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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday July 1, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 103)

Tripp "Ratted Out" Monica; Rivera: 
Clinton Liberated the Chinese

1) Tripp led all but CBS. Tom Brokaw contrasted Clinton's "excellent" job in China with problems at home, but NBC's Lisa Myers verified one Tripp charge. All showed clips of Clinton on the radio.

2) Geraldo Rivera declared that in its "pre-Clintonian days" China had "repression." But that's over now and yet Clinton's "not getting cut any slack back home by the critics."

3) The spectrum at NPR and the Washington Post runs "from the local chairman of the Communist Party to the conservative Heritage Foundation." That puts liberals in the middle.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) CBS led with the Iraq radar/missile incident Tuesday night while ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC began with Linda Tripp's testimony. All the Tripp stories covered the same basic ground: how a media mob greeted her in front of her house, how she would talk to the grand jurors about the taped conversations and who gave her the talking points about how to skew her testimony about Kathleen Willey and how Starr would use her appearance to pressure Lewinsky into a deal. NBC's Tom Brokaw directly contrasted how Clinton in China is "getting mostly excellent reviews for his statements on human rights and political freedom," with the Lewinsky scandal back home. But NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely confirmed one of Tripp's assertions: that Lewinsky was in the White House at the same time as the President of Mexico.

     CBS, CNN and FNC each took a few seconds to report Judge Susan Weber Wright's decision to release documents filed in the Jones case, including Clinton's deposition, with both sides having ten days to appeal. But only CNN noted her decision came in response to a suit filed by media outlets.

     ABC and NBC held coverage of Clinton in China to just a brief, but upbeat, look at his appearance on a radio show. CBS, CNN and FNC ran full stories with CBS focusing on how Taiwan stands in the way of "normal" relations. With network interest in his trip waning it looks like Clinton will make it through all nine days without any stories about his satellite waivers or illegal donations accepted from China. Just as he departed last Wednesday NBC Nightly News aired a story on the diversion of U.S. technology to the Chinese military, but nothing has appeared since on any of the networks.

     Some highlights from the Tuesday, June 30 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. After the rundown of basic facts as summarized above, ABC's Jackie Judd looked at Tripp's image:
     "Before today's appearance Tripp engaged in damage control. Critics have accused her of luring Lewinsky into a friendship only to dig up dirt on the President. In an interview with the Washington Post Tripp said 'I did not cultivate Monica -- she cultivated me.' After reading that a close friend of Lewinsky's insisted that Tripp has to take some responsibility for this, it smells like a set up. Tripp though is not alone in claiming Lewinsky described a sexual relationship with Mr. Clinton. Three other confidants have said Lewinsky told them the same thing."

     Sam Donaldson checked in from Shanghai, but only to summarize Clinton administration reaction to the latest activities in Iraq and Kosovo. Over video of Clinton on a Shanghai radio show, Peter Jennings explained that he was asked about soccer, staying in shape "and did he have the courage to convince his critics at home that the trip was a good idea." Clinton replied: "Well, I think the American people will see when I go home that this was a good thing that I came here." ABC later ended the show with about a minute of video of Shanghai at night.


      -- CBS Evening News. After Iraq, CBS went to Scott Pelley in Shanghai. His story concentrated on Clinton's call for the peaceful reunification with Taiwan. China didn't get policy change it wanted, however, so Pelley concluded "Taiwan will stand in the way of normal relations for years to come." On the talk radio show, Pelley asserted that Clinton again "pressed on human rights."

     Phil Jones handled the Tripp story and covered all the ground summarized in the first paragraph of this item.


      -- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken provided a full report on Tripp's appearance before anchor Jim Moret reported Judge Wright's decision. CNN next ran a piece by reporter Pierre Thomas on how Tripp is the "lynchpin" of case, with comments from detractors and supporters. Greta Van Susteren then analyzed the pressure on Lewinsky, suggesting that Lewinsky is in a bind if she really doesn't know anything about obstruction of justice but Starr thinks she does. Finally, CNN played a video montage of comments from members of the media outside the courthouse, including this hit on Tripp by Pam Coulter of ABC Radio:
     "I'd say this is definitely a high point as far as the excitement goes because you've got perhaps the star witness. If Monica Lewinsky doesn't show up Linda Tripp is the person who got the whole ball rolling, she's the one that a lot of people see as the villain in this whole piece. They see her as the person who ratted out Monica Lewinsky."

