Now Starr's Too Fast; Silberman's "A Righty;" Russert's Misread
1) Lani Guinier was falsely
tagged the "Quota Queen," contended Paula Zahn in her Saturday
CBS Evening News "One on One" feature.
2) Starr can't win. Networks
now complain he's moving too fast. Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly stated
Starr would not ask agents to tell what Clinton told a lawyer, but ABC
relayed the opposite.
3) Even after every judge has
dismissed the Secret Service's argument, they have an advocate in
NBC's Jack Ford who highlighted the argument that "we're giving
up this very important tradition of confidentiality" just so Starr
can look at "a sexual liaison."
4) Judge Laurence Silberman
denounced as a "right-wing hit man" by Al Hunt and as "a
righty" by Margaret Carlson.
5) "It's not been on
the front page of anything," Tim Russert incorrectly insisted in
referring to an analysis about a missile threat. Actually, both Washington
papers played it on page one.
Liberal news media champion of the weekend. The last exchange from the
"One on One" segment on the July 18 CBS Evening News:
Paula Zahn to Lani
Guinier: "How many years is it going to take for you not to be called
the Quota Queen?"
Guinier: "I think it will be, unfortunately,
part of my obituary."
Zahn: "Guinier says she never supported
quotas, only measures that give a greater voice to minorities, whether
they be African-Americans or Republicans in Chicago or Democrats in Newt
It's nice to
have a political advocate on your side at a network.
Ken Starr can win every court battle over the Secret Service, but he
can't win over the networks. Friday and Saturday night all emphasized
the unprecedented nature of his request for testimony, without one story
presenting either on camera or off any comment from his spokesman, Charles
Bakaly. The July 18 Washington Post quoted Bakaly: "We have never
intended to question Secret Service agents about privileged conversations
they may have overheard between the President and his private
lawyers." Not one broadcast or cable network story Friday night nor
broadcast story Saturday or Sunday night relayed that assurance. Instead,
on ABC reporter Mike Von Fremd stated that Starr had called agent Larry
Cockell in order to discover what Clinton told his lawyer.
For months the
media line has been that Starr is moving too slowly, but his decision to
immediately bring the officers before the grand jury Friday prompted
NBC's Pete Williams and CNN's John King to highlight White House
complaints about his swiftness. Williams focused on how Clintonites called
it "an outrageous power play" while "some legal experts
found it partly theatrical."
concluded his Friday story by telling viewers how one White House staffer
denigrated Starr's operation as "Keystone Cop Central." And
remaining consistently biased, for the fifth night in a row on Friday, Dan
Rather claimed Starr is poking into Clinton's "personal life."
Here's are some
highlights of coverage from Friday July 17 through Sunday, July 19 on the
network evening shows.
-- Friday, July
17: All led with the noontime decision by Justice Rehnquist to allow
Secret Service testimony.
ABC's World News
Tonight. Anchor Forrest Sawyer opened: "Good evening. For the first
time in history a Secret Service agent testified today before a grand jury
as part of a criminal investigation of a sitting United States
recited the dramatic decision at high noon and how Starr was "so
anxious" he didn't wait for the regular grand jury to reconvene
next week. Next, from the White House Sam Donaldson reported:
"Forrest, reaction among presidential aides over today's turn of
events ranges from anger to resignation. They still say they think the
courts are wrong, but they know there isn't anything they can do about
it." After clips from Clinton and Cockell's attorney, Donaldson
ended with this swipe at Starr:
"White House officials profess not to be
worried about what the agents may say to the grand jury, even when Starr
claims that they may possess evidence of possible crimes. What does Starr
mean by that? Well, the answer Forrest given by one of the President's
top aides is, and I quote, 'I have no idea what Keystone Cops Central is
doing, no idea.'"
CBS Evening News.
Dan Rather intoned: "Good evening. At least three active-duty Secret
Service employees were forced today to appear before special prosecutor
Ken Starr's grand jury to give testimony. This happened after Chief
Justice William Rehnquist cleared the way for Starr's unprecedented push
to make the Secret Service tell him at least some of what it knows about
the President's personal life."
