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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday August 17, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 133)

Starr's Arkansas Abuses; Hillary "Deeply Religious;" Starr's "Panty Raid"

1) Hours before Clinton is expected to concede he abused his trust, CBS's 60 Minutes re-ran a hit piece on how Starr abused his power to hurt "small fish" in Arkansas.

2) NBC's Tim Russert pushed Orrin Hatch to agree that if Clinton admits his lie Republicans should drop the matter. Washington Post reporter Fred Barbash begged Starr to cancel Clinton's testimony.

3) If Clinton obstructed justice and committed perjury, Sam Donaldson has decided "he is not qualified to be President."

4) ABC, CBS and NBC all ran admiring profiles of Hillary Clinton. NBC's Andrea Mitchell conceded that "close friends" admit she lied on Today, but Mitchell stressed how she's "deeply religious."

5) Friday-Sunday: ABC reported Clinton was sexually aggressive, NBC displayed sympathy toward Clinton's "turmoil" and contended "many Americans" will accept his she had sex with me line.

6) Geraldo Rivera complained that "you and me" are picking up Starr's legal tab in appealing the leaks ruling. "It will be piled onto the tens of millions his panty raid has so far chalked up."

Correction: Correcting the August 14 correction. The July 30 CyberAlert item on Geraldo Rivera is not about his reporting from China but about his exchange with Katie Couric on Today. The link address listed in the correction was accurate.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) On the eve of President Clinton's testimony and with everyone expecting Clinton to change his story in a way that would mean he's abused the public trust and those who believed in him, 60 Minutes decided to re-run a piece from just three months ago on Ken Starr's supposed abuses.

      The August 16 edition of the CBS show carried a new introduction as Morley Safer lent credibility to Hillary Clinton's charge that anti-Arkansas bias is behind attacks on her husband:

      "This week, as President Clinton was preparing for his closed-circuit testimony before the Kenneth Starr grand jury, Hillary Clinton attacked her husband's attackers, saying a lot of the criticism comes down to an anti-Arkansas bias. Well, chief among his critics, it can fairly be said, is Kenneth Starr. And the Starr Wars, it can also fairly be said, targeted Arkansas, home of the Whitewater affair and the investigation that now, four years later, seems to be winding up with the Lewinsky affair. From the beginning Mr. Starr's tactics and motives have come under fire, especially the way he went after low level targets in order to get them to testify against more prominent ones."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)If Clinton will just admit it will Republicans and Starr should be good enough to drop the matter so we can all move on. That's a argument some reporters are forwarding, putting the burden on Starr and the GOP to do the right thing and not pursue the matter if Clinton changes his story. Two examples from this weekend:

      First, while Tim Russert did pose some tough questions to Democrats later in the show, here are his first two inquiries to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch:
      -- "If tomorrow the President of the United States goes under oath and acknowledges he had sex with Monica Lewinsky, admits he misled the American people and apologizes for his behavior, would you be willing to close this matter down?"
      -- "Two weeks ago, Senator, you urged the President on this program to pour his heart out. If tomorrow he takes your advice, tells the full truth, unvarnished, doesn't try to thread the needle and play semantic games about what's sex and not sex, but acknowledges sex, apologizes for his behavior, will you, then, go to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde, the

      Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and say, 'It's in the best interest for the nation to let this matter rest'?"

      Second, in an Outlook section article in Sunday's Washington Post, former Post Supreme Court reporter Fred Barbash penned a plea headlined "Tomorrow Shouldn't Happen." Barbash began:
       "At this historic moment, as we cross the threshold to the first-ever grand jury interrogation of a President, I respectfully suggest that we step back. Kenneth Starr should cancel Clinton's grand jury appearance, finish his report and walk it over to Capitol Hill where it belongs. Sooner or later, under our constitution, the fate of the President must be a political question, not a legal one. Why not sooner?

      "The purpose of this plea is not to spare Clinton, but to spare us. Neither the rule of law, nor any particular law, requires a prosecutor to bring a target before a grand jury. It is a matter of discretion. The independent counsel should exercise that discretion in the interests of the people, whom he represents, and pass -- especially since the apparent purpose of Clinton's appearance is less to elicit information about a past crime than to get him to commit a new one. Let the House Judiciary Committee decide whether or not a President must testify under oath...."

