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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday August 13, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 131)

Clinton the Provider; Geraldo Gunning for Brokaw; Gumbel's Staff Sacked

1) All but CBS ran a Monicagate story Wednesday night. CNN found that aides believe her and Bill Schneider called Clinton "a good provider." Starr will write his report, NBC promised, at "warp speed."

2) Geraldo Rivera is gunning for Brokaw's anchor chair, called Peter Jennings "little Petey" and conceded he "went over the top" in praising Clinton. Then on CNBC he gushed about Clinton, "I want to hug you" and challenged Starr to be "man enough" to go away.

3) CBS cans the staff of Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel, ensuring it will not return mid-season. Now how will they justify $5 million a year to Gumbel?


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC all led Wednesday night with at least two stories on the Africa bombings and all but CBS included a Monicagate-related story. No mention of Starr or Lewinsky on the CBS Evening News which ran pieces on what Rather introduced as "the growing woe for an HMO," losses at the Oxford Health Plans, as well as the hunt for Eric Rudolph in caves and the oil boom in Baku, Azerbaijan.

     With no actual events occurring on the Monica-front each of the other networks delivered stories speculating about what Clinton and/or Starr will do, say or report. ABC's Sam Donaldson looked at how Clinton is juggling his official duties with testimony preparation and relayed how he might be able to change his story while maintaining both versions are not in conflict. CNN's Wolf Blitzer relayed how White House officials insist Clinton will answer all questions but that aides privately fear the dress tests could prove Lewinsky's story true. "He may not always be truthful, but he's a good provider," asserted CNN's Bill Schneider is explaining Clinton's popularity.

     After quoting the anatomically-detailed definition of "sexual relations" used in the Jones deposition, FNC's David Shuster determined that by issuing a denial based on that definition "legal experts say Mr. Clinton closed any potential loophole." Ken Starr's report will focus on Jones-related issues of perjury and obstruction, NBC's Lisa Myers suggested, and after Clinton testifies the prosecutors plan to move at "warp speed" to get that report to Congress.

     Highlights from Wednesday night, August 12 coverage:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson set up his story: "The demands of the presidency and the demands of this President's personal survival are colliding this week as never before, but Mr. Clinton's having to juggle both as best he can."
     Donaldson explained that back from fundraising in California Clinton met with his national security team to learn about the bombings and then with advisers about the Asian economic crisis. He then ran some soundbites from Jonathan Turley speculating on what lawyer David Kendall might do during Clinton's testimony.
      Anchor Charlie Gibson asked what Clinton is expected to say. Donaldson replied that officials insist he will stick to his story. Donaldson added that one aide marveled "Remember Gennifer Flowers," meaning, Donaldson explained, "that the President in 1992 was able to say publicly he had not had a relationship sexually with her and yet swore this year that he in fact had sex with her on one occasion and still say he told the truth on both matters. Well, he may come up this time with a novel definition of sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky that differs with Kenneth Starr's." 

     -- CNN's The World Today. "For the second time this week, the White House is publicly rejecting controversial advice from outside supporters about the President's grand jury testimony Monday," Wolf Blitzer began. He explained: "This time those supporters have urged the President to sidestep graphic and humiliating questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky."
     Blitzer concluded by highlighting evidence on the dress: "That dress is still in the hands of the FBI, but some presidential advisers fear the worst. They say they already assume that what Lewinsky alleged about the dress during her grand jury testimony could turn out to be true. That's a reality the President faces as he prepares for his own testimony and it's one reason why several outside supporters say he should be ready not to answer certain questions."

     (Here's a lesson on why we always transcribe ourselves or check network transcripts against the actual story. Compare what Blitzer actually said in that last paragraph with what CNN's transcript at www.cnn.com/transcripts says Blitzer said:
     "That dress is still in the hands of the FBI, but some presidential aides already fear the worst. They say they're concerned that what Lewinsky alleged before the grand jury during her testimony could in fact turn out to be true. That's a reality Mr. Clinton will have to face as he prepares for his own testimony and why some outside supporters believe he should be ready not to answer certain questions.")

     Next, Bill Schneider examined how Clinton's popularity rides on the economy, beginning: "The Cold War is over, but President Clinton is still Commander-in-Chief of the economy. That's been Clinton's salvation. It explains the vast discrepancy between his high job performance ratings -- 76 percent say he can get things done -- and his low personal ratings -- just 34 percent consider him honest and trustworthy. He may not always be truthful, but he's a good provider.
     "All that could change if the economy sours. Is that happening? Not yet. But the Japanese yen is crashing. It's at an eight-year low, and therein lies the biggest threat to the U.S. economy, and to President Clinton...."