Scott Pelley added: "CBS News has obtained,
from sealed court documents, a list of Starr's questions that Secret
Service officers have refused to answer in earlier interviews. They
include: 'Was Monica Lewinsky ever in the Oval Office?' 'Were
Lewinsky and the President ever alone together?' Did any officer, quote
'witness the President in a romantic situation or engaged in a sexual
act?' Finally, the officers have been asked about White House steward
Byani Nelvis who works near the Oval Office and has already testified.
Prosecutors wanted to know if Nelvis ever told the officers of a
relationship between Lewinsky and the President."
Next, CBS legal reporter Kristin Jeannette-Myers
explained that "there is simply no statute on the books and no common
law tradition of this so-called protective function privilege. In fact,
agents who protected President Bush did testify during the Iran-Contra
CNN's The World
Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken ran down the day's events and Charles
Bierbauer detailed Rehnquist's decision. In between, John King checked
in from Clinton's trip to Little Rock. After showing Clinton defending
the Secret Service and noting that Brian Stafford had replaced Larry
Cockell at Clinton's side, King concluded:
"White House aides are under orders not to
publicly discuss the Secret Service controversy, but privately many accuse
Starr of playing hardball, suggesting his rush to haul the Secret Service
into court is more about sending a political statement than gathering
FNC's Fox Report
at 7pm ET. David Shuster pointed out: "Starr promised the courts he
will only focus on events that occurred before this week, leaving the
White House without the Starr investigation as an excuse if President
Clinton in the future really chooses to push the Secret Service
NBC Nightly News.
Tom Brokaw ignored Bakaly's assurance, declaring at the top of the show
that "not long after" Rehnquist's decision, "for the
first time ever, agents were talking about what they saw and heard while
guarding the President of the United States."
Pete Williams explained the Rehnquist decision
and ran soundbites from Clinton and Gingrich before worrying about
"Kenneth Starr's prosecutors had summoned
the agents to be present before noon and ready to testify the minute the
Supreme Court ruled. The White House called that an outrageous power play
and some legal experts found it partly theatrical."
Jeffrey Harris, former prosecutor: "I think
it's a combination of Ken Starr flexing his muscles and also an
aggressive prosecutor hoping to get the testimony before it's been
combed through by the lawyers too carefully."
After Williams Jim
Miklaszewski provided a profile of Larry Cockell, the first black special
agent in charge, recounting his climb from the St. Louis PD to the
-- Saturday, July 18. ABC led with the tidal wave
in New Guinea, CBS a new drug that impedes Alzheimer's and NBC the
Secret Service testimony. Both Bill Plante on the CBS Evening News and
John Palmer on NBC Nightly News filed from Little Rock with a rundown of
how Clinton was greeted by a supportive crowd at a fundraiser, and though
he played some golf he could not help but notice the Secret Service
controversy as he was accompanied by a different agent. Mike Von Fremd
passed on the same basic facts on ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday, but
also noted that agents may not have heard as much as Starr hopes because
of earpieces. Then, in direct contradiction of Bakaly's statement,
relayed: "The White House fears that Ken Starr wants to know what
Cockell overheard during this limousine ride, when the President was with
his attorney immediately after giving his deposition in the Paula Jones
-- Sunday, July 19. The strike approval at GM's
Saturn division topped ABC, while the tidal wave led CBS and NBC. A
golf-shortened CBS Evening News did not mention a Clinton scandal. On
ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday Mike Von Fremd summarized how the
lawyers for Secret Service officers and agents "went on the
offensive" on the Sunday shows. Von Fremd also ran a clip of Trent
Lott blasting the Secret Service for fighting the subpoenas, suggesting
they may be hiding something.
John Palmer noted that Clinton went to church and
a barbecue before departing Little Rock. In his NBC Nightly News piece
Palmer also showed Lott's soundbite before concluding by highlighting
how the upcoming Newsweek reports that Starr is interested in asking
Cockell if Clinton talked by phone to Monica Lewinsky during his December
1997 visit to Bosnia.
