming the Jones dismissal vindicates him, and how
people are waiting to see if Jones will appeal.
-- Last Friday night, April 3, ABC,
CNN, FNC and NBC aired stories on the status on Starr's investigation
and how the White House claimed vindication and demanded the Congress act
on its agenda.
-- On Saturday night ABC gave a few seconds
to the scandal, NBC skipped it entirely and CBS showcased a story on how
independent counsels have harassed people beyond their original scope
while Starr too might do no better than catch people lying.
CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson examined how
little people have been hurt by other independent counsels straying beyond
their mandate. As examples Attkisson cited two people convicted of lying
to a federal official: the sister of the woman with whom Henry Cisneros
had an affair and the chief-of-staff to Mike Espy. Noting how all the
Clinton-related ICs have cost $53 million so far, Attkisson bemoaned:
"All that power, time and money has
netted little in the way of major charges against top officials. That has
people wondering whether Kenneth Starr will end up with serious findings
against President Clinton, or merely bring charges of lying against
associates like Monica Lewinsky."
In his Saturday GOP radio address, Senator
Ben Nighthorse Campbell complained about the excessive number of
taxpayer-paid lawyers working on Clinton's personal matters. That
generated this brief item from ABC anchor Aaron Brown on World News
Tonight Saturday: "Republicans today accused President Clinton of
using tax dollars to deal with his personal legal problems. In the GOP
radio address, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell said there may be as many
as a hundred lawyers and legal assistants paid with tax money defending
the President against allegations about his personal behavior."
On the CBS Evening News Paula Zahn gave
Campbell's point 16 seconds while NBC ran two full stories tied to
Clinton's radio address about the tobacco deal, but ignored the
Republican response. Those two brief network mentions are all the network
news the lawyer controversy has generated so far despite multiple
Washington Times stories by Paul Bedard about Republican complaints and
congressional hearings looking into the matter. "White House Lawyers
May Get the Ax: Hill GOP Balks at Taxpayer Funding" announced a March
19 Washington Times headline. A March 25 headline revealed: "White
House Has Twice the Lawyers it Stated Earlier." And just last week a
Times headline declared: "White House Stonewalls on Work of
But none of that led to a single ABC, CBS,
NBC morning or evening news show story, nor a CNN report in prime time,
reported MRC analysts Geoffrey Dickens, Eric Darbe, Gene Eliasen and Steve
Though NBC Nightly News skipped the lawyers
Saturday night, on Sunday's Today (April 5) MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
noticed that John Palmer did mention the controversy, only to emphasize
the sarcastic reaction from White House, not to pursue the misuse of
taxpayer dollars. Wrapping up a week in review type story Palmer asserted:
"A Republican Senator claimed that as
many as one hundred lawyers and legal aides may be working at taxpayer
expense to defend President Clinton against sex charges."
After a soundbite of Senator Campbell,
Palmer continued: "Well, the White House called that charge
absolutely reckless, said there's no where near that number of lawyers
and they say the Republicans in Congress are to blame because they've
requested so many documents from the White House. They say it's like an
arsonist saying the that Fire Department costs too much money."
Palmer chuckled through the last line. But
in the analogy he relayed it's really Clinton who is the arsonist
insisting others pay to put out his fire.
celebrated Clinton's victory over the unjust Jones suit? That's right,
if you believe all the news that's fit to print. Keith Appell of
Creative Response Concepts alerted me to this sentence on an April 2 New
York Times story on Clinton team reaction in Senegal to the Jones
dismissal. Reporter James Bennet disclosed:
"Repairing to a French restaurant here
for a late dinner, some of the President's senior advisers wondered over
champagne -- ordered and paid for by journalists -- whether this
development in the case might cause the news media to stop panting after
salacious details about public officials."
How many times would you guess these
reporters bought champagne for Reagan aides celebrating a victory?
on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on April 1, Newsweek's
resident "conventional wisdom" creator Jonathan Alter delivered
his spin on the fallout of the Jones dismissal. The MRC's Tim Graham
took down his comments and found they offered quite a contrast to how
Alter assessed Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas in 1991.
On Jones, Alter declared: "She's
obviously a footnote to history now. But she also, when there's summary
judgment, that's another way of saying 'You're a nuisance.' That's what
summary judgment means, that it's a nuisance lawsuit, a frivolous lawsuit.
She's been a professional litigant for the last five years, so now she'll
have to get on and get a life. She has shown an interest in acting.
Doubtful that the Royal Shakespeare Company will be seeking her services,
but she might get a guest spot or something like that on [the redneck
sitcom of Jeff] Foxworthy. That's about what her future holds."
On Starr: "Thumbs down for him. It
really makes his job a lot more difficult. What is he gonna do? Subpoena
Judge Wright and charge her with obstruction of justice because she's
gotten in his way? I think he should be winding down investigation,
putting his cards on the table. If he doesn't come forward very soon with
credible evidence of lawbreaking, he will go down in history as the
Peeping Tom prosecutor."
Compare those condemnations to what Alter
penned in the October 21, 1991 Newsweek:
"C. Thomas (down arrow): He's
lying (Isn't he?) Effective denials, but stop crying racism."
"A. Hill (up arrow): She's a
brave truth teller (Isn't she?) Her details, lack of motive tip the
colleague at Newsweek Eleanor Clift also got another shot in at Starr,
intoning on this past weekend's McLaughlin Group:
"We don't live in Salem and I think
the country is sick of the witch hunt. The Paula Jones case was the
gateway to Miss Lewinsky. Now that the Jones case has been thrown out, I
think it's going to be very difficult to go after a young woman and try
to force her to answer questions about intimate matters. We do recognize
in this country rights of privacy. And the notion that Ken Starr would
indict this woman for a possible consensual relationship if it existed is
a public relations disaster and I think a legal disaster also in the terms
of how this country operates and what we stand for..."
backs another Democrat. Today (April 7) Sonny Bono's widow Mary faces
off against Democrat Ralph Waite in an election to see who can finish
Sonny Bono's term in the House. The March 16 Roll Call newspaper listed
some of those who have contributed to the campaign of Waite, who played
the father on the Waltons, to win the Southern California seat: Al Pacino,
Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Rob Reiner, Richard Dreyfuss and Larry
the April 3 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other Ways
Bill Clinton is the Luckiest Man in the World." Copyright 1998 by
Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Everyone assumes that all of Tipper
Gore's kids are Al's.
9. According to the latest letter from Ed
McMahon, he may be the winner of ten million dollars!
8. New Air Force One will be equipped
with a Mexican love hammock.
7. Can eat as much as he wants and not
gain...well, he can eat as much as he wants.
6. He's got a patient, understanding
wife, and Hillary's never found out about her.
5. Nobody knows he killed Jacques
4. As President, receives copies of the
"Garfield" comic strip several days in advance.
3. Portrayed in movie by John Travolta,
and not George "Goober" Lindsey.
2. The American people haven't
drop-kicked his fat ass back to Arkansas.
1. Starting next week -- a fresh crop of
I'd add: a very favorable media eager to
move on to anything but scandal as soon as they can. Why else buy
champagne to help your aides celebrate your ability to escape another
-- Brent Baker
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