Starr Leaker; Catholics Worse Than HMOs; Pentagon Condemns CNN
1) Every network but NBC
Tuesday night focused on Starr's fight against charges his office
improperly leaked grand jury information. CBS tied Starr's trouble to
Brill's hit piece.
2) "This is not about
cost. It's about ideology. What happens when a Catholic hospital is the
only one around." Nothing good, ABC's World News Tonight argued on
3) CNN didn't shy away from
the Pentagon report condemning its Tailwind story and CNN has made a
financial settlement with one aggrieved party, but a Fox poll found few
have lost respect for CNN.
Every network but NBC devoted a full report Tuesday night to the hearing
before three appeals court judges on the parameters of an examination of
whether Ken Starr's office improperly leaked grand jury information. NBC
didn't mention the day's gathering of lawyers. CNN and FNC featured
full stories, and CBS aired a brief mention read by anchor Dan Rather, on
the Pentagon report which concluded there's no evidence to support any
of the allegations made in CNN's NewsStand story on Operation Tailwind.
Neither ABC or NBC mentioned the findings. (See item #3 today for coverage
of the Pentagon report on CNN's original story.)
discovered a health threat even greater than HMOs: hospitals owned by the
Catholic church. Peter Jennings warned the upcoming story "is not
about cost. It's about ideology. What happens when a Catholic hospital
is the only one around." See item #2 below for more.
administration proposals for further nursing home regulations topped
ABC's World News Tonight. The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News led
with the investigation into the cruise ship fire while FNC's Fox Report
opened with the probe of Starr and CNN's The World Today went first with
an explanation of how the government tracks temperatures.
Washington Times front page showcased two exclusives: First, that by
adding six new intercontinental ballistic missiles, China has implemented
a one-third increase in its ICBM arsenal. Second, following up on its
Monday story about how the White House got 1,000 FBI files, how the White
House conceded that it had improperly obtained hundreds of files. Bill
Sammon reported: "A White House official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said new Filegate documents list more than 400 people 'whose
files we should not have requested.' The official explained that the
White House was updating its security files from an outdated Secret
Service list that contained both existing employees and those who had left
the White House. 'We were working from a list that was not an accurate
one, but there was certainly nothing intentional about this,' the
CNN allocated a few seconds to the China story,
but the other networks ignored it and no network uttered a word about the
Here are some
highlights from the Tuesday, July 21 evening shows. A look at the Pentagon
report on CNN's story is in item #3 today.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight led with Sam Donaldson on a 900 page report from the Health
Care Financing Administration on how laws passed four years ago didn't
do enough to improve nursing homes. Next, from San Francisco, reporter
Judy Muller highlighted nursing home abuses, charging: "This weekend
the Government Accounting Office will release the results of its
investigation into California nursing homes. Sources say the language of
that report is unusually strong and critical. While many nursing homes do
offer adequate care, critics say that the elderly residents are too often
at the mercy of a profit-driven industry."
On the Monicagate
front, Jackie Judd explained that Starr and lawyers for all the parties
appeared at the courthouse. Judd asserted:
"ABC News has learned that back on June 26
Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, who is presiding over the Lewinsky matter,
gave the go ahead to the President's lawyers and others to obtain
documents from Starr and to interview people who might know about leaks,
perhaps even Starr's prosecutors. An agitated Starr has managed to hold
off the investigation so far by making three different attempts to have
the court of appeals overrule Judge Johnson."
Judd concluded: "If Starr loses and he and
his staff find themselves under investigation it would at a minimum be a
severe embarrassment. It would also give his opponents another opportunity
to challenge the credibility of Starr's case against the
-- CBS Evening News began with the cruise ship
fire, what Dan Rather dubbed "agony on the Ecstasy." After
pieces on improving safety at railroad crossings and the fragility of some
SUV models, Rather turned to Scott Pelley, who explained:
"This evening the President's attorney's
are trying to turn the tables on Ken Starr. Sources tell CBS News that in
a closed court hearing today the President's defense team demanded sworn
testimony from Starr and one of his deputies."
They are alleging prosecutors have leaked secret
grand jury to media, Pelley told viewers before linking the attack on
Starr to Steve Brill's hit piece. Over a picture of Brill's Content
magazine, Pelley recalled: "Starr has been under pressure since a
controversial magazine article that alleged his office was the source of
news reports on grand jury evidence. Four weeks ago, an angry Judge Norma
Holloway Johnson ordered a hearing on the allegation, but Starr filed a
series of appeals claiming the President's lawyers were trying to wreck
by noting the appearance of some Secret Service officers before the grand
jury and how another just retired agent on the presidential detail had
been issued a subpoena.
-- CNN's The
World Today. Wolf Blitzer provided a summary of the battle over leaks
between Clinton's lawyers and Starr.
-- FNC's Fox
Report at 7pm ET began with David Shuster's look at Starr's trip to
the courthouse to try to dismiss the case against him over leaks. Shuster
also relayed how the Secret Service officers are being forced to answer
before the grand jury questions they had earlier refused to answer, such
as what steward Byani Nelvis had told them he saw.
Later, in a Fox
Files report Carl Cameron previewed an audit due Wednesday showing how the
Social Security Administration employs workers who toil solely for a labor
union, a practice which cost $15 million in 1996. Cameron explained:
"President Clinton's executive order in 1993 made it all legal,
creating labor-management partnerships in which federal employees become
taxpayer-salaried labor representatives."
-- NBC Nightly News ran three stories on the
cruise ship fire, but held Monicagate to a brief "Hot Spots"
item on the appearance by two Secret Service officers before the grand
jury. Not a word about the leak battle.
