Showcasing Clinton's "Safety Net"
Solution; CNN Staffers Angry At Bosses
1) No Tuesday evening show
mentioned that the Maryland State Prosecutor pursuing Linda Tripp is a
2) "A wide gap in the
national safety net is about to close," oozed CBS reporter Wyatt
Andrews is a sparkling report on how Bill Clinton has solved another
problem by making taxpayers pay more.
3) "The symbolism was
spectacular," declared a Cox Newspapers reporter is a glowing
assessment for PBS of Clinton's China trip.
4) CNN is looking harder at
Peter Arnett's role. And in a Monday conference CNN staffers unleashed
"unusually personal criticism" of CNN/USA President Rick Kaplan.
Correction: The July 6
CyberAlert quoted Jeff Greenfield as saying on Imus in the Morning before
the infamous NewsStand story that "it's gonna to raise a lot of
eyebrows about what the gov, what the military was up too." Seeing
that picked up by the Drudge Report, I noticed one too many o's in too.
That should have read, "it's gonna to raise a lot of eyebrows about
what the gov, what the military was up to."
Tuesday night the three broadcast networks and CNN led with the federal
appeals court ruling compelling the testimony from Secret Service officers
by rejecting the "protective privilege" claim. FNC squeezed a
piece by David Shuster into their 7pm ET hour at about 7:40pm ET in an
hour otherwise dedicated solely to the verdict on the Ennis Cosby murder
trial. Though CNN led its 8pm ET The World Today with a Bob Franken piece
on the Secret Service and on Linda Tripp, much of the hour was occupied by
live press conferences from outside the Santa Monica courthouse.
noted Linda Tripp's third day before the grand jury and how Maryland had
launched its own grand jury investigation into whether she violated state
law by taping her phone calls with Monica Lewinsky. But, none noted that
the Maryland State Prosecutor pursuing the case, Stephen Montanarelli, is
a Democrat. (Tripp lives in Howard County, but the county prosecutor, an
elected Republican, passed the decision on the case to the state
prosecutor, a special appointed office set up to handle corruption and
politically sensitive cases. In Maryland the Governorship and both
legislative bodies are controlled by Democrats.)
A 13-second item
on CBS is all the coverage devoted Tuesday night to the indictment of
Maria Hsia of temple fundraiser fame.
Some notes on
Tuesday night, July 7 coverage:
-- CBS Evening
News. After detailing the Secret Service ruling, Scott Pelley moved to
Tripp. As any observant CyberAlert reader knows, Dan Rather has often
referred to Ken Starr as "Republican special prosecutor Ken
Starr." But Pelley avoided any partisan labeling: "A Maryland
prosecutor announced he is investigating whether Tripp violated state law
when she secretly recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky."
from anchor Bob Schieffer represents the totality of network coverage for
"Democratic Party fundraiser Maria Hsia was
hit with a new federal indictment today. She's already charged with
disguising illegal campaign donations to the Clinton re-election campaign.
Today she was indicted on federal income tax charges."
-- NBC Nightly
News. Lisa Myers handled the Secret Service story up front and reported
that the White House was trying to keep officers quiet even before the
public knew they knew anything relevant: "NBC News has learned that
at least one senior Secret Service official told friends in early January,
even before the Lewinsky story broke, that there was White House pressure
to keep the President's private activities under wraps."
Later, anchor Jack
Ford introduced a story by Gwen Ifill on the "congressional session
some are calling one long snooze." Ifill explained the congressional
inactivity, with only 33 laws passed, but also noted the record public
approval for Congress.
The Florida fires topped all the network evening shows Monday night, July
6, except for ABC's World News Tonight which went first with the
Pentagon report on Army Major General David Hale accusing him of affairs
with the wives of his subordinates, and the controversy over how he was
allowed to resign. Only FNC ran story on the Monica mess, a piece by David
Shuster on how Starr wants to meet with Lewinsky before making a deal, but
her lawyers want any information gathered in such a meeting to be off
limits if a deal is not struck.
The CBS Evening
News dedicated a story to Clinton's effort to make sure even more people
take advantage of a little-known welfare handout option paid for by
taxpayers, dubbing it "the best idea Washington ever kept
secret." As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, anchor Bob
"President Clinton promised today to make it
easier for low-income and disabled Americans to know about and to receive
the special Medicare coverage that they're eligible to get. This comes
just as a new study finds that out of more than three million entitled,
fewer than 5,000 actually applied for and got the benefits. Wyatt Andrews
has our report."
