CBS: "Extraordinary" Speech; Hillary as Victim Not Perpetrator
1) Geraldo Rivera disparaged
Ken Starr as "the self righteous prosecutor" and Eleanor Clift
decided Clinton's speech "perfectly reflects the emotions of the
American people tonight."
2) Prime time reaction: Bob
Schieffer awestruck by Clinton's "extraordinary" speech, Sam
Donaldson and Scott Pelley less impressed. NBC focused on public support
for Clinton and Brokaw kept raising his wish that the scandal can now be
3) Evening shows: "Will
Ken Starr let it end here?" hoped Tom Brokaw. NBC passed along
Clinton's favorite psalm. Instead of depicting Hillary as active in
Bill's obfuscation, CBS & NBC claimed she's a
"humiliated" spouse surprised about Lewinsky.
4) Just last week Lanny Davis
declared on ABC that Bill Clinton "has a record of being candid"
about his sexual liaisons.
5) Eleanor Clift claimed that
she "figured out months ago that something inappropriate went on
between" Clinton and Lewinsky.
Notes: First, I
realize this is an extra-long CyberAlert, but it covers a big day. Second,
this CyberAlert was sent to the listserve at 6am ET, so all recipients
should have received it by 8am. The distribution of yesterday's edition
was delayed for unknown reasons for about eight hours and was received by
recipients up to 13 hours after it was posted. For future reference, MRC
Web operatives Sean Henry and Kenny Lemay reliably get the CyberAlert up
on the MRC home page by 10am ET in the morning.
Correction: There were two
items numbered #5 in the August 17 CyberAlert. The second #5 was really
First up today, a quick one-two punch from Clinton's undaunted
defenders: Geraldo Rivera and Eleanor Clift. First, a taste of Geraldo
caught by MRC analyst Mark Drake. At the top of his 9pm ET Rivera Live
show on CNBC Monday night just an hour before the President spoke, Rivera
announced over video of Ken Starr:
"This is the President's pursuer, Ken
Starr, the self righteous prosecutor who relentlessly forced today's
historic and unprecedented confrontation."
Clinton's little talk, at about 10:30pm ET on FNC Eleanor Clift told
"I saw a man who seemed very saddened, he is
saddened by these events and he also reflected a certain amount of anger
and I think that perfectly reflects the emotions of the American people
tonight. I think people are disappointed in this President that he behaved
this way, but they are also putting it in perspective and that it is
largely a private matter."
After President Clinton's four-minute address from the White House which
began at 10:02 ET Monday night, ABC's Sam Donaldson noted it "was
not the speech his aides hoped he would make" and Peter Jennings
wondered about his allies left out on a limb. But on CBS Bob Schieffer was
awestruck, repeatedly employing the word "extraordinary." His
colleague Scott Pelley, however, emphasized how Clinton never "owned
up" to his fist-waving lie in January nor how much money his seven
months of obstruction cost taxpayers. NBC's Tom Brokaw kept pushing
guests about whether the nation can now move beyond the scandal or whether
it's time for the nation to forgive so it can heal. In reports from both
coasts NBC showcased citizens thrilled with Clinton's comments who hope
Starr will now drop his case. One exception: Maria Shriver stumbled upon a
Californian upset that Clinton is "too Republican."
Before the speech
CBS reporter Eric Engberg treated Hillary Clinton as a victim of a
"family tragedy" instead of as an active participant in a seven
month campaign of lies and obfuscation. An angry Orrin Hatch made
appearances on all the broadcast and cable networks. Barney Frank was
almost as popular, but he seemed to move around his home in Provincetown
as the background changed for each network.
The quotes below
and in item #3 that follows are made possible by the MRC's night beat
team of Clay Waters watching ABC, Geoffrey Dickens monitoring NBC, Eric
Darbe analyzing CNN, Jessica Anderson checking out CBS, Mark Drake looking
at CNBC and Paul Smith observing FNC. Geoffrey and Jessica deserve double
mention for stayed past midnight.
-- ABC News cut
into a pre-season NFL football game at 10pm ET and rejoined football at
10:26pm, thus offering less than half the coverage time as CBS and NBC.