Every judge who has encountered the case so far has dismissed the claim of
protection function privilege. It seems that every journalist, however,
finds it not only quite reasonable but portrays any other view as
dangerous. The latest example: On Saturday's Today, the morning after
Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision, co-host Jack Ford hit Major Garret
of U.S. News and Democratic consultant Peter Fenn with questions the
Secret Service lawyers would appreciate.
While Ford did ask
Fenn about the argument that the evidence trail took Ken Starr to the
officers so he must question them, his other questions came from an
anti-Starr point of view. Here are his other three somewhat convoluted
inquiries made during the July 18 interview:
-- "Peter, should we be concerned to
whatever kind of precedent is being established here, not just for this
President but for the institution of the presidency?"
-- "Major, when Peter mentions that you had
uniformity here in terms of the Secret Service agents saying this was a
bad idea -- you even had President Bush who is certainly no particular
political fan of President Clinton saying that was the case -- why then
shouldn't we be concerned that we've given up here something that is
so important because of this fight that's going on?"
-- "Major, let me follow up on Peter's
point. Often times we resolve these kinds of disputes by doing some type
of societal balancing here. How about this argument that says, 'you know
what, in the great cosmic scheme of things we're giving up this very
important tradition of confidentiality in order to allow Kenneth Starr to
investigate whether somebody might not have told the truth about a sexual
The liberal tag team of the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt and Time
magazine's Margaret Carlson spent Saturday night disparaging Ken Starr
and dismissing Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman's opinion as
irrelevant since he's a "right-wing hit man" and "a
Capital Gang on CNN Hunt issued the usual attack on Starr, declaring:
"He's inept...He's totally incompetent."
suggested that he "thought that was a terrific opinion by Judge
Lawrence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals where he said that the
Justice Department has become the personal lawyer for the President.
They're not representing the United States because the independent
counsel, which Judge Silberman said was unconstitutional, has precluded
the Attorney General and when the President of the United States on Friday
said what about this decision? He said we'll consider the source, the
source, I think, is one of the really distinguished appellate judges in
That prompted this volley:
Hunt: "He's one of the political hit men,
Bob. He's one of the right-wing hit men on the judiciary."
Margaret Carlson: "He's so conflicted, he
should have recused himself."
Novak: "Well, for a left-wing journalist
he's pretty bad. I admit that."
Hunt: "And also, you want to say no
distinguished, I'll give you one, Walter Dellinger (sp?), the former
distinguished solicitor general."
Novak: "He's a lefty. He's a lefty."
Hunt: "When you said no legal person you're
citing a right-wing hit man on the bench and saying that he's a
Novak: "Well, he's a very distinguished
Hunt: "Because he's a good source for
Carlson: "Because he's a righty. Your guy is
Tim Russert's perception versus reality. Near the end of Sunday's Meet
the Press of July 19 moderator Tim Russert asked guests William Safire and
Doris Kearns Goodwin about a report released Wednesday by a commission
which concluded a long-range missile attack on the U.S. could occur within
impressed by Russert's decision to raise the topic, exalting: "This
is an amazing moment on television. We're talking about the most
important thing that happened in the past week." After Safire went on
to contend that most people don't realize our vulnerability and assume
the U.S. has a missile defense system, Russert jumped in: "Let the
good times roll and the people are building second additions and these
kind of stories don't seem to concern the American people."
Goodwin offered a
comment and then Safire inquired of Russert: "Why isn't this
covered more on television? Is it dull?"
Russert replied: "And the newspapers as
well. I mean it's not been on the front page of anything, but it should
be and that's why we brought it up this morning."
"Not been on
the front page of anything"? How about the front pages of the
newspapers in Russert's hometown, Washington, DC? Let's take a look.
Above the fold on the front page of the July 16 Washington Times:
"No-Warning Attack on U.S. Said Possible in Five Years." Well,
maybe we can't expect Russert to read the Washington Times, it being
considered a right-wing newspaper. Certainly he would not have missed
something on the front page of the Washington Post. But he did. Not above
the fold, but still on the front page, a July 16 headline announced:
"Iran, N. Korea Missile Gains Spur Warning."
No wonder the networks don't pick up many major
newspaper scoops about scandal developments. Their Washington bureau
chiefs don't notice them even when they are on the front page. -- Brent Baker
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