Tobacco Disappointment; Gays Before Starr; CNN "Has Damaged" the U.S.
1) Dan Rather blamed
"heavy money" for killing the tobacco bill. More on
"Republican" Ken Starr. ABC raised the possibility Kathleen
Willey was intimidated. Brokaw: Is GOP "too narrow?"
2) Trent Lott's comments
prompted ABC's Charles Gibson to demand: "Why are so many politicians
finding it so attractive to attack homosexuality?" But ABC skipped
Starr's refutation of Brill.
3) "CNN has damaged the
United States of America quite seriously," charged CNN's own military
affairs consultant. Now, CNN may sue if he talks about how he thinks their
nerve gas story is baseless.
>>> "Networks Ignore Story of
Deputy White House Counsel Contacting Lewinsky Probe Witnesses: Friends of
Bill Become Friends of Brill," the latest MRC Media Reality Check is
now up on the MRC home page. The fax report by Tim Graham begins:
"This is a tale of two news stories on the Lewinsky probe. One
reflects badly on the White House: the Los Angeles Times reported that
Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey contacted Monicagate witnesses.
One reflects badly on Kenneth Starr: the debut issue of the alleged
journalism review Brill's Content attacks Starr for admitting he's briefed
reporters. A fair, complete media outlet might feel compelled to do both.
Guess which one the networks selected -- and hyped?" The direct
address for the full report: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1998/fax0617.htm
Corrections and Clarifications:
a) Steve Kaminski, our
recently departed media analyst now toiling for a law firm as he completes
his legal studies, has informed me that the infamous Rule 6(e), which
Steven Brill insists Ken Starr violated, is part of the Federal Rules of
Criminal Procedure, not the Federal Rules of Evidence as stated in the
June 15 CyberAlert. Since he has not taken the bar exam I was not charged
for the e-mail consultation.
b) Several errors occurred
in the June 12 CyberAlert, but one really didn't. I did incorrectly quoted
Sam Donaldson as saying "it's like cutting off your nose despite your
face." That should have been "to spite." At another point
in summarizing a Linda Douglass story on a bill to require parental
permission for minors to get an abortion in another state, I said Douglass
"made the proposed law seem less than rationale." That should
have read "rational." One alert reader pointed out that I quoted
NBC's Claire Shipman as reporting a furor "over a presidential
decision the allow a Chinese satellite on a U.S. rocket." The reader
correctly observed that was a "decision to..." Further, the
reader noted it was really a U.S. satellite on a Chinese rocket. True, but
not what Shipman said. I checked again and she did say "a Chinese
satellite on a U.S. rocket." Unlike CyberAlert, NBC Nightly News does
not offer corrections.
dead tobacco bill topped Wednesday night's ABC and CNN newscasts while CBS
and NBC went first with the U.S. Treasury bailout of the Japanese yen. FNC
led with fires in Northeast Florida. The ABC and CBS tobacco stories
reflected disappointment that the bill failed as Dan Rather blamed
"Senate Republicans under heavy pressure and heavy money from the
tobacco lobby." The three broadcast networks skipped the House vote
to abolish the tax code by 2002, but both CNN and FNC ran full stories.
NBC's Tom Brokaw profiled Texas Governor George W. Bush, worrying the GOP
may be too "narrow" for the younger Bush to lead.
On the Monicagate and Brillgate front, Dan
Rather highlighted how the Justice Department may launch an investigation
of what Rather denigrated as "Republican special prosecutor Ken
Starr's conduct and tactics." ABC's Jackie Judd exclusively
highlighted how Kathleen Willey claims she was threatened with slashed
tires and more but, assured Judd, "there is no evidence that anyone
working on behalf of the President was involved."
Some highlights from the Wednesday, June 17
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Fill-in anchor
Charles Gibson opened by lamenting: "After all the hype and all the
promises, the tobacco bill in Congress is dead."