Sam Donaldson observed: "This was not the speech his aides hoped he
would make and believed he was going to make. This was a sort of defiant
speech. When he said seven months is long enough, it was echoes of one
year of Watergate is long enough....He did not tell the country what that
relationship was. That question publicly is still unanswered. We're told
that he did before the grand jury, admit that it was a relationship
including sexual contact. But he didn't come clean with the country
suggested Clinton just matched what pollsters said the public wanted to
hear: "The President touched all the subjects which the polls are
telling us the American people agree with him on. They think the
investigation is politically motivated, they think it's gone on too
long, they think it's time to get back to the work of the country, and
the security interests of the country. And they think that his private
life should be private."
wondered about all those who seemed to believe Clinton all these months:
"George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Clinton said this evening the Independent
Counsel has hurt so many people. What about all those people who've been
standing up for the President for lo these seven-and-a-half months, on
tape, repeatedly seen on television, defending him because they believe in
him. What happens to them now?"
-- In a decision that probably disappointed
Clinton, CBS dumped the scheduled 9-11pm ET Miss Teen USA show and ran
Everybody Loves Raymond at 9pm followed by a 90-minute CBS News special at
9:30pm ET. CBS allocated part of the first half hour to replaying the
January 1992 60 Minutes interview with the Clintons about Gennifer
Clinton's speech, Eric Engberg lamented the plight of the First Lady:
"Dan, unlike any other scandal in memory, the country has been
acutely aware that what it is witnessing is not just a political
thunderclap, but a family tragedy. For seven months, she has been the
first defender as well as First Lady. Had she not done her job so well,
it's not likely the President would have stood up so well in the opinion
polls. While other Clinton supporters froze in shock after the initial
Lewinsky story seven months ago, Mrs. Clinton went on television to
attribute the charges to political foes."
Hillary Clinton: "This vast right wing
conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he
announced for President."
In other words,
she lied. But instead of pursuing her complicity in her husband's fraud,
Engberg highlighted sympathetic comments from Jesse Jackson about how they
blame Ken Starr:
"In recent days, as Mrs. Clinton and
daughter, Chelsea, were told how the President would answer grand jury
questions, the Clintons asked to see the Reverend Jesse Jackson, an old
friend, who described the President's mood."
Jackson: "He has a sense of, of shame, a
sense of self-disappointment, at this moment, in himself. But
fundamentally, this family, through this storm, remains strong. What I
basically talked with them about was, was having faith during a storm.
When these storms come suddenly and come violently, you can't panic and
Engberg: "Jackson says the Clintons are
united in their anger against Independent Counsel Ken Starr."
Jackson: "The one thing that kind of
connects and binds all of them, is a sense that, the intrusion they feel
by Starr, for this investigation to go from a, a failed land, water deal
in Arkansas about her, and end up about a dress in Washington about him,
they feel this, this unprecedented political journey has been unfair, and
they feel connected by that."
Engberg: "Jackson pointed to the fact that
Hillary Clinton took part in strategy sessions at the White House as
further evidence of her grace and devotion. Referring to the President, he
said, the good news for Bill Clinton in this is that he learned that
Hillary's love is unconditional."
Following the speech, Dan Rather turned to Bob
Schieffer: "Question: Is it enough to keep him from impeachment
proceedings in the Congress? We go to CBS News Chief Washington
Correspondent Bob Schieffer. Bob, is it enough?"
An easily impressed Bob Schieffer replied:
"I'm going to take a deep breath here, Dan [laughs]. That was just
an extraordinary statement. I, I don't recall, in all the time I've
been in Washington, hearing something quite like that. Is it enough? I
don't know....This was just an extraordinary statement tonight, just the
fact that the President of the United States would come on television and
discuss something like this, that in itself is extraordinary. But to say
that he had misled his wife, he had misled his family, you don't hear
this kind of thing very often, Dan."
CBS reporter Scott
Pelley managed a more thoughtful assessment: "First of all, it
didn't seem that the President really owned up to the statement last
January when he wagged his finger into the television camera and said,
'I want you to listen to me: I did not have an improper relationship
with that woman.' Also, consider this: The President talked about this
going on for seven months. Well, the President has been using the White
House, the White House staff, White House lawyers, for seven months to
defend this lie, essentially. We may never know how many hundreds of
thousands or even millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent here at the
White House to defend what the President now admits was a lie. All along
we were told that this was a vast right wing conspiracy and that it was an
attack on the White House and the presidency, an unjustified one. Well,
now apparently that wasn't the case and the President is acknowledging
that he knew that all along...."
