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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday July 16, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 112)

Clinton Shouldn't Talk; More Nina: Kneepads for All Women

*** Item #3 today has been rated TV-MA by the CyberAlert Content Review Board. It contains slang terminology for oral sex. ***

1) Wednesday night Tim Russert clarified his "facilitated" report; Dan Rather again claimed Starr is probing Clinton's "personal life;" only FNC noted that four AG's say SS agents should talk.

2) Clinton has "no obligation" to keep his promise to answer questions about Lewinsky and it's "nuts" to believe Lucianne Goldberg, U.S. News reporter Matthew Miller declared.

3) More from Nina Burleigh. She fills in the [oral sex] bracket, urges all women to break out their kneepads for Clinton and boasts that she "will frame and cherish forever," the MRC's press release on her.

>>> Internet Training School. This Saturday, July 18 from 8:30am to 5:30pm the Leadership Institute is holding an Internet training school in Arlington, Virginia. Cost is $25. Paul Culligan will teach the use of the Internet for a variety of public policy areas, including fundraising, issue and opposition research, and building grassroots support and membership. Tuition includes breakfast and lunch, training and a source-book binder with hundreds of pages more of information related to the Internet and policy. Or so Radley Balko tells me. If interested, call him at (703) 247-2000, ext. 151. <<<

Correction: The name of the Secret Service agent subpoenaed was misspelled in the July 15 CyberAlert as Larry Cockrell. It is Cockell.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) HMO "horror stories" from a Senate hearing topped the ABC and CBS evening shows on Wednesday night, July 15. Will part or all of reform plans pass? Bob Schieffer told CBS Evening News viewers: "It is a long shot to be sure, but this is an election year and the politicians are discovering people hate HMOs even more than they hate the IRS."

     The Secret Service showdown led on CNN and NBC while FNC uniquely considered opening statements in the cadet murder trial in Texas to be the day's lead story. ABC and CNN relayed angry White House reaction to the charge conveyed by Tim Russert on Wednesday's Today show that sources close to Starr suggest Secret Service officers may have 'facilitated' Clinton's sexual liaisons. Russert appeared on the NBC Nightly News to clarify his report. ABC and FNC showed a quick clip of Senator Hatch and Attorney General Reno at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing while CNN delivered a full story, but CBS and NBC skipped her appearance to explain her resistance to an independent counsel to investigate foreign money and why she insists upon appealing the Secret Service rulings. Dan Rather, for the third night in a row, insisted Starr is probing Clinton's "personal life."

     Here's how the Wednesday night, July 15 evening shows handled the Secret Service story and Reno's appearance:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson explained how Justice was still hoping to get a federal judge to halt the Thursday testimony by Secret Service officers. Agent Larry Cockell, Donaldson noted, was in the limo when Clinton went to the deposition for Paula Jones and afterward he rode back with Clinton and attorney Bob Bennett. Donaldson played a clip of McCurry claiming Starr is making a backdoor attempt to circumvent attorney-client privilege by demanding that Cockell tell what Clinton and Bennett said.
     Donaldson picked up: "Press Secretary McCurry also expressed his outrage about a report which said people close to Starr believed Secret Service agents perhaps 'facilitated' presidential hanky-panky."

     McCurry: "Sneering at the President of the United States is common sport here in Washington now and that's life but the Secret Service agents should not be slimed by Ken Starr and his operatives."

     Donaldson: "Later the report was amended to say the sources were on Capitol Hill, but it gave McCurry a chance once again to beat the independent counsel over the head for alleged improper leaking."
     On Capitol Hill, Donaldson observed before soundbite from Hatch and Reno, Republicans complained that the appeals are a stalling tactic. Donaldson concluded:
     "The administration says what's at stake in this fight over the Secret Service is the physical safety of Presidents. The independent counsel says what's at stake is vital testimony in a criminal case. But in the end, Peter, what's at stake for Bill Clinton could well be a demonstration of his innocence or guilt over Monica Lewinsky."