     -- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster looked at how Clinton cannot change his story as an aide suggested to Donaldson he might. After Shuster noted that Lewinsky testified to performing oral sex on Clinton at least a dozen occasions, Fox legal analyst Stan Goldman pointed out that someone can be convicted of perjury only if they knew they were lying. So, did Clinton? Shuster explained that at the Jones deposition her lawyers forwarded a three point definition of sexual relations, but Judge Susan Weber Wright allowed only this first part, which Shuster announced meant any "contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person."
     Asked if he had sexual relations with Lewinsky as defined, Clinton replied: "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her." Shuster's assessment: "...In denying sexual relations and then adding the word 'affair,' legal experts say Mr. Clinton closed any potential loophole. They say there is no way he can admit a relationship with Lewinsky and still claim he was telling the truth."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers told viewers: "After four years and $40 million sources close to the investigation say Ken Starr may now be within a few short weeks of sending a report to Congress finding substantial and credible evidence of possibly impeachable offenses by the President."
     The report, Myers stated in picking up on print media stories, will focus on charges stemming from the Jones suit of perjury and obstruction and will not likely to accuse Clinton of any wrongdoing in Whitewater. Myers elaborated: "Sources say Starr's report will be heavily influenced by what the President tells the grand jury Monday. Today a presidential spokesman ruled out suggestions that the President refuse to answer key questions for privacy reasons."
     Conjuring images of Star Trek, Myers concluded:
     "Once the President testifies prosecutors plan to move at what an ally called 'warp speed' to get a report to Congress soon after Labor Day. It's a report that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to want weeks before an election."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Is the "NBC Nightly News with Geraldo Rivera" coming soon? Yes, in Rivera's dreams. "Geraldo Rivera wants nothing less than to be 'news anchor for the next millennium,' a pronouncement that may not sit very well with the anchors of this millennium," reported J. Max Robins in an August 15 TV Guide story. To promote his new CNBC news program, Upfront Tonight, Rivera shared his plans and dreams with Robins: "Openly hoping that his new show will catapult him to a top slot at NBC News, Rivera brashly announces, 'I'm running for the center chair at the desk of the wise men.'"

     Robins reported that Rivera promised a "crusading" newscast, that NBC News personnel are concerned about his partisan reporting and that in another interview Rivera insulted Peter Jennings, dubbing him "little Petey." (MRC intern Carrie Hale typed up these excerpts for me from the only article not on the TV Guide Web page.)

     Upfront Tonight will debut on Monday, August 24 and is expected to replace Equal Time at 7:30pm ET, though CNBC has yet to cancel Equal Time. Robins characterized his new show as "the newscast of the future that draws on a style from the past." Robins explained: "'We're going retro,' says Rivera. 'The audience doesn't care about space-age presentation, they care about content.' Rivera promises a newscast with passion, something of a return to WABC's Eyewitness News in New York City, where he established his reputation as a crusading reporter."

     Rivera's role at NBC News, where he's been promised four prime time specials and is now part of the Today team, does not please Tom Brokaw. Robins observed: "As both anchor and managing editor, Brokaw has made it clear that he doesn't favor Rivera's contributions and, say NBC News sources, doesn't even want promos for Upfront Tonight or Rivera Live airing during his newscast."

     (One factor I'd suggest for Brokaw's distress: at 7:30pm ET Rivera's new show will air in the Pacific (4:30) and Mountain (5:30) time zones before NBC affiliates show Brokaw's Nightly News, so Rivera will deliver to two time zones NBC's first take on the day's news.)

     Robins also discovered that "the truth is, Brokaw (who declined comment) is not alone in taking umbrage at the reemergence of Rivera as a legitimate network journalist. Some reporters suggest that Rivera, covering Bill Clinton's recent trip to China for Today, snagged an exclusive interview with the President because of his partisan reporting, and even [Katie] Couric and [Today Executive Producer Jeff] Zucker thought Rivera went too far on a subsequent Today show when he called Clinton 'the most maligned and assailed man in the history of the executive office' and questioned how Congress could impeach Clinton for 'doing something that virtually every member [of the House and Senate] has done at some time in their lives.'"
     "Rivera's concession that he 'was too over the top' in his Clinton comments probably won't appease his competitors, many of whom can't or won't think of Rivera as anything but the tabloid grandstander whose nose was busted by skinheads and who wrote a tell-all autobiography (unsubtly titled Exposing Myself ) that detailed sexual encounters with the famous and not so famous."
     "'I wear my heart on my sleeve,' Rivera says. 'My hair is too long. I'm an ex-hippie. I have tattoos. I'm Puerto Rican with a mustache and a broken nose. I don't look like those guys. I don't hang out with those guys. That's why they don't like me.'"