-- NBC News began a special edition of Dateline
NBC at 9pm ET and stuck with the news special through 11pm.
Can the scandal
now end? Tom Brokaw hoped so. To Senator Orrin Hatch:
"Two of the points that you made that he had
refused to cooperate until just today and that he has misled the American
public. He has dissembled or lied in the eyes of a lot of people but now
he has said that in fact he did mislead the American public and his own
family and he did cooperate today. Does that mean in your judgement that
this matter should begin to come to an end?"
Congressman Bill McCullom:
"Tell us first of all do you think that the
President went far enough tonight to satisfy your, you at least, that
impeachment proceedings will not have to go forward?"
"Congressman McCullom as you know any
impeachment proceedings would have to take place in a political context.
Do you think that the President with his testimony today, his admission
tonight that he was wrong, [that he] had a critical lapse in judgment,
that he wants to repair his relationship with his family, that the
President has begun to restore at least his political standing in this
To Randy Tate of
the Christian Coalition:
"One of the basic tenets of the Christian
faith, Mr. Tate, is forgiveness. Does the President deserve the
forgiveness of the nation tonight?"
"But once the President does make the kind
of critical lapse in judgement, the wrong mistake, as he described it
tonight, once he says he regrets that is that not also a lesson for the
Brokaw did inquire
of Lanny Davis: "Let me ask you as someone who believed the President
for a time whether you felt any sense of betrayal tonight as you listened
to his remarks?" But, instead of condemning Clinton Brokaw painted
him as typical, asking:
"Why can't Bill Clinton or any President
for that matter, Jonathan Alter, simply look into the camera and say to
the American public, 'I have put you through a terrible ordeal for the
past seven months and for that I apologize?'"
"Jonathan Alter was his attack on Ken Starr
and his investigation at the conclusion of his remarks, was that
Alter of Newsweek offered a positive spin:
"It was honest. People wanted him to really say what was on his mind
and this does reflect Bill Clinton's true attitude toward this
From East to West
NBC discovered public joy with Clinton's speech and hope it will all go
away. Bob Kur drove to Towson, Maryland to watch Clinton with a cross
section of voters which supposedly included Dole backers. Kur told Brokaw:
"I must say going in Tom that this group, most of them believed that
the President, what he was going to say tonight, should be the last word
in all of this."
These voters didn't let any facts get in the
way as Kur explained: "There are reports tonight that the President
was not completely candid in his responses. He didn't give detailed
answers. If that's the case would it bother any one of you? [Chorus of
no's] And can I see a show of hands if anyone would want the President
to resign. Show of hands please. One out of this crowd of 14 or 15."
Shriver checked in from "the Broadway Deli. Very busy restaurant in
Santa Monica, California. When the President spoke here not too long ago
you could hear a pin drop in this restaurant. I'm here with Debra
Castiglione and Bruce Williams, he's a teacher, she's a sales exec.
You said that you were really interested in what the President had to say.
Did he come clean enough for you?"
Debra Castiglione: "Yes, he certainly
Shriver: "You still proud to have him as the
Castiglione: "I am proud to have him as our
Shriver: "Was it enough of an apology for
Castiglione: "Yes I think he owes it to
Hillary and his daughter and that should be it. It's over."
Shriver: "Debra said that she was most
concerned, at the end of the speech, about Hillary and Chelsea. Bruce you
were saying that you are not a Clinton fan but you thought this was
remarkable grace under pressure."
Bruce Williams: "Yes I did. I'm not a
Clinton fan because actually I think he's become too much of a
Republican. But I can't imagine anyone being in that position and I
think any of us, any of us if we had $40 million aimed at our private
lives would be in trouble. And I think that this pursuit of Clinton has
been vicious and is politically motivated...."
Still hoping the
end is near, Brokaw plaintively asked Tim Russert: "The last guest
that we had from California said, 'Who would go into politics now?' Is
this possibly a kind of bottoming out of this kind of compulsive
fascination that this entire country has had with this subject and the
polarization that it has brought about. And is there a possibility that
out of all of this the country will now find a way of healing itself
somewhere in the middle ground?"
