CNN: Fight Subpoena; Clift Believes Clinton; "Idiots" Penetrate CNN
1) All the networks led with
multiple pieces on the Lewinsky immunity deal. CNN's Greta Van Susteren
urged Clinton to avoid Starr's "improper" perjury trap and
declared that Lewinsky "has absolutely no credibility."
2) Just days ago Eleanor Clift
predicted Starr would indict Lewinsky. Clift also proclaimed she believes
Clinton "told the truth."
3) CNN's Bernard Shaw lashed
out at "idiots who penetrated" CNN's phone system after CNN
put a Howard Stern call on during live Capitol shooting coverage. But who
is the real idiot?
4) Letterman's "Top Ten
Questions Ken Starr Plans to Ask Monica Lewinsky."
Every network led Tuesday night with multiple stories on the immunity deal
for Monica Lewinsky. CNN also aired a 10pm ET special and the deal was the
topic on Nightline which reported that the "talking points" were
drafted by Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, not the White House.
With seven minutes
on the Starr investigation, the CBS Evening News allocated the least time
to it. ABC and NBC gave it eight minutes and CNN over half the airtime of
its hour-long 8pm ET The World Today. All the shows provided the same
basic facts on the meaning of "transactional immunity," how
Lewinsky's admission of a sexual relationship contradicts Clinton's
claim, how Lewinsky denies Clinton asked her to lie and how Starr is
looking at the return of the gifts to Betty Currie, which were subpoenaed
by lawyers for Paula Jones, as evidence of obstruction of justice.
But beyond those
basics, each network delivered a unique revelation or emphasis. ABC
claimed Clinton suggested to Lewinsky how she might "describe their
relationship if ever asked;" CBS reported that Lewinsky will
"provide physical evidence" of her relationship; CNN
acknowledged that Clinton aides like Paul Begala and Lanny Davis, whom the
media cite as experts, "know little or nothing about his
relationship" with Lewinsky; FNC relayed how Lewinsky has promised to
recount all her conversations with Clinton cronies like Vernon Jordan; and
NBC disclosed that Lewinsky will turn over phone answering machine tapes
with messages from Clinton.
from the Tuesday, July 28, evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight (8 minutes on Monicagate)
Jackie Judd disclosed that "those legal
sources say Lewinsky also told prosecutors Mr. Clinton never instructed
her directly to lie to conceal the affair, but that he did pose
hypothetical examples about how she could describe their relationship if
ever asked. The question is whether those alleged suggestions could be
interpreted as obstruction of justice...."
From the White House, Sam Donaldson led into Mike
McCurry's claim that Clinton is "pleased things are working
out" for Lewinsky by asserting: "It might be hard to believe
that the President would be happy that Monica Lewinsky has made a deal
with Kenneth Starr, but that is exactly what's being said here."
-- CBS Evening News (7 minutes)
From Washington, Dan Rather intoned: "Good
evening from our nation's capital. The Clinton presidency has moved into
a new and potentially more dangerous phase. Special prosecutor Ken Starr
has agreed to give Monica Lewinsky immunity from prosecution. In exchange,
Lewinsky has agreed to testify for Starr in his effort to build a criminal
case against the President. And Lewinsky will tell at least one story
under oath that now conflicts with the story the President told under
Scott Pelley began: "CBS News has learned
that Monica Lewinsky is now giving critical, new evidence to prosecutors
centering on gifts that she received from Mr. Clinton. In her immunity
deal today she agreed to provide not just testimony, but also physical
evidence of her alleged relationship with the President." Pelley
never really defined the "physical evidence."
Kristin Jeannette Myers explained the meaning of
transactional immunity and Bill Plante reviewed Starr's case so far,
highlighting the most relevant in the parade of 70 witnesses.
-- CNN's The World Today. (first 24 minutes,
plus two more stories later)
First, Wolf Blitzer ran down the deal, White
House reaction and Starr's plan to submit a report now that he won't
Second, CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren offered more of her defense
attorney advice to Clinton, declaring that since it's "improper for
a prosecutor to set a perjury trap" as Starr has supposedly done,
Clinton should not voluntarily testify. Instead, she urged him to make a
fight over the constitutional issue of whether he can be subpoenaed. One
of co-anchor Jim Moret's questions: "Greta, deal with this now as
an attorney, not dealing with the political aspects. Wolf Blitzer suggests
it could come down to a he said, she said conflict. In your view isn't
that good given the fact that Monica Lewinsky has, in effect, admitted
she's lied in the past?" Van Susteren agreed: "She has
absolutely no credibility."