     -- CBS Evening News. For the third night in a row Dan Rather followed the White House script, claiming Starr is digging into Clinton's "personal life." Rather announced:
     "More fast breaking developments on special prosecutor Ken Starr's new push to get the top Secret Service man closest to the President to tell him what he knows about the President's personal life."
     Scott Pelley explained efforts to get an emergency ruling to prevent Thursday testimony, though a judge earlier Wednesday had refused to quash the subpoenas. Six uniformed officers have already been interviewed by Starr's staff, Pelley noted before asserting that "sealed court records reviewed by CBS News show that the officers refused to answer some questions including whether anyone, quote 'witnessed the President in a romantic situation...with someone other than Hillary Rodham Clinton.' Before the grand jury the officers would be compelled to answer."

     -- CNN's The World Today led with the latest on the Secret Service showdown from Bob Franken followed by a piece from John King with White House reaction and complaints the calling of Cockell is proof Starr is "out of control" and that the subpoena of records showing Clinton's whereabouts is just a "fishing expedition." Finally, Pierre Thomas provided a full rundown of Reno's Senate appearance with soundbites from both Republicans questioning her as well as from Democrats attacking Starr.

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster began by looking at the scramble to get the Secret Service out of testifying. After showing a clip of Reno denying she is trying to delay Starr, Shuster uniquely told viewers about what some top law enforcement officials believe:
     "But patience is clearly running out at the courthouse and four former attorneys general, including Ed Meese, say they support the new request for testimony from a Clinton bodyguard."
     Meese: "The fact that a person is assigned to protection of the President or anyone else does not make them any less a law enforcement officer who has a dual responsibility, in addition to whatever else assignments, to uphold the law."

     -- NBC Nightly News began with Claire Shipman on how a judge ruled Wednesday against delaying the Thursday appearance before the grand jury by the Secret Service officers. Getting to White House outrage over Russert's report, Shipman observed:
     "And at the White House, the press secretary who normally avoids comment on the investigation, unleashes a bitter attack on Starr and his efforts to force Secret Service testimony."
     McCurry: "Secret Service agents who protect the President of the United States with their lives are dedicated, serious professionals and they should not be slimed by Ken Starr and his operatives."
     Shipman: "McCurry was specifically referring to a report on NBC that came from congressional sources close to the investigation. That report said Starr is investigating whether Secret Service agents may have actually quote, 'facilitated' the President's alleged relationship with Lewinsky. Starr's office adamantly denied leaking any information about the Secret Service to anyone."

     Next, from the White House lawn, Tim Russert told Brokaw Starr is calling in the officers because "he wants to drive a stake at the heart of the relationship between the Secret Service and the President..."
     Asked to clarify his Today item, Russert explained: "Members of Congress have been talking to investigators, lawyers associated with the grand jury, people who are free to talk and they are coming to some conclusions that perhaps Secret Service agents may have been quote, 'facilitating,' we don't know whether that's Republican spin, partisan spin, ideological spin or there's a germ of evidence. Ken Starr is determined to find out and it has caused deep concerns at the White House and within the Secret Service, men and women who put their lives on the line everyday for the President."

     "Perhaps" agents "may have" been doing something but it may just be "spin" from any one of three angles. If Matt Drudge promoted such an item the journalistic establishment would be all over him.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Just like Dan Rather, U.S. News & World Report economics reporter Matthew Miller believes Ken Starr's inquiry into perjury and obstruction of justice can be dismissed as a probe of his "personal life" which Clinton should not have to answer for. As for Lucianne Goldberg, Millers considers her a less than reliable source.

     Here's the relevant exchanges between Miller on Chris Matthews as caught by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens on the July 14 Hardball on CNBC.

     Chris Matthews: "Do you think it is surprising that anything else would have happened if the President after six months has refused to tell us what happened. After having promised us he would. He promised he would. He didn't have to promise but he said, 'I'm going to give you more rather than less, sooner rather than later,' and henceforth from that there wasn't a peep out of him."
     Miller: "I know that you sincerely hang a lot on that presidential statement. I guess I don't think it's the President's obligation to tell us about his personal life like this."