Over half the August 17 broadcast network evening news shows dealt with
Clinton's testimony and speculation about his upcoming address. All
three passed along sympathetic comments about the First family from Jesse
Jackson and the CBS and NBC line-ups featured stories displaying empathy
for Hillary Clinton, portraying her as a victim instead of denouncing her
complicity in the seven months of obfuscation.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings interviewed Jesse Jackson, asking: "Mr.
Jackson, how are they taking it?" and "You told me earlier today
that you thought that Chelsea was a very poised individual. I know you
talk to her on a reasonably regular basis. How is she taking this? She's
been quite isolated by both her parents and the press to some
extent." After Jackson claimed "there's a kind of common
resentment that Starr's intrusion has attacked their family in ways that
has bound their family as opposed to tearing it apart," Jennings did
point out: "There are many people in the country who of course will
say that it was Mr. Clinton who brought that on, not the Independent
talked with George Stephanopoulos, posing two questions. First, "How
disappointed were you, as a friend of the President's today?"
Second, Jennings asked: "Can you answer in ten seconds why he waited
seven-and-a-half-months before telling the truth?" That allowed
Stephanopoulos to deliver this benign spin: "I don't think he
wanted to confront the truth about that relationship. It was a very tough
human problem and he just didn't want to face it."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather portrayed Hillary
Clinton as some kind of surprised spouse suddenly angry about her
husband's infidelity: "Now for her part, First Lady Hillary Clinton
remains staunch first defender. The Reverend Jesse Jackson talked around
midnight with Mrs. Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, and also with the
President. Jackson said the President, quote, [on-screen] 'would rather
face the grand jury and press...with their... hostility... than...face
Hillary and Chelsea with THEIR hostility. Fortunately...they are greeting
him...with devotion,' unquote."
painted a picture of Hillary the humiliated: "Dan, if there is anyone
for whom this day is as difficult as it is for the President, it is his
wife. Bill Clinton stands to be embarrassed by what he says today, but
Hillary Rodham Clinton stands to be humiliated....Six days after the
scandal first broke, the First Lady was asked on the Today show if people
should expect the President to resign if he had committed adultery and
lied about it. She stood by him."
Hillary Clinton: "If all that were proven
true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to
be proven true."
Plante: "Friends of Mrs. Clinton say that
she probably didn't know back then whether Lewinsky's story was true.
Now, however, sources say the First Lady is aware that her husband is
changing his story."
Houston to CBS:
Does anyone really believe she's so stupid that she just discovered the
charges about Lewinsky are true?
"Their friends say that despite everything that's happened in the
past, the Clintons are mortified that their private lives have become a
very public moral and legal issue. But they blame Kenneth Starr for that,
not Bill Clinton, so that may make things between them a little easier as
they head off for two weeks of vacation."
theme, Rather next asked former Clinton speech writer, U.S. News editor
and now CBS News consultant, Don Baer: "Now, there've been these
reports, so far as you can tell, true or untrue, that Mrs. Clinton, up to
this time, has been urging taking on Ken Starr frontally. True or
like someone so much "humiliated" by her husband as someone
excited by an opportunity to use an event to hurl unsubstantiated charges
at her political enemies.
-- CNN's 8pm ET special titled
"Investigating the President." Garrick Utley wondered what all
the fuss is about:
"The reaction I pick up from overseas is:
'Oh you Americans make to much about sex we do this in France we do this
in other countries it's never reported it's not an issue.' True
enough. But the other and in a way more telling point that they make is
that we Americans have lost a sense of proportion. This is not worth this
attention. This press coverage. This special investigation. That somewhere
we've loss a sense of balance and have lost our senses."
-- FNC's Fox Report. Uniquely, anchor Jon Scott
ruminated to reporter Jim Angle: "We heard David Kendall, the
President's lawyer, say the President testified truthfully. He didn't
add the word that usually follows that which is 'completely,'
suggesting perhaps that he didn't answer all the questions as David
Shuster has mentioned."