Third, John King explored grumbling among
political aides and advisers Harold Ickes, Paul Begala and Lanny Davis
about the "keep mum" policy enforced by lawyer David Kendall.
King acknowledged: "Six months after Monica Lewinsky became a
household name, most of the people who speak for the President still know
little or nothing about his relationship with the former White House
Then why are they constantly showcased in news
stories if they don't really know anything?
After an ad break,
Brooks Jackson ran through some scenarios on the impact of what Lewinsky
might say followed by co-anchor Joie Chen interviewing Jim Barnes of
National Journal and Jay Branegan of Time magazine.
Later in the show, Candy Crowley profiled the
lawyers Lewinsky hired nine weeks ago and Eileen O'Connor explored how
the White House may spin its away out whatever Lewinsky says.
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster
disclosed: "According to investigation sources Lewinsky has agreed to
recount to the grand jury all of her conversations with Mr. Clinton's
friends and aides about her subpoena in the Jones lawsuit."
Wendell Goler looked at how Kendall went to court
to request a delay in Clinton's testimony and how the White House may
appeal the Lindsey ruling, worried that Starr may subpoena White House
Later, a Fox Files report by Steve Centanni
reviewed the history of the case and then Gil Davis, Boyden Gray and
Eleanor Clift discussed the day's developments.
-- NBC Nightly News (8 minutes)
Like Rather, anchor Brian Williams traveled to
DC. He opened the newscast: "Good evening from Washington, the scene
of much drama all day long, much of it involving a young woman from
California, a former intern at the White House, and an independent counsel
bent on breaking his case against the President wide open. Ken Starr has
his star witness tonight. Monica Lewinsky has made a deal, full immunity,
no strings, just an agreement to tell the truth, the whole truth, no
matter who she takes with her in the process. We will soon know her
version of it when all eyes will then turn to the White House where the
damage control specialists are already hard at work on it tonight."
Lisa Myers disclosed: "A source outside
Starr's office says as part of the deal Lewinsky will give Starr tapes
from her telephone answering machine, allegedly of phone messages from the
Myers also relayed: "Lewinsky still insists
the President never told her outright to lie about their relationship. But
NBC News has learned that she now has told prosecutors key details about
conversations, that combined with testimony from others, could be damaging
to the President and could help Starr build an obstruction of justice
case." Specifically, how Clinton told her that the Jones lawyers
could not subpoena the gifts if she no longer possessed them.
defined transactional immunity before Claire Shipman checked in from the
White House. Like Donaldson, she played McCurry's assertion that Clinton
is "pleased that things are working out for her." Finally,
Williams turned to Tim Russert who suggested polls will determine
Clinton's decision on whether to talk:
"If the President wanted to testify, he
could. They want to hear Monica Lewinsky's testimony first. Then they
want to gauge public reaction. If a month from now 80 percent of the
country believes Monica Lewinsky's version of the facts, but 60 percent
still think Bill Clinton's doing a good job as President, that will very
much shape the President's response to this..."
Eleanor Clift, prognosticator. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught
three interesting comments from Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on last
weekend's McLaughlin Group. She predicted Starr would indict Lewinsky
(oops), conceded that she believes Clinton's crafty statements about his
relationship with Lewinsky and insisted the public opposes how Starr has
"persecuted" the case.
-- "And the
fact that he is going after the President before Monica Lewinksy tells me
that Ken Starr is pretty desperate here. He doesn't have his main
quarry, who is Miss Lewinsky, and he may have to, he may have to indict
her. And let's see how that plays in the country."
-- Clift: "If
he told the truth the first time he should stick with it. If he's got
adjustments to make now's the time."
John McLaughlin: "So you think, you think
that he will leave things the way they are because it is your feeling that
he told the truth right?"
Clift: "My feeling is that he told the truth
and I know on this set there is an entire presumption of guilt. Read the
words carefully. What did he admit to? Read the words carefully. What did
he admit to?"
-- "At worse
this is lying about sex and the American people approach this with a great
deal of common sense and they don't want it to see persecuted to the
extent it's being persecuted."
