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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday July 17, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 113)

Facilitating Clinton; Shriver Idolizes Hillary; Grodin's Back

1) CBS relayed Judge Silberman's rebuke as the network tagged him "a conservative appointed by Reagan." But when a judge condemned Starr last month CBS didn't bother telling who appointed him.

2) Last year Clinton asked a photographer, who he thought was a Secret Service agent, to get a woman's card. In other words, to "facilitate" a liaison.

3) Maria Shriver, filling in on Today, pushed the anti-Starr line on the Secret Service and took a bus ride with Hillary Clinton about whom she raved: "a people person...funny" and "nice."

4) The hottest place in the U.S. is 11 degrees cooler than it was in 1913, so NBC's story on Death Valley didn't mention global warming.

5) Charles Grodin is back. Now he's on NBC and promising his guests will be prisoners and Harvard grads now on welfare.

Clinton Correction. The July 15 CyberAlert accurately quoted Hillary Clinton on the Today show recalling that Thomas Edison once said "Hard work is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Several CyberAlert readers have pointed out that the actual Edison quote is: "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Makes a lot more sense.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Thursday night CBS led with the La Nina forecast for more extreme weather, but all the other networks went first with the latest on the court battles over Secret Service testimony. Judge Laurence Silberman rebuked the administration's position opposing an independent counsel as a "constitutional absurdity" and Attorney General Reno for acting as Clinton's counsel. CBS, FNC and NBC cited both criticisms, ABC the "absurdity" contention, but CNN raised neither.

     CBS emphasized how Silberman is "a conservative appointed by Reagan," but when a judge in late June rebuked Ken Starr CBS failed to offer an ideological tag or note that Clinton nominated him. For the fourth day in a row Dan Rather claimed Starr is probing Clinton's "personal life."

     (The CBS Evening News concluded with a look at a Flint man on strike against GM and how his family is struggling financially. Viewers saw him march on the picket line and heard him explain why the strike is necessary in his mind. Nonetheless, CBS reporter Frank Currier concluded: "A strike [is] now as much a financial drain as an emotional test of one family's loyalty to General Motors."
     Houston to CBS: Loyalty to GM? They are on strike! They have no loyalty.)

     Here's a rundown of Thursday night, July 16 evening show coverage:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Jackie Judd noted that after the appeals court delayed the Secret Service testimony later in the day it delivered a "crushing defeat" as the court refused to hear the Clinton appeal. Judd elaborated: "Not a single judge wanted to take the case. One, Larry Silberman, a conservative, wrote a scathing opinion. He called it a 'constitutional absurdity' for the government to challenge its own independent counsel. In doing so, Silberman wrote, 'The President's agents literally and figuratively 'declared war' on Ken Starr." Judd then aired a counter soundbite from Mike McCurry.

     From the White House Sam Donaldson reported that agent Cockell had been reassigned and replaced by the man he had replaced: Brian Stafford. Peter Jennings suggested to Donaldson that the move helps the White House show that agents can't do their jobs when distracted.

     -- CBS Evening News. "It's up to the Chief Justice of the United States. Must the Secret Service tell Ken Starr now what is knows about the President's personal life?" So Dan Rather asked in teasing the show. After a story on La Nina, Rather announced:
     "Also heating up today the battle over special prosecutor Ken Starr's demand for Secret Service agents to tell him what they know about President Clinton's personal life. As CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley reports, the issue has become a high court cliffhanger."
     Scott Pelley ran through what happened with the appeals court before asserting: "And in a remarkable rebuke, a federal judge accused the Clinton administration of acting illegally and dishonorably....In a blistering statement one appeals court judge essentially accused the White House of obstructing Starr's investigation. Judge Laurence Silberman, a conservative appointed by Reagan, called the administration's position a 'constitutional absurdity.' He accused the Justice Department of shielding Mr. Clinton, saying 'The Attorney General is, in effect, acting as the President's counsel under the false guise of representing the United States.'"

     Contrast Pelley's description of the judge with how Rather characterized a judge who rebuked Starr. From the June 26 CBS Evening News: "In Washington a federal judge today bluntly described special prosecutor Ken Starr's tactics as, and I quote, 'really scary.' It was at a court appearance for long-time Clinton family friend Web Hubbell. U.S. District Judge James Robertson's comment came when Starr's team argued that it was proper to indict Hubbell again on tax charges based on documents Hubbell supplied under a grant of immunity."