      Sounds very noble, until you skip down to his next to last paragraph and realize Barbash is really driven by a liberal political agenda:
      "...how will posterity judge a government preoccupied with sex and lies, while children are gunned down in schoolyards; while the economies of Asia and Russia implode; while war rages in Kosovo and Angola, and while starvation ravages Sudan; while U.S. embassies are bombed in Africa, money for Social Security runs out, and 41 million people limp along without health insurance?"

      That's the bottom line for Clinton supporters, as long as he's protecting the right to abortion or working to expand government's role in health care, we should all excuse his personal behavior.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Bill Clinton has lost one White House reporter. ABC's Sam Donaldson declared on Sunday's This Week that if the President committed perjury and obstructed justice he should be removed from office. Donaldson asserted:
      "I think the question now is not whether Bill Clinton deserves compassion as a human being, understanding, we're all fallen agents, but is he qualified to be and should he continue to be the leader, the man to whom we look up to in this country if in fact he has done these things. I say, if he has done these things, he is not qualified to be the leader. Brother, I'll help you up, I'll give you a dollar if you need it but you can't be the President of the United States."
      After some protest from George Stephanopoulos, Donaldson clarified his assessment:
      "I'm talking about the whole suggestion of accusations which include subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice. I don't want to pre-judge the evidence. I'm saying if it turns out he has committed all those acts he is not qualified to be President of the United States and ought to be removed."

B&cwalk1cap.jpg (22518 bytes)cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)Hillary the Media's Hero. The network newscasts over the weekend relayed plenty of disdain for Bill Clinton trying to creatively define "sexual relations," but nary a negative word for Hillary Clinton. CBS and NBC featured pieces Friday night on the First Lady, ABC on Saturday night. NBC's Andrea Mitchell delivered the most glowing profile. Mitchell conceded that "close friends" say Mrs. Clinton knowingly lied in her January Today interview, but instead of chastising the First Lady Mitchell portrayed that as evidence she "is deeply religious."

      -- Eric Engberg on the August 14 CBS Evening News opened by noting that Hillary "does not regard herself as the wife betrayed." Instead, she sees herself as the victim of a political vendetta. Engberg highlighted how friends says the "crisis has not unhinged her" and though she initially blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy," she now blames her husband's problems on anti-Arkansas bias even though, Engberg noted, she's from Illinois. Engberg concluded by emphasizing public support:
"As for the public's assessment."
Man: "I think she's tip top"
Women: "I love her."
Woman: "I like her a lot."
Engberg: "A new CBS News poll shows she's viewed favorably two-to-one. Mrs. Clinton in 1992 defended her husband [60 Minutes video] in an earlier controversy and said she wasn't just standing by her man as in the country song. Now she appears to be doing just that."

      -- Andrea Mitchell delivered a tribute on the August 14 NBC Nightly News, beginning: "Politician, strategist, lawyer, protector -- in a marriage that friends say is based on brutal honesty and unconditional love."
      Following a January Today clip of Hilary Clinton proclaiming her love for Bill Clinton, Mitchell insisted: "Some people may see her as a woman wronged. But friends and White House officials insist Hillary Rodham Clinton is no victim."
      Mitchell ran a soundbite from a friend before maintaining: "Toughened by years of scandal and innuendo, she is a key player on the Clinton defense team. And as his wife Mrs. Clinton cannot be subpoenaed to answer questions about her legal or political advice"
      Lisa Caputo, a former aide to the First Lady, then offered how she has "an incredible legal mind."
      Mitchell picked up: "In fact, after yesterday's emotional memorial service for victims of the Nairobi bombing, a close adviser tells NBC News Mrs. Clinton was more focused than her husband, aAt the White House legal strategy session, zeroing in on the bottom line which for her is save the presidency, don't lie to the grand jury, even if that means making embarrassing admissions."
      Viewers head a soundbite from a First Lady historian and then Mitchell made this surprising assertion: "Close friends say she knew everything from day one and still went on NBC in January to deny all."
       Hillary Clinton on Today: "If all that were proven true I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true."
       But instead of offering a rebuke of the First Lady for her complicity in seven months of duplicity, Mitchell worried about her emotional well-being: "So how does she cope? What other wife would tolerate so much embarrassment? Two clues to Hillary Clinton's character: friends say she is deeply religious and incredibly angry, blaming Ken Starr, not her husband."
      Mandy Grunwald: "She insists on doing her job and refuses to give in to the President's opponents and to buckle under pressure would be a victory them for that she would never allow them."
      Over video of Bill and Hillary walking from the helicopter hand-in-hand, Mitchell concluded: "And, friends say, because the Clinton's are now each other's best counsel, if anything this crisis has brought them closer together."