Andrews highlighted the supposed problem Clinton
decided to solve: "It may be the best idea Washington ever kept
secret. Senior citizens like Lola Owens, who live near the poverty line,
are supposed to have their Medicare premiums paid by the government. The
problem is no one in Washington ever set up a system to actually tell
"Lola Owens, who receives $519 a month, will now get $44 extra and
will no longer pay co-payments for her medical care. For her and millions
of others, a wide gap in the national safety net is about to close."
so serious no one noticed until now. How delightful that it's been
closed so taxpayers can fund even more benefits for welfare recipients
unable to figure out what they can get.
"The symbolism was spectacular," declared Bob Deans of Cox
Newspapers in reviewing Clinton's trip to China. The White House could
not have dreamed of a better assessment than the one delivered last
Friday, July 3, on PBS's Washington Week in Review by Deans. Just enough
caveats to make it credible but otherwise dominated by glowing portrayals
of his words as triumphant achievements.
pro-Clinton re-cap, in full, as argued by Deans:
think the easy thing to say would be that here was a President who's
addled by scandal at home. He's got a domestic agenda that's sort of
driven into the mud here, and he went to China on, as you suggest, a
highly symbolic and very low-substance trip, leaving China as harshly
repressive as when he found it. All of which would be true.
"But my view is that there's a bigger
picture here. I do think that this will be remembered as probably the most
important trip the President has taken, the most important of his career.
The reason is that even though it was symbolic, the symbolism was
spectacular. We started in Xian, as a reminder that, by the way, China is
ten times older than the United States. We went on to Beijing to Tiananmen
Square. The President told us before he went that he would be thinking
about what happened June the 4th, '89, when he went to Tiananmen, but he
didn't realize he was going to be able to go and tell the entire nation of
China on television live unedited, uncensored that what happened at
Tiananmen was wrong. That has never happened before. The Chinese people
have never heard that from the state media. That was historic. That was
"He goes on, as you say, to Beijing
University. What's his message there? He tells the people there, 'I
represent a government that doesn't fear its people. I represent a
government that rules with the consent of the governed. And I represent a
government that appreciates the fact that we need the strength of ideas of
all of our people to succeed in the world.' Then he goes on to Shanghai
where he takes questions from anybody who wants to call in to the
President of the United States and he gets answers.
"Communications wise, this was revolutionary
in China. Now does it mean China is transformed overnight into a
Jeffersonian democracy? No. We can't say enough, everyone of those
millions of Chinese that Clinton spoke to has never had a vote. Not one
has been able to stand up in China and say what President Clinton said
without fear that they'll be tossed into jail. In fact, not one of them
can even go to Tiananmen Square and lay so much as a rose pedal to
remember those lives that were lost there. But the question becomes: What
can the President do in nine days to try to move China forward?"
The indians are restless at CNN. Tuesday's New York Times and Washington
Post featured re-caps of who complained about what during Monday
conference calls amongst CNN staffers. Bottom line: many CNN employees are
angry that top managers escaped the purge since they should have realized
in advance the weakness of the story. (In the meantime, fired producers
Jack Smith and April Oliver continue to defend their story: Oliver
appeared on ABC's Good Morning America/Sunday and both were on CNN's
own Crossfire on Monday and on MSNBC Tuesday morning. Oliver delights in
bashing CNN/USA President Rick Kaplan for "caving" into military
accentuated how CNN is now re-evaluating Peter Arnett's role upon
acknowledging he was more involved than initially maintained and how CNN
Chairman Tom Johnson had offered to resign. The Post's Howard Kurtz
added details about "the unusually personal criticism" issued by
staffers toward top executives, such as how unnamed staffers even raised
Kaplan's roles in ABC's Food Lion story and in faking a stand-up
background for Cokie Roberts. Kurtz also relayed how Arnett had nothing to
do with the Time article carrying his byline, but did not explore the
contradiction between CNN using Arnett's name to impute credibility but
then saying he had nothing to do with the story once it's torn down.
Here are some
excerpts of the most interesting and entertaining material. First, from
Felicity Barringer's July 7 New York Times story:
CNN Employees Pointedly Ask How
Managers Escaped Purge
Hundreds of angry Cable News Network staff
members in the network's Atlanta headquarters and more calling in from
CNN's bureaus around the world took part in two meetings on Monday at
which some demanded to know why the network's top managers stayed on the
job after last week's apology and repudiation of its report that the
American military had used nerve gas on a 1970 mission in Laos.