     Just a plain old "federal judge." Rather didn't think it was worth trying to describe Robertson's ideology or note that he was named to the bench by President Clinton.

     -- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET opened with Bob Franken's report on the back and forth all day over the Secret Service. Next, CNN allowed John King to present the White House view though King also uniquely pointed out that he had learned that Starr's office had assured the Justice Department it had no intention of asking Secret Service agents about Clinton's conversations with his lawyer.
     Finally, in a third piece CNN aired Bruce Morton explained why the Secret Service is so convinced that proximity is the key to presidential safety.

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. David Shuster ran down the key Secret Service developments and cited Silberman's criticism of both the administration and Reno.

     -- NBC Nightly News. "For the President's top bodyguard today gave new meaning to being in the line of fire," Lisa Myers began her top of the show story. Observing that even Clinton insiders realize Secret Service testimony is now inevitable, she pointed out that "not a single judge found the administration's arguments worth hearing" and "one judge even takes a swipe at Attorney General Janet Reno, accusing her of improperly acting as the President's counsel."
     But, Myers noted that all of the Secret Service officers subpoenaed say they never saw Lewinsky in a sexual situation with Clinton.
     Up next, Pete Williams explained how the Supreme Court handles emergencies, a situation which normally arises in death penalty cases.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Discussing Tim Russert's report about how Starr is looking into the possibility Secret Service agents may have 'facilitated' sexual liaisons for Clinton, Rush Limbaugh yesterday recalled an incident recounted in the July, 1997 Washingtonian magazine. Here's that story as run in CyberAlert last summer:

     From the magazine's "Capital Comment" section a story headlined "Don't Get Between Bill and a Babe" on how "a Newsweek contract photographer has learned a little of what it must be like to work for Bill Clinton." The monthly offered an illuminating illustration:
     "Larry Downing, who was shooting for the White House Correspondents' Association at its annual dinner, had an unexpected run-in with the President.
     "During the event, Clinton was talking to an attractive woman across the roped-off buffer area. Photographers work in that area, between the dais and the main ballroom.
     "Downing was wearing one of those lapel pins the Secret Service hands out to give freer access. Clinton pointed at Downing and asked him to get a business card from the woman.
     "'Yes, sir,' Downing said. The President seemed to assume that Downing worked for him because of the pin and because Downing looked familiar from covering the White House for Newsweek.
     "Photographers who saw the incident said Downing took the card from the woman and, because the Secret Service doesn't want anyone handing anything directly to the President, showed it to a nearby agent -- who looked at it and handed it back to Downing to give to Clinton.
     "A look of anger crossed Clinton's face. He snapped to Downing: 'You don't have to ask for permission when I tell you to do something. This is my life, and nobody's going to tell me what to do.'"

     Sounds like Clinton expected unquestioned facilitation from Secret Service agents.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)hillbus2.jpg (21348 bytes) Maria Shriver proved again Thursday morning that she is much more a liberal advocate than any kind of journalist. Filling in for Katie Couric on Today she handled two of the show's big first hour interviews: a discussion about Secret Service testimony and another round with Hillary Clinton whom she had interviewed on Tuesday morning. In each, she posed questions a liberal would ask, even gushing over Hillary's niceness as "a people person," and failed to pose a single question from the right. After her talk with Mrs. Clinton Matt Lauer interviewed a liberal historian about the First Lady's legacy. Lauer stuck to admiring questions, making for a Today show liberal interview trilogy. New MRC news analyst Mark Drake transcribed the questions run below.

     The July 16 Today started with Lauer talking with Tim Russert. Then Shriver handled the segment with former Secret Service agent Chuck Vance, who opposes testimony, and GWU law professor Jonathan Turley who does not believe agents should have a special privilege. Every court and judge so far through several appeals have affirmed the duty of the officers to answer a grand jury's questions, but Shriver portrayed Starr and Turley as the ones out of sync. Here are her questions/arguments:
     -- "Mr. Vance, let me begin with you. You are a former Secret Service agent. Has Ken Starr overstepped his bounds? Is this a fishing expedition?"
     -- "Mr. Turley, let me ask you. Many people are outraged. Some do call it a fishing expedition. Yet, you have a filed a brief on behalf of four former U.S. attorney generals supporting Mr. Starr's position. Why is that?"
     -- To Turley: "Well, I think some of the criticism that you're hearing is certainly because former Presidents, other members who have been in the Secret Service, even current members are saying that this is way out of bounds, that it could endanger the life of the President, would ruin a trusted relationship. Why don't you think the court agreed with the former Presidents?" (Turley countered that only Bush takes that stand. Carter and Ford support Secret Service testimony.)
     -- "Mr. Vance, I would take that you disagree with Mr. Turley, that you think that, in fact, they should enjoy some kind of special privilege?"
     -- To Vance: "If they have to go in and testify now, will that trust be forever broken? Will the relationship be forever changed?"