      How sweet. Lying will bring us together.

      -- ABC got into the Hillary hailing act on Saturday's World News Tonight. Reporter Juju Chang began: "As her husband prepares to testify about whether he cheated on her, Mrs. Clinton has seemed anything but the wounded wife. This week she met with flood victims in Milwaukee, talked politics with local leaders and helped the country to grieve..."
      Chang focused on how "her unflinching loyalty has earned her a new level of respect" in high public approval numbers. Chang ran a soundbite from Grunwald on how they love each other and then from Mary Matalin on how Hillary is just trying to maintain her powerful position, before concluding: "Whatever her motivations, Hillary Clinton has used her fierce determination, which used to be seen as a negative, to turn what could have been a humiliating experience into a position of strength."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Space does not permit a thorough review of Friday through Sunday evening coverage of Monicagate, but I'll try to succinctly convey some of the most noteworthy aspects:

      -- Friday, August 14. Reaction to the trial balloon in the New York Times about how Clinton might concede "intimate sexual encounters," led all but the CBS Evening News which started with the appeals court ruling that the FDA does not have authority to regulate cigarettes.

      ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson outlined the new White House line: "At the deposition Jones's lawyers had given Mr. Clinton a written description of sex, which as edited and allowed by the judge defined several physical points of sexual contact 'with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person,' but did not explicitly cover all the points of contact involving oral sex. Further, the definition might be read to apply only if the President was initiating the contact, rather than the other way around. Last January White House Communications Director Ann Lewis said there was no loophole in the President's denial."
      But, Donaldson reminded viewers, look at Gennifer Flowers. In 1992 he denied sexual relations, but this year he admitted sex with her. Still, at a press conference he maintained both answers were truthful.

      Next, Jackie Judd added some information that would contradict Clinton's spin: "Sources familiar with Monica Lewinsky's story say that what she described to investigators about alleged sexual encounters with the President, clearly falls within the definition used in the Paula Jones deposition. The sources say any suggestion that Lewinsky alone was aggressive in her contact with the President is wrong. What they described is two-way physical contact. One source said if Mr. Clinton testifies to the contrary what he would be saying is 'he used a young woman just to satisfy himself.'..."

      CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley ominously began: "This is a moment of extreme peril for the President. At 1 O'clock on Monday a federal grand jury is going to watch Mr. Clinton raise his right hand and swear to tell the whole truth. Between now and then the President and his lawyers will be debating just what that story will be."

      CNN's The World Today. John King examined the internal debate about what Clinton should say. Bob Franken explained the logistics of the Monday set up and then Brooks Jackson tried to explain how the President defines sex: "We're going to be discussing the President's definition of sex, so you may want to send small children out of the room." After listing the definition offered in the Jones deposition, Jackson marveled that "Some Clinton advisers are claiming that definition technically does not cover, for example, oral sex if she contacted his private parts but he didn't contact hers, well, you get the idea." Jackson humorously concluded: "Okay, you can bring the kids back now. And when they ask, 'daddy, mommy, what's sex,' you can say 'let's ask a lawyer.'"

      FNC's Fox Report. Jim Angle emphasized how the White House is "throwing cold water" on speculation that Clinton's story will change, but are looking at what if scenarios. David Shuster explained the physical on logistics of Monday's event and Steve Centanni reviewed the claims made by "all the President's women," specifically Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey.

      NBC Nightly News opened with a story by Claire Shipman sympathetic to the President's plight: "If the President is feeling the weight of his upcoming testimony it didn't show in public. But those close to Bill Clinton say he is thoroughly shaken by his situation."
      After explaining the push to get him to admit a "limited sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky," Shipman offered this empathetic assessment: "The President's staff threw a surprise party for him today in advance of his birthday next week and many there were surprised at his good cheer. But privately those close to him say they are starting to see his turmoil as he searches for a safe path and one with some dignity."