Assuming the loss meant something
"went wrong," reporter Linda Douglass laid the blame, her
analysis interspersed with the culpable tobacco industry ads:
"But what went so wrong? First, the tobacco companies got mad when
Congress started talking about raising the price of cigarettes higher and
higher....The smoking industry unleashed a $40 million ad campaign
charging member of Congress just wanted to get their hands on tobacco
money so they could spend it....Then came polls showing the public didn't
trust Congress's motives."
After a soundbite from Vin Weber, Douglass
noted: "Figuring they had nothing to lose, Republicans who were
against the bill began loading it up with programs that had nothing to do
Later, ABC delivered an exclusive on
intimidation of Kathleen Willey. Gibson explained: "There is a story
tonight about what may have happened to a key witness in the Monica
Lewinsky investigation before she testified in front of the grand jury.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr is investigating and ABC News has
learned that someone may have tried to influence the testimony of former
White House volunteer Kathleen Willey."
Judd detailed how in the weeks before she
testified her car tires were punctured and her cat disappeared. Days
before her Jones lawsuit deposition in January, while she was out jogging
a stranger approached and asked about the tires, cat and her kids by name,
saying to Willey: "Don't you get the message?" Willey testified
anyway. The damage to her tires and her cat's disappearance have been
confirmed, Judd reported before concluding: "Investigators have not
been able to establish the identity of the stranger or if the jogging
incident occurred as Willey, the sole witness, alleges. And there is no
evidence that anyone working on behalf of the President was involved. So
for now it is impossible to know whether this is just a bizarre story, or
if it is a case of someone trying to intimidate a witness."
-- CBS Evening News. Following the yen
story, Rather transitioned into the tobacco developments:
"Another breaking story tonight with
huge implications for the health of the U.S. economy and the health of
smokers. The months-in-the-making multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement
bill is dead. Finished. Senate Republicans under heavy pressure and heavy
money from the tobacco lobby, voted tonight to kill it."
Bob Schieffer ran down the day's Senate
events, airing this bite from Senator Trent Lott: "What's wrong with
this bill now is it's lost sight of the original, noble cause of just
dealing with the question of teenage smoking and drug abuse.'
Schieffer concluded by countering:
"What Lott did not say is that many of the extras on the bill were
added by Republicans. First they tacked on expensive programs, then voted
to kill the bill because they said the added costs exceeded Senate
Rather then offered an update on Starr, but
in just 18 seconds managed to show how contrary to Brill's contention the
networks are hardly Starr allies as Rather once again discredited Starr
with a partisan label:
"Justice Department officials are
discussing whether to open an investigation into Republican special
prosecutor Ken Starr's conduct and tactics. These talks are said to be
preliminary, but in the words of one high government source that we
believe to be highly credible, the word is quote, 'serious.'"
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Gene
Randall and Charles Bierbauer handled the top of the show tobacco pieces,
followed by John King on the 219-209 House vote to abolish the tax code.
Wolf Blitzer handled Monicagate, reporting that Senator Tom Daschle joined
the call for an investigation of Starr. Blitzer allowed Bush legal counsel
C. Boyden Gray to insist Starr's actions were legal and note that Lawrence
Walsh did the same thing. "The purpose of the White House assault is
to keep Starr off balance as the President's supporters brace for a
possible immunity agreement between Starr and Monica Lewinsky,"
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Steve Centanni
provided a full report on the House vote to abolish the tax code in five
On Brillgate, co-anchor Jon Scott noted:
"Ken Starr may be bleeding. A lawyer familiar with the Lewinsky
scandals says she and her lawyers may not be so eager to strike a deal
with Starr because Brill's accusations put the prosecutor on a little
Later, Wendell Goler showed a FOP
protest over Clinton's failure to keep a campaign promise to back
collective bargaining and unionization for the uniformed division of the
Secret Service. (CNN mentioned the broken promise Tuesday, but only FNC
has run a full story.)