     Today dropped the 7:30 news update so they could get right to Shriver's tribute to Hillary Clinton. For Tuesday's interview from the Thomas Edison site I was willing to cut Today some slack since they were showcasing a "good works" project advocated by the First Lady -- her fundraising to help restore historical sites. But Thursday morning, while Shriver introduced her interview by showing clips from Hillary Clinton's stops on her National Treasures Tour, her interview focused on personal and political matters, not the good works project.

     Here are Shriver's "questions" to Hillary Rodham Clinton in an interview taped on a bus:
     -- "Four states, ten or eleven stops. Four days. This is a real commitment for you. What do you get out of that? It is exhausting it seems to me." (Answer: Loves meeting people.)
     -- "Do you feel physically, emotionally, spiritually different when you get out of Washington, get on the road?" (Answer: Yes.)
     -- "You and I spoke right at the beginning of this second term. Now, with two years left, is it something you look forward to? Do you get out there and say 'I want to keep going out, I want to meet people, I have more stuff I want to do,' or do you look and go 'Oh, my God, two more years!'?" (Answer: Wish there were more time left since I love meeting people.) [See the fax report cited at the top of this issue for more on Shriver's 1996 interview.]
     -- "There's so much speculation now about what you're going to do. What Hillary Clinton's life is going to be after the presidency. Do you find that takes away from what you're going to do, or do you just like slough it off and pay no attention?"
     -- "I've talked to several people and they came up and said 'She's so different than I thought she would be. She's so much more of a people person. She's funny, she's nice.' Do you think that, like, people don't get you? I mean you get out there and people see a different side of you."

     Following that penetrating set of questions, Matt Lauer discussed her legacy with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a former aide to Lyndon Johnson. When Goodwin suggested that Mrs. Clinton could do anything from become Secretary of State or UN Ambassador to care for poor children to go the lecture circuit, but then again she may not want to remain public, Lauer empathized:
     "Yeah. Yeah. It's tough to imagine she would want to stay too much in the public spotlight because that public spotlight has burned her on several occasions over these past six years."

     Nonetheless, he next wondered: "Let me just go back to something you said about possible public office. How desirable or how appealing a candidate do you think she would be?" Goodwin suggested "women would like it, this strong-minded, intellectually strong person to go forward," but she probably won't. Lauer countered: "But I mean if not now? I mean after six years of taking a lot of knocks, at this particular time, her popularity is at an all time high." Goodwin also admired Mrs. Clinton's success, contending: "There's something strange about the fact that when somebody seems to be struggling, as she has with dignity through difficult circumstances, some of that earlier seeming arrogance has been undone and everybody seems to love her now."

     NBC News certainly does.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) The ABC and NBC evening shows on July 14 ran pieces on how the Southern heat wave is evidence of global warming. But it is not getting warmer everywhere. The next night NBC's George Lewis went to Death Valley National Park in California which is experiencing a boom in tourists from Europe despite offering the highest temperatures in North America. Lewis concluded his NBC Nightly News story:
     "Today the temperature in Death Valley topped out at 123 degrees. If it's any comfort, that's still below the record high of 134 degrees set in 1913."

     Since then the Earth has experienced 75 years of man's fossil fuel burning onslaught, yet no record highs in the hottest place. No wonder the words "global warming" were not uttered by Lewis.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Actor turned pontificator Charles Grodin is back. Just a few weeks after CNBC dropped his weeknight show, companion network MSNBC has added him to its line-up. His new weekend show starts tomorrow, Saturday night at 8pm ET, though I assume it will repeat several times as does everything else on MSNBC. And if you tune in who will you see? Grodin told the July 15 USA Today: "I'll put people on who you don't see on TV. People in prison who shouldn't be there. People in soup kitchens. People on welfare with degrees from Harvard."

     Sounds like a show you won't want to miss.  -- Brent Baker

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