Tom Johnson, the Chairman of CNN News
Group, told the group that his offer of resignation had twice been
rejected by Gerald Levin, the Chairman of Time Warner, the network's
corporate parent, and Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and now Vice Chairman
of Time Warner.
Some producers and correspondents asked why
Richard Kaplan, the Chairman of CNN/USA, and Peter Arnett, the
correspondent who narrated the report, had not chosen or been forced to
And in an interview on Monday night a
spokesman for the network, who insisted on anonymity, said, "Peter
Arnett's role as a correspondent in the Operation Tailwind coverage is
being re-evaluated based on new information provided to Tom Johnson over
the weekend and on Monday." The military mission examined by the
report had been code-named Operation Tailwind.
The network's top executives had believed
that Arnett conducted just one interview for the program, the spokesman
said, but have since learned that he conducted two others, including one
with a pilot on the mission who said his aircraft had been loaded with
tear gas, not nerve gas.
While Arnett said in recent interviews that
he was a late addition to the reporting team and basically read a script,
in an interview on Monday night, in response to the spokesman's comment,
he said it had been widely known that he had conducted three interviews,
not one, including one with the pilot....
Second, from the July 7 Post story
by Howard Kurtz:
CNN Staffers Wait for the Other Shoe To
Drop: Fallout Continues From Nerve Gas Story That Network Retracted
CNN chief executive Tom Johnson told
colleagues yesterday that he had twice submitted his resignation over the
nerve gas story that the network had to retract, but was rebuffed each
time by Ted Turner, CNN's founder.
Johnson also told his staff in a conference
call that he is taking another look at possible punishment for Peter
Arnett, the Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent on the story, according
to several participants in the call. Johnson said he came within a hair of
firing Arnett but reprimanded him instead, in part because of his courage
in reporting from Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War.
Arnett called in to defend himself during a
second conference call, declaring that "I contributed not one
comma" to the story. He said he had helped build CNN's reputation and
that he was "not going to let my reputation go down the tubes"
over the controversy. He said he was "shocked" to hear his job
is on the line....
When he raised questions with April Oliver
and Jack Smith, the CNN producers fired over the story, he was presented
with several hundred pages of documentation, Arnett said. When he joined
in two key interviews, he asked questions from several pages prepared by
Oliver. And it was Oliver who wrote the accompanying piece for Time
magazine, CNN's corporate partner, with his name apparently tacked on for
"marketing reasons," he said....
The intensity of the turmoil at the
Atlanta-based network was reflected in the unusually personal criticism
that several CNN staffers made of their bosses during the first conference
call with dozens of staffers from the network's bureaus....
During the morning conference call, some
staffers demanded to know how Kaplan, with his high-level experience,
could have approved the nerve gas story. One even brought up his
involvement with the ABC PrimeTime Live story on Food Lion supermarkets,
which prompted a $5.5 million jury verdict against the network over its
use of hidden cameras....
Another staffer questioned his role in
having Cokie Roberts put on a winter coat and stand in front of a picture
of the Capitol so it would look as if she were reporting from the Hill.
Much of the staff's anger was also directed
at Arnett. Andrea Koppel, CNN's diplomatic reporter, questioned the nature
of Arnett's job and whether the CNN brass is protecting him, participants
said. Had it been a less famous correspondent, she said, that person would
have been fired or should have resigned....
Days before the segment aired, Jamie
McIntyre, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, wrote a memo questioning several
weaknesses in the piece, particularly the account of retired Adm. Thomas
Moorer, 86, who was presented as a confirming source although he never
claimed firsthand knowledge that nerve gas was used....
In a widely circulated July 4 memo,
McIntyre, the Pentagon reporter, said he was "angry" at Smith
and Oliver for the "multitude of journalistic sins they
committed" in pursuit of their "conspiracy theory." He said
the two producers owe an apology to "their colleagues at CNN, whose
reputations and credibility have been grievously wounded by this shoddy
piece of journalism."
On the bright
side, Tom Johnson announced that he has created a new position: Executive
Vice President for standards and practices. Named to the slot: Rick Davis,
now in charge of all the Washington-based talk shows. -- Brent Baker
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