     After an ad break, Wolf Blitzer in Shanghai opened his story: "As President Clinton continues his China journey he's enjoying the sites of Shanghai, but more importantly he's continuing to reach out the Chinese people." Blitzer covered Clinton's "freewheeling" talk radio show appearance and his roundtable comments about Taiwan. CNN also featured a look at Hong Kong as it approaches one year since Britain left. Mike Chinoy found that the Chinese government has kept its hands off, allowing free press and speech to continue.


-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster filed a story on Tripp and added a bit of unique information: that Lewinsky may be pressured by the fact that Starr could give her mother, Marcia Lewis, immunity. Later, Gilbert Davis and Dick Morris debated the implications of Tripp's appearance.
     From China, Jim Angle alerted viewers to how the political calls were screened out from Clinton's talk show appearance.


     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw launched the show by contrasting Clinton's triumph abroad with his problems at home:
     "Good evening. President Clinton is having a good time in China and getting mostly excellent reviews for his statements on human rights and political freedom. But back home today the Monica Lewinsky scandal is on the front page again..."
     Lisa Myers began her piece: "With an army of cameras trained on her every move, Linda Tripp stepped out of five months of seclusion into the frenzy she helped create..."
     Explaining how Starr had developed "mounds of corroboration" for Tripp's allegations, Myers confirmed one first raised a few months ago: "For example, Tripp told investigators that last November, while the President and Mexican President Zedillo met in the Oval Office, Lewinsky said she was next door in the President's study waiting to have sex with the President. Now NBC News has learned that White House records confirm Lewinsky did in fact visit the White House that day, one of 37 visits."

     Tim Russert came aboard next to explain how Tripp's appearance would put pressure on Lewinsky as Starr could tell her the grand jury is about to indict you so talk now, and how the House Republican leadership does not want to deal with any Starr report until after the election.

     Over video of Clinton on the Shanghai radio talk show, Brokaw noted he did not get any questions about Lewinsky as inquiries dealt with the Asian economy, Clinton's fitness and what sports he played in college.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) One more day for Geraldo in China, one more day to extol Bill Clinton. Tuesday morning Geraldo Rivera delivered his last report from China for Today. An excited Rivera recounted his visit an hour earlier with Clinton, reporting that Clinton said the Dali Lama was "ecstatic" about progress on the Tibet front and that Clinton was very excited about his upcoming visit to the "world famous Shanghai Museum." Clinton, Rivera claimed, also loved a joke he told, but instead of recounting it he went to an excerpt of his interview with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to whom he also told the joke.

     Here it is, Rivera's big joke about Clinton as told to Albright: "I was thinking if they give him any more airtime he's going to have to register as a pro-democracy dissident."

     Near silence from Albright.

     Undeterred, Rivera proceeded to pose two questions to Albright in the excerpt shown by the June 30 Today. First, "Wouldn't it be very easy for the Chinese just to slip back to the pre-Clintonian days where repression was the rule and the airwaves were once again ruled by the state?"

     Huh? Is Rivera in Shanghai or Shangri-la? Repression is over? The airwaves are not ruled by the state because they allowed Clinton on for an hour?

     Second, "The President has not merely raised the issue of human rights, he has trumpeted it from virtually every rooftop in the country and yet he's not getting cut any slack back home by the critics right or left."

     Geraldo must have some news sources other than NBC News and Today! A review of the database analysis from the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens shows that since June 22 Today has yet to feature an interview with a critic, from left or right, of Clinton's China policy.

     Back live with Matt Lauer after the Albright tape Rivera assured Lauer that when he told the joke to the Clintons the First Lady "howled and told her husband he had to use that line."

     Is Rivera a journalist or a White House spinner?


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Through what kind of prism do the Washington media see the world? A fairly obscure item in the June 30 Washington Post offered a telling clue. Writing a "Style" section compilation of local radio news, Marc Fisher reported that NPR-affiliate WAMU had decided to replace 12 to 2pm talk show host Derek McGinty, who left in January for CBS News, with Kojo Nnamdi of Howard University's PBS TV station. (Actually, there is a national angle here since an hour of this show is picked up by 40 NPR affiliates around the country and many also carry Diane Rehm's WAMU-based show.) Anyway, here's the last paragraph of Fisher's report on WAMU's hiring:
     "Nnamdi is a gentle voice on the air, backed by a quick mind and bracing wit. His TV show, while emphasizing black and African issues, has been open to all ideological stripes, from the local chairman of the Communist Party to the conservative Heritage Foundation."

     Now you know why the Washington media establishment so often labels conservatives as "extremists" and/or "far-right" while liberals go unlabeled. If communists and conservatives mark the two sides of your spectrum then Paul Wellstone and the Children's Defense Fund are smack in the middle and a conservative is on the extreme end.  -- Brent Baker

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