       Next, NBC's Lisa Myers showed the network realizes Clinton is not the victim: "NBC News has learned the former intern has described encounters with the President in which he touched her in intimate ways. Sources familiar with Lewinsky's account say these encounters unquestionably would be considered sex, even under the narrowest definition given the President in January."
      Myers made clear Clinton put himself in the very spot Shipman found so worthy of empathy: "Even long time supporters say that at times in his career Bill Clinton has told as little of the truth as possible, as slowly as possible. That instinct, they say, may make Monday's testimony even more legally treacherous."

       Pete Williams looked at how "if two people have an affair and agree to keep it secret that's not necessarily a federal case" and Tim Russert outlined Clinton's options.

      -- Saturday, August 15. Golf bumped the CBS Evening News on both Saturday and Sunday, at least in the eastern and central time zones. Saturday night the bombing in Northern Ireland topped ABC and NBC.

      ABC's World News Tonight. Mike Von Fremd ran through Clinton's day with his lawyers, the set up in the Map Room and the options for what Clinton could say.

       NBC Nightly News. David Bloom argued that the public would buy Clinton's novel and narrow definition of sexual relations:
       "The President's lawyers are said to believe Mr. Clinton can admit to a limited sexual relationship with Lewinsky without committing perjury. Under this scenario, the President's defense would come down to she may have had sexual relations with him, but he did not have sexual relations with her. A tortured explanation perhaps but one many Americans, sick and tired of scandal talk, appear ready to accept, like those in Maryland at today's Howard County fair."

Man: "Some people just want to hear some kind of closure to it."
Woman holding baby: "Personally I don't care, I really don't, I really don't care if he lied or not."
Woman: "Basically I'm tired of the whole, hearing about the whole mess."

      -- Sunday, August 16. The upcoming testimony topped ABC and NBC as ABC's Peter Jennings traveled to Washington to anchor the weekend show.

      ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday. Mike Von Fremd noted how "The President's supporters were busy doing damage control on the Sunday talk shows, insisting the public would be sympathetic to an admission of wrongdoing by the President."
      Jennings then discussed the situation with Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and Jackie Judd. Tim O'Brien provided a profile of David Kendall.

       NBC Nightly News. From Washington, anchor Brian Williams set the scene: "Bill Clinton, the first President ever subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in office will do so tomorrow via live television. He may, in the process, become the first leader in the history of this Republic to admit to an illicit relationship with a young co-worker inside the White House while in office."
      Claire Shipman relayed the latest speculation that Clinton will maintain "through linguistic loopholes" that he did not commit perjury, reported that Lanny Davis urged the White House to release a transcript of Clinton's testimony and mentioned that NBC learned Clinton and Lewinsky conducted at least 75 phone calls.

      Pete Williams reviewed Starr's term. Williams opened by observing it has lasted longer than a presidential term. Though he highlighted how Starr has earned 15 convictions or guilty pleas in Arkansas, he concluded with this shot:
      "About the only commonly held view about Kenneth Starr is a wish that his investigation would end, now. A view that even some of his own prosecutors share."


cyberno6.gif (1081 bytes)Geraldo Rivera is disgusted with Kenneth Starr, a view he made clear Thursday night. Near the top of the August 13 Rivera Live on CNBC he declared:
       "Bill Clinton is paying his own legal fees. Guess who's paying Ken Starr's? Almost overlooked in the midst of the enormous attention being paid to next Monday's showdown, is the fact that the independent counsel tonight is in real peril himself, profoundly threatened by Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's decision that Mr. Starr show cause why he should not be held in contempt for what the judge feels is a pattern of allegedly illegal leaks of secret grand jury information. That's just like an indictment. It's very serious business in which the special prosecutor could actually face a stiff fine, possible disbarment or even imprisonment, however unlikely that last possibility is. As to the question of whose paying his legal tab: you and me. It will be piled onto the tens of millions his panty raid has so far chalked up."

       Taxpayers paying the legal tab for an official's abuses? Sort of like the huge tab Clinton has run up with everything from lawyers for the Secret Service officers to his use of government lawyers to appeal rulings about government lawyers, such as Bruce Lindsey. -- Brent Baker

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