-- NBC Nightly News. Freudian slip? Here's
how Tom Brokaw introduced the tax, I mean tobacco, story:
"And tonight it's effectively over for
that big tax bill on, tobacco bill on Capitol Hill. This was a huge
setback for President Clinton and other congressional sponsors of the
tobacco bill. NBC's Gwen Iffil tonight on the President's reaction and
Like her competitors, she blamed the ads:
"The tide turned when tobacco companies appealed to smokers with
advertising that emphasized the new taxes."
NBC wrapped up the broadcast with a profile
of Texas Governor George W. Bush by Brokaw. He's discouraging presidential
talk and emphasizing his successes in fighting juvenile crime, pushing
welfare reform and improving education, Brokaw relayed. Noting he
regularly consults with former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, Brokaw
cautioned: "And he dismisses suggestions the GOP is tilting heavily
to the Christian conservative agenda." Brokaw asked: "Are you
concerned that your party is too narrowly cast?"
Bush replied: "The people who
tend to put labels on are not the citizens but the pundits and the
observers and, the average citizen doesn't care about labels they care
Massachusetts decision on au pair Louise Woodward led the CBS, CNN and FNC
newscasts Tuesday night while ABC went first with Trent Lott's not quite
PC assessment of homosexuality and NBC led with Ken Starr's reaction to
Steve Brill's attack. All but CNN ran full stories on the supposed
controversy over Lott's remarks equating being gay with being an alcoholic
or kleptomaniac. Every network but ABC gave at least some time to Starr's
retort. ABC didn't bother with it Wednesday night either. Tuesday night
only FNC mentioned Mike Espy or how other media outlets also countered
some of Brill's claims.
Highlights from the Tuesday, June 16
-- ABC's World News Tonight: In the top of
the show tease, based upon the remarks of one Senator agreed to by one
House member, anchor Charles Gibson demanded: "Why are so many
politicians finding it so attractive to attack homosexuality?"
Gibson began the show by elaborating:
"The Majority Leader of the United States Senate says homosexuality
is an addiction and a sin. The Majority Leader of the House of
Representatives echoes his Senate counterpart, quoting the Bible. In so
saying, these two leading Republicans have put homosexuality right in the
middle of the American political debate."
labeled homosexuality an addiction that needs to be treated,"
reporter John Cochran noted in leading into a clip from an interview with
Armstrong Williams on America's Voice, the channel formerly known as
National Empowerment Television: "My father had a problem, as I said,
with alcoholism. Other people have sex addictions. Other people, you know,
Cochran elaborated: "Lott urged compassion toward homosexuals but
said he agrees with football hero Reggie White, who has criticized their
lifestyle." Cochran ran a soundbite from Gary Bauer before adding:
"Moderate Republicans worry that presidential contenders may decide
gay bashing is if not politically correct, then at least politically
Lott illustrated the impact of Lott's
thinking by, probably for the first time ever on network TV, mentioning
the name of an ambassador-nominee to Luxembourg: "Senate Republicans
have blocked the confirmation of an openly gay nominee, James Hormel, to
become ambassador to Luxembourg. The White House was quick to link that to
Lott's latest remarks."
Cochran concluded by relaying Lott's view
that far from being "extreme" as McCurry charged, he reflects
"the views and values of the great majority of Americans."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather went
with Starr before Lott, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Stormy politics in Washington. A
federal court investigation into special prosecutor Ken Starr's secret
leaking of details to selected reporters about his case against the
Clintons, is far from over. But the impact on Starr's case is already
being felt, as CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley reports
Pelley explained: "Dan, this
controversy could hardly have come at a worse time for the obstruction of
justice investigation. Ken Starr is in the midst of delicate negotiations
with Monica Lewinsky's new lawyers. Now both sides are just waiting to see
how disruptive this storm is going to be. Before now, Starr's prosecutors
had all the leverage. They told the new defense team they wanted to
interview Lewinsky, in person, soon, or she would face indictment. Now the
prosecutors are on the defensive...."