What's more threatening and dangerous than an HMO? A community with only
Catholic-controlled hospitals, ABC contended Tuesday night. Plugging the
upcoming segment on the July 21 World News Tonight Peter Jennings
asserted: "When a Catholic hospital is the only one nearby are
patients losing some of their options? We'll take A Closer Look."
"A Closer Look" segment, Jennings explained:
"We already know with the advent of health
maintenance organizations, unless we're able to pay for all the services
we like, most of us give up a certain degree of choice in medical care.
Our report tonight is about the most controversial of choices. This is not
about cost. It's about ideology. What happens when a Catholic hospital
is the only one around."
New Hampshire Michelle Norris looked at complaints about what happened
when the Catholic owned hospital entered into a management partnership
with the other hospital in the Queen City, "a partnership formed to
help cut costs, but because of the Catholic church's rules about birth
control and abortion, there have been severe consequences for
Relaying the complaint of Frances Kissling of
Catholics for a Free Choice about how bishops are making medical decisions
instead of doctors, Norris recounted an anecdote about a woman denied an
"emergency abortion" her doctor found medically necessary.
Norris ran two soundbites from Kissling and a
clip from an upset OBGyn, but just one soundbite from the head of the
Catholic Hospital Association. With more hospitals merging their
managements to save costs, Norris warned in her conclusion, in 76
communities across the country the Catholic church now controls all the
hospitals so the public has no other choice.
a power outage in DC briefly knocked Washington's ABC affiliate WJLA off
the air for a bit less than a minute immediately after the Norris piece,
so I missed the beginning of a follow-up interview. Jennings talked with a
Catholic expert I recognized, but at the risk of getting his name wrong
I'll not guess at it here. The signal cut back in just as the guest
expert was suggesting there's nothing wrong with a hospital owner
running it as they see fit.
In his final question, what I believe was the
second of two questions posed, Jennings countered: "A cynic on the
other hand might say that here is the Catholic church trying to get around
the abortion laws in the country and force its will on an increasingly
larger number of people. What do you say to that?"
MSNBC and FNC late Tuesday morning carried part of the Pentagon press
conference with several military leaders announcing the results of their
look into the CNN story on Operation Tailwind. CNN carried it live, in its
entirety, without network commercial break. Tuesday night CBS gave the
Pentagon report a few seconds while ABC and NBC skipped it. CNN and FNC
offered full stories, but a poll result relayed by FNC suggests the whole
incident has not really hurt CNN's credibility.
On CNN's The
World Today Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre didn't sugar-coat the
"The Pentagon investigation concludes the
two central allegations of CNN's now-retracted report on Operation
Tailwind were wrong. Investigators found no evidence that during the
Vietnam War deadly sarin nerve gas was used on a secret foray into Laos,
and no evidence the mission was to hunt down and kill U.S.
McIntyre introduced a clip of Defense Secretary
William Cohen: "Cohen said he wanted to send a message to the world
that the U.S. has not and does not use lethal nerve gas, and to tell
veterans of the 1970 mission that their names have been cleared."
Cohen: "I can assure you and your colleagues
and your families, you did nothing wrong and quite to the contrary, you
did everything right."
"Investigators concluded it would have been
highly improbable for all 16 U.S. troops to have survived the extraction
operation if the gas used had been deadly sarin."
Lt. Colonel Eugene McCarley, former company
commander: "The very fact that these two seats right here are filled
today should be all the evidence anyone should ever need that sarin gas
was not used."
McIntyre: "As a result of its investigation,
the Pentagon will now re-examine the records of the once-secret operation
to see if the forgotten heroes deserve more recognition. In particular, it
will look at the actions of a medic, Michael Rose, whose fellow veterans
say should be considered for a Congressional Medal of Honor."
Not quite the
attitude toward the military expressed by NewsStand producers April Oliver
and Jack Smith. But McIntyre's willingness to thoroughly rebuke CNN's
original story is no surprise when you recall his anger at Oliver and
Smith. As cited in the July 8 CyberAlert, in the July 7 Washington Post
Howard Kurtz reported:
"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.'"
But it may not
have harmed CNN all that much according to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
Poll result featured on Tuesday's Fox Report. Asked if they had
"lost respect for CNN and Time because of the report?" the
55%: No, not lost respect
16%: Yes, lost respect
29%: Not sure
Matsumoto proceeded to summarize how the Pentagon "didn't find any
evidence to support the allegations." After noting the non-use of
sarin, Matsumoto added:
"The report also concluded there was no
evidence to support the other charges, that the mission was organized to
hunt down and kill American defectors, that a village was destroyed and
that women and children were killed in the process. The author of this
book called SOG, an acronym for the Green Beret unit that fought behind
enemy lines, is himself a former SOG commando. He believes the men of
Tailwind deserve more than an apology."
After a soundbite from Major John Plaster, former
head of SOG, Matsumoto raised an issue CNN didn't touch: "Lt.
Colonel McCarley has rejected a cash settlement with CNN that he says was
around $250,000. McCarley says he plans to sue the network on behalf of
himself and 14 other veterans of the Tailwind force."
Washington Times Rowan Scarborough disclosed that CNN rejected a demand
for $6 million from McCarley, but has issued an apology to retired Admiral
Thomas Moorer and, last Friday, agreed to a financial settlement with
Moorer for an "undisclosed sum."
CNN has posted the
full Department of Defense report on its Web site. As of Tuesday night at
least it could be accessed at: http://www.cnn.com/US/9807/21/pentagon.tailwind.report/
-- Brent Baker
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