     Miller: "Look I'm not saying that Ken Starr is a zealot or somehow a you know, a weird guy who is hellbent just on getting the President. I think Starr is an honorable man who has lost his perspective. Which can happen, it's an occupational hazard for independent counsels when they are set after a person instead of after a crime. And I think as Starr gets closer to the prospect of having to indict a young woman, Monica Lewinsky, for the purpose of trying to get to a President, again all over concealing an affair, he himself will realize that there are better courses to..." [interrupted]
     Matthews: "It's not all over concealing....No, that's a misstatement Matt because the evidence now, and every evidence we have, we don't have complete evidence, the evidence is that these tapes show Monica Lewinsky describing an effort to suborn her perjury in the matter of Kathleen Willey, a sexual harassment case mattered not a matter involving her and the President. You guys keep saying it the same way. This is the lingo but it's not true."
     Miller: "You're relying on Lucianne Goldberg as your authority. That's nuts!"


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)nburleigh.jpg (18009 bytes) Breakout the kneepads, Nina's on the way! [If discussion or oral sex offends you, read no further. This is the last CyberAlert item today.]

     Remember Nina Burleigh, the Time contributor and former Time reporter who recounted in Mirabella magazine her encounter with Clinton on Air Force One and how much she wished to be "ravished" by him? Called about the article by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, he quoted her as proclaiming of Clinton: "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal."     See the July 7 CyberAlert for details.

     Well, now she's filled in what word she really used in the spot the Post bracketed and revealed her next sentence to Kurtz, that he did not share with readers, in which she praised Clinton for "keeping the theocracy off our backs." Sounds like a hit at the Christian Right. But at least she admits that she's not unbiased. It's all in the just-released July 20 edition of the New York Observer, the orange-tinted weekly broadsheet. The MRC's Tim Graham alerted me her opinion piece, "My Spin Through the Cycle," relating her experience at becoming a mini-celebrity over her comments. She's even quite proud to have been denounced by MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell.

     While the paper has a Web site (www.observer.com), the text of articles is available only through AOL. Key word: NYO. Here's an excerpt of the most illuminating portion of her 1,300 word piece. We pick up with her reciting the call from Kurtz a few days after Mirabella hit newsstands:

Mr. Kurtz rang. "I hear you wrote an article about your legs," he opened, with a small snicker. "Have you read the piece?" I asked. He admitted he had not, but planned to do so and would call me back.

I started feeling queasy. I pointed out to Howard that American jets had bombed an Iraqi radar station in southern Iraq that morning. He was undeterred.

When he called back, I decided my only defense would be to give him a quote that would knock his socks off. I also wanted to test the Post's new "sizzle" -- the paper's post-We Broke the Lewinsky Story advertising hook. So when Howard asked whether I could still objectively cover the President, having found him so attractive, I replied, "I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs."

I recognized Howard's visceral response to my words by his sudden intake of breath and the spurt of pounding fingers of keyboard. I'd never been on that side of a good quote before. It was better than sex!

For days afterward, I wondered whether he would have the guts to run the quote. After all, sizzle does not equal pornography. Lo and behold, on Monday, he printed it, to the enormous hilarity of my girlfriends in Washington and the horror of my former colleagues at Time. He sanitized "blowjob" only slightly by putting "oral sex" in brackets, and noted that it is "unusual for a journalist" to express such an opinion.

Many are the dinner discussions I've had with pious Washington Post reporters that ended in screaming matches about reportorial objectivity. More than any other journalists I've met, Post reporters like Mr. Kurtz hold fast to the notion that they are personally capable of what I consider to be only a Platonic ideal. I refuse to believe that any human being is capable of the kind of androidlike unbiased observational qualities that Post reporters say they possess.

I think they are secretly a little envious of those of us who do say what we think. I mean, who wouldn't covet becoming the subject of a Brent Bozell press release in Washington? Brent Bozell is the director of Media Research Center, a right-wing media watchdog group always looking for left-wing leanings among the scrupulously middle-of-the-road Washington press corps. He wrote me up on Tuesday in a mass fax I will frame and cherish forever. "Nina Burleigh's comment that she would give [oral sex] to the President to thank him for keeping abortion legal is an apt metaphor for the way the liberal media has treated Clinton."

Come on, Brent, it's our patriotic duty!


     Definitely a novel definition of patriotism. -- Brent Baker

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