Noting that Starr called Brill's
article "a reckless and irresponsible attack that borders on the
libelous," he concluded: "Late today, Steven Brill, the editor
of Content magazine, noted that Starr did not dispute any of the
quotes attributed to him in the article. Brill challenged Starr to name
exactly what he told reporters."
Next, Dan Rather announced:
"Elsewhere in Washington, there was no secret leak involved in the
national stir caused by Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott. It was what
Lott said right on the record about gays and lesbians, as CBS's Bob
Schieffer slid into a Lott soundbite:
"The controversy began when Republican Senate Leader Lott said on a
cable TV show that homosexuality was a sin, but it could be treated and
Schieffer then picked up:
"Citing studies showing homosexuality is genetically preordained,
gays were outraged. The nation's largest gay group said the remarks showed
the 'far right has a stranglehold on congressional leadership.'"
After Michael McCurry
complained how it is difficult "to get business done in Washington
sometimes when you're dealing with people who are so backward in their
thinking," Schieffer acknowledged that "several Republicans came
to Lott's defense, including the House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who
said just this morning he had looked up Bible verses supporting Lott's
point of view."
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Anchor
Joie Chen noted the grand jury appearance of Deputy Chief of Staff John
Podesta before Bob Franken summarized Starr's letter to Brill: "Point
by point Starr's letter gives his version of how various stories got out
and what role he claims his office did or did not have." Franken also
relayed Brill's counter-points and a letter sent by Clinton lawyer David
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster
checked in with Starr's reaction through "a scathing 19-page
letter" documenting 14 errors in the Content article. Only FNC
highlighted negative reaction to Brill by other media outlets, as Shuster
recalled: "The Washington Post, quoted in the Brill article, has
demanded a retraction. NBC News called Brill's story 'utterly garbage.' An
editor at Time magazine said Brill 'misunderstood my words or was twisting
Also uniquely, FNC raised a development in
the Mike Espy case. Co-anchor Jon Scott revealed: "Mike Espy is back
in trouble. An appeals court re-instated charges against the former
Agriculture Secretary today. He's accused of accepting thousands of
dollars in gifts while serving in the Clinton cabinet."
Nightly News. Tom Brokaw managed to intertwine the fights related to Starr
and gays as he began the show: "Good evening it was a wild day for
word fights in Washington. The tactics of Ken Starr. The views of the
Senate Majority Leader on homosexuals. We begin tonight with the Ken Starr
story. He stepped up his attacks on the man who wrote a long critical
review of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and suggested that Starr may have
acted illegally in leaking information to reporters. Starr released a
detailed angry letter to Steven Brill of Content magazine."
Lisa Myers put Starr's situation in
perspective, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "It's
come to this. Ken Starr, the independent counsel whose job it is to
investigate Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky and possible crimes by the
President today found himself not focused on those issues. Instead he was
preoccupied with still another controversy, largely of his own
The media also have something to do with it.
Tom Brokaw next delivered the most
dispassionate and even-handed summary of the furor caused by the Lott
"Now to what's going on in
American politics and increasingly that debate is about culture and
values. What's right, what's wrong? What's a sin and what's not? And
tonight that debate picked up momentum because of recent remarks by Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott. He said, he considers homosexuality to be a
sin and a condition that can be helped like alcoholism, sex addiction or
kleptomania. His political allies rushed to his defense, the White House
was critical and the debate is on."