     See the July 30 CyberAlert for details about Rivera's Today exchange: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19980730.asp
     And see the July 1 CyberAlert for what he reported from China:

     Giving me a good excuse to check out the October Playboy when it comes out, Rivera issues some hits on his colleagues in the upcoming Playboy interview. Robins provided a preview:
     "Rivera takes direct aim at ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings. Conceding the anchor has 'paid his dues,' Rivera says he still thinks of Jennings as 'little Petey, whose father [a prominent Canadian journalist] put him on the air.' In a double strike at Jennings and the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who has been critical of Rivera in the past, Rivera calls Cohen 'the sissy who got involved with Jennings' wife.' He later says that the only way Jennings would venture into Harlem for a story is with 'six bodyguards.'"

     After the TV Guide story broke last week, Rivera retreated from the clear implication of his comments about becoming a star anchor. USA Today "Inside TV" columnist Peter Johnson relayed on August 10: "In a statement Friday, Rivera said he's not gunning for Brokaw's job. 'When I said I wanted to be an anchorman for the next millennium, I meant as the host of Upfront Tonight and Rivera Live. Tom Brokaw is a great newsman who does a terrific job, and the rivalry between us is grossly overstated.'"

     Meanwhile, Rivera continues to use his current CNBC show, Rivera Live, as a platform to sympathize with Clinton and lash out at Ken Starr. One recent example occurred on August 6, hours after Lewinsky testified that she performed fellatio. Rivera complained:
     "Let me say that the Founding Fathers must be turning in their graves that a President of the United States is vulnerable to impeachment for this [hits his hand on papers held in his other hand]. According to a source very close to the Lewinsky camp, Monica promised to testify to multiple encounters with the President, not as many as thirty-seven, but more than just those six nights that Hillary Clinton was out of town."

     Rivera then offered the take of his "excellently placed source" on what took place:
     "Generally speaking, the encounters took the form of a frantic embrace and mutual fondling. The President, Monica will or has already testified, would gratify the former intern while she performed oral sex, but not to completion. According to my source, the President allegedly would end the encounter by himself nearby, but on one or two occasions might have accidentally left evidence on Monica's clothing."

     A couple of CyberAlert readers sent to me what Hotline reported that Rivera said later in the show. I checked the quote, and can now run it in a more accurate form. After showing a clip of Clinton promising to answer all the questions, Rivera urged him to refuse to cooperate:
     "Mr. President, we love you. I want to hug you, I want to hug you, please do the right thing. This is nothing, this is nothing. Thomas Jefferson did not have this in mind, I swear to God."

     Going to a commercial break minutes later, Rivera challenged Starr: "I would give Ken Starr the Nobel Peace Prize were he to be man enough not to refer a sex lie to the House for impeachment."

     There you have your "news anchor for the next millennium." 


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Bryantgcap.jpg (24812 bytes) Bye-bye Bryant for good? Several months ago CBS News announced that Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel would not return in the fall, but held out the promise that it would be a mid-season replacement. But on Tuesday CBS News President Andrew Heyward informed the 40 or so staffers they are being let go. There goes any chance of a return of Public Eye. CBS apparently has chosen to rest its hopes for a successful new magazine show on a second night of 60 Minutes expected to debut next year.

     Michelle Greppi reported in the August 12 New York Post: "It was strictly a business decision, they were told. Gumbel was not present at the meeting because, said a spokeswoman, the taping time for elements in tonight's show had been rescheduled and he had to go home to change clothes.
     "The spokeswoman said Gumbel will foot the bill for a staff party tonight at an undisclosed location."

     Well, that's the least Bryant can do with his $5 million a year.

     Geppi continued: "CBS News strenuously insists that it retains the 'flexibility' to gear up again for mid-season, but insiders say the odds against that are now insurmountable. The Eye staff exodus will begin as individuals wrap up outstanding stories. There are a number of stories in the bank, which will allow the show to remain on the air until Sept. 16."

     Staffers may be absorbed by the new 60 Minutes. As for what Gumbel will do for his $5 million, USA Today's Peter Johnson wrote on August 12: "CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves has offered him specials 'to keep my face on the screen, but I'm really trying to get through mid-September. Then I'll think of my options.' A return to sports? Unlikely. He has his HBO show, Real Sports. Morning TV? Nope. 'I've had enough perkiness for a lifetime.' Talk show? 'What, become another Geraldo?'"

     Politically, he already is.

     For some of his more vitriolic attacks while at CBS on Ken Starr, Linda Tripp and anyone in Clinton's way, check out: 
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19980131.asp http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19980318.asp http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19980706.asp

     "As news magazines often do, Public Eye has shown signs of ratings life in summer, finishing among the top 20 shows for the first time last week," asserted New York Times reporter Bill Carter in an August 12 story passed along to me by the MRC's Clay Waters. Actually, last week Public Eye did not air. But CBS did quite well with a Countryfest '98 special in Gumbel's usual 9pm ET/PT Wednesday time slot. -- Brent Baker

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