Angle elaborated on how Clinton may not have been
forthcoming, an angle not picked up so explicitly by the other networks:
"Well, in fact, that is what the White House has been saying, that
the President would testify truthfully and completely and you're right,
Mr. Kendall did not use completely and we are told that the President did
not answer some questions, that he refused to answer some questions. There
were even some matters of privilege that were raised. In fact, you know if
you look at the timeline here the President, Ken Starr was here for five
and a half hours and we're told that the President only testified for
little more than four. That suggests that there was an hour and a half
here for breaks, which would have been very short, and perhaps for some
wrangling between the lawyers over privilege matters, over the kind of
questions that were asked and perhaps for the President's refusal to
answer some of them."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened with a
plea to Ken Starr: "The President testifies. Making history at the
White House. President Clinton under oath answering questions from Kenneth
Starr about Monica Lewinsky. Did the President have sexual relations with
her? Did he lie about it? Or ask anyone else to lie about it? Will Ken
Starr let it end here? And the First Family. Hillary Clinton and Chelsea.
What do they know? When and how did they learn the difficult truth?"
relayed how "The President, Jackson said, takes comfort from Psalm
51. 'Have mercy on me oh God, and cleanse me from my sin.'"
Later, like Bill
Plante, Andrea Mitchell portrayed a weekend of humiliation and surprise
"Over a weekend of public humiliation and
private pain sources tell NBC News she helped her husband prepare first to
admit to adultery to Ken Starr, the man they both view as a mortal enemy,
then to face the nation and most difficult of all to explain all this to
her daughter. How does she do it? Jesse Jackson was with the First Family
After a clip of Jackson, Mitchell continued:
"For three days newspaper headlines had telegraphed messages from
anonymous advisors. The President was about to change his story. Friends
say the Clintons had a difficult, frosty private talk over the weekend
when she learned the real details of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
But then she geared up for battle as she has since the scandal first
Viewers saw a soundbite from Hillary Clinton's
Today interview denying the charge before Mitchell went on: "Friends
say she's known all along something happened but no details so chose to
believe her husband's early denials."
So, she knew she
was lying on the Today show. But, to believe Mitchell's tale, you'd
have to assume Hillary is an incredibly dumb woman. Mitchell contended:
"The turning point, Monica Lewinsky's dress. Past accusers were
easier to dismiss. This time, say First Lady's friends, there was
potential evidence impossible to ignore leading finally to her husband's
admissions this weekend. Ironically Hillary Clinton's role in this
scandal has boosted her popularity. But tonight with her husband's
admissions the First Lady will find it much harder to blame political
enemies for creating these problems."
What a difference a few days make. Just last Thursday Lanny Davis insisted
Bill Clinton has a record of being "candid" about his fidelity.
On the August 13
Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee, as transcribed by MRC analyst
Clay Waters, pressed: "The President told us that he was speaking
truthfully when he denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers. And then
last fall he admitted that he did have a sexual relationship with her, and
with all due respect, Mr. Davis, to you and the presidency, what will
'truthfully' mean on Monday?"
Lanny Davis contended: "Well, you've just
misquoted words, and words are important. What he said in the 60 Minutes
interview is not consistent with what you just said. He did admit more to
the American people publicly than most husbands admit privately. And I
think he has a record of being candid on this subject. He will be truthful
and I believe the American people are now in perspective looking at the
record of Mr. Starr. Forty million dollars and five years...."
McRee jumped in: "But he did, just to go
back, he did mislead us. We were under the impression, as the American
people, that he did not have an affair. He said he made mistakes in his
marriage, but he wouldn't say that he had an affair with her. And so
people are wondering what 'truthfully' will mean."
Sunday night Newsweek's Eleanor Clift claimed she knew all along that
Clinton had done something "inappropriate," but she never
bothered to tell anyone earlier. A New York City source not affiliated
with FNC alerted the MRC's Tim Graham to her comments on a special
pre-testimony edition on August 16 of FNC's O'Reilly Factor.
her: "Now, if the President does say tomorrow that he had an
inappropriate relationship with Miss Lewinsky, as sources say he will,
that is going to go against what you said on this broadcast a number of
times that you did believe the President when he said he didn't have any
sex with Miss Lewinsky. Does that make you personally feel bad?"
Clift: "Well, first of all, I, like many
Americans, figured out months ago that something inappropriate went on
between these two people that the President was embarrassed to talk
O'Reilly: "Why didn't you fill us in on
Clift: "I never said I absolutely believed
no sex went on. I am not that naive."
Compare her sudden
realization to what she asserted just three weeks ago. Here's an
exchange from the July 25 McLaughlin Group:
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?"
A presumption of
guilt now fulfilled. -- Brent Baker
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