CNN was fooled by an obvious prankster, prompting Bernard Shaw to lash out
at the "idiot," but maybe the real idiots were those who put him
on the air.
there's major breaking news event involving a tragedy or live action
video, from the OJ chase to the Diana car crash to the TWA crash, a fan of
syndicated radio host Howard Stern always manages to get onto CNN and/or
MSNBC (onto ABC in the OJ chase) with a fake phone call. They make it onto
the air since the cable networks never bother with any basics of call
screening. It happened again last Friday during CNN's live coverage of
the Capitol shooting. As recounted on the "Captain Janks" Web
page, the Stern fan reported:
"I called CNN's assignment desk in
Washington, DC and told a producer that I was the spokesperson for
'Washington Memorial Hospital,' the place where the gunman had been
rushed in critical condition, and that I was authorized to report that he
had died of multiple gunshot wounds. The producer asked me if I would be
willing to go on the air with Bernard Shaw and report it live. 'Of
course.' I replied, trying not to sound too excited."
"After a screening process by the producers
that included the phone number of the 'hospital', (which I had gotten
earlier), the correct spelling of my name (Michael Bowen), and the wording
of my report, I was transferred to Atlanta, GA where the on-air phone line
is sent through. Within seconds, I on the air with Bernard, and plugged in
to the world."
As any resident of
the Washington area knows, there is no such thing as Washington Memorial
Hospital. But that didn't deter CNN. So, at 5:29pm ET on July 24 CNN
viewers heard a live report from the fake caller, rehabilitated to be from
GW Hospital though the on-screen graphic read "Washington Hospital
Bernard Shaw: "Michael Bowen is a spokesman
for George Washington University Hospital. He is live on the telephone
now. Mr. Bowen, what can you tell us?"
"Bowen": "The gunman, whose name
will be withheld, has died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest at 4:52
p.m. Reports said that he was angry that his radio was broken. He couldn't
listen to Howard Stern."
Shaw: "Oh my goodness. We were just victims
of a hoax. My sincerest apology to you our viewers. Sometimes during live
coverage, we have idiots who penetrate telephone systems and our system
was just penetrated. That was not a spokesman from George Washington
University Hospital...That was a hoax. All I can do is put my palms up and
apologize to you. If there was a way to prevent it, believe me, you would
not experience what we just experienced. Well, that was awful, and I hope
that person -- well, I shouldn't say that, that wouldn't be polite, would
It's a lot
funnier when you actually see Shaw's "oh my goodness" followed
by his overheated pontificating. To hear the call via RealAudio, go to http://www.captainjanks.com
penetrate telephone systems?" Quite a skill to "penetrate"
the CNN phone system. He placed a call. Who is the real idiot, the caller
or the CNN producers who put it through without any effort at verification
of a guy claiming to be from a hospital that doesn't exist?
A suggestion for
CNN: This happens every time there is live coverage of a tragedy. Be aware
of its likelihood and prepare some verification questions. Or at least
check caller ID (In this instance the call came from Pennsylvania). They
could have asked for the address of the hospital, the name of the nearest
Metro stop or the name of the college President. Incorrect answers should
be obvious to a DC resident, like a CNN Washington bureau producer or
Then CNN staffers
won't look like the idiots.
From the July 28 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Questions Ken Starr Plans to Ask Monica Lewinsky." Copyright 1998 by
Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. "Can I try on that absolutely
darling little beret?"
9. "Is it all right if my son Ringo asks a few questions?"
8. "In a past life, did you sleep with President Kennedy?"
7. "Was your security clearance at level 36C -- uh, I mean, level
6. "Is that hair gel?"
5. "Could you have a talk with my intern?"
4. "In the course of your encounters, did the President ever yell,
3. "Are you mad at me for ruining your entire adult life?"
2. "Is it true he asked you if you would like to 'go down in
1. "Did you inhale?"
And from the
cbs.com Web page, my favorites of the Top Ten Extras, "the extra
jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten" as aired on the
-- "So what other world leaders have
-- "If they were alive, who would you rather nail: Calvin Coolidge or
Martin Van Buren?"
-- "Would you describe his thighs as 'pasty-white' or 'fish-belly
-- "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth as long as it helps nail Clinton's ass?"
-- "Could your hair be any bigger?"
-- "Someday a woman will be President. Will that change your
-- "At any time, did the President have improper relations with your
-- "Could you demonstrate exactly what you did to the
-- "Are you familiar with the expression, 'You haven't done it until
you've done it with a Special Prosecutor'?"
latest editions of Notable Quotables and MediaWatch are now up on the MRC
home page. -- Brent Baker
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