After going through what Lott said and
McCurry's claim that the GOP is "in the clutches of a prejudiced
right wing minority," David Bloom noted that "conservatives like
Gary Bauer admit they've been pressuring Republican leaders to stand up to
what Bauer calls the gay rights movement." Bloom decided to take
sides in the nature versus nurture debate: "The rancorous debate is
part politics, part religion, part science. Is homosexuality a sin? Is it
a choice?" Viewers heard only from Raymond Fowler of the American
Psychological Association who maintained it's genetic. Bloom concluded
like Cochran with Luxembourg: "This debate does have real
consequences. Senate conservatives are holding up a nomination of a U.S.
ambassador. The White House insists the only reason is because he's openly
protest of CNN's June 7 CNN Newsstand/Time inaugural report by Peter
Arnett alleging the U.S. murdered defectors in Laos in 1970 with nerve
gas, the network's military adviser quit. On WorldNetDaily Joe Farah
reported that CNN is threatening retired Air Force Major General Perry
Smith with a lawsuit if he makes his complaints public about the show. But
Smith insists CNN "has damaged" the U.S. and helped Saddam
In the June 17 Washington Post Howard Kurtz
reported that "Smith quit after failing to convince Tom Johnson,
Chairman of the CNN News Group, that the network needed to retract the
story" which was also published in Time magazine. "'I can't work
for an organization that would do something like this and not fess up to
it,' Smith said yesterday."
Kurtz explained how Smith found the story
lacking: "Smith flew 130 combat sorties over Laos from 1968 to 1969
and said he never heard of lethal gas being used. He said he has consulted
such former high-ranking military officials as Colin Powell and Norman
Schwarzkopf, who assured him that no nerve gas was used by the United
States during the war. Smith quoted Schwarzkopf as calling the allegation
"Smith also tracked down two pilots
who delivered gas to Laos that day from an air base in Thailand. Both said
they had carried non-lethal tear gas, not poisonous nerve gas."
Further, Kurtz quoted this damning
charge from Perry, who you may remember as an on-air analyst during the
Persian Gulf War: "'CNN has damaged the United States of America
quite seriously,' Smith said. Referring to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he
said: 'Saddam can now accuse America of hypocrisy and use CNN as a
Joe Farah broke this story Tuesday on
WorldNetDaily and here's an illuminating excerpt from his June 17 update
available at http://www.worldnetdaily.com:
CNN threatens former military adviser: General quit in protest of Arnett
Vietnam War special.
By Joseph Farah
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, who quit as CNN's military
adviser in protest of Peter Arnett's report alleging the U.S. murdered
defectors and used nerve gas during the Vietnam War, is now being forced
into silence by the network at the threat of a lawsuit, WorldNetDaily has
Smith protested to CNN's top executives that he was deliberately excluded
from the production process of the special program on "Operation
Tailwind" called, "The Valley of Death," airing June 7.
After the program, Smith demanded of Chief Executive Officer Tom Johnson
that CNN retract the central allegations and issue letters of apology to
veterans whose testimony had been misrepresented. When his demand was
rejected, Smith resigned.
"There was a time when CNN had quite high standards," Smith
wrote. "The downhill slide in the past year has been
"I had tried very hard for a week to convince (top executives) to do
a major retraction, but to no avail," said Smith. "Lot's of
people at CNN were solidly with me on this, but not the top bosses and the
team that put that terrible special together. There is an outside chance
that my resigning in protest may finally get attention -- only time will
But that was before Smith was told by CNN lawyers, in no uncertain terms,
to shut up. The official word from CNN's public relations department is
that Smith has "retired." The network is also telling some who
ask about the general's departure that he was, indeed, "the military
consultant on the Tailwind story."
On June 15, Smith went public with his resignation in a letter to his West
Point classmates: "I wanted you all to know that I have just quit
CNN," he wrote. "For a solid week I tried to convince the top
bosses that the special last Sunday night was profoundly wrong. I have not
been able to do so."....
For more of Smith's comments and the
evidence contradicting Arnett's story, read the rest of Farah's piece on
worldnetdaily.com. The direct address for this piece as of Wednesday
you assumed we were safely done with Arnett now that Clinton didn't engage
Hussein in another battle, he's back with tales from his glory years in
Vietnam. -- Brent Baker
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