Polls Back Clinton; Rivera: Media Must Apologize to Clinton; Probe Starr?
1) Monday night the networks
focused on Clinton trying to show all is normal and how polls show the
public opposes resignation or impeachment. FNC focused on Betty Currie as
an active facilitator.
2) With Clinton supposedly
cleared on Filegate and Travelgate, Geraldo demanded to know when the
media will say "We're sorry." And he lashed out at divorcee
Peter Jennings for "talking about the President's bad morals."
3) At ABC's GMA it's Starr
who needs investigating and Clinton who is the victim of a prosecutor
"chasing down his personal life."
4) On Today, Katie Couric
warned about a "bunch of self righteous hypocrites on Capitol
Hill" and Matt Lauer worried about too much Clinton scandal coverage.
5) Film director John
Frankenheimer declared Ken Starr is "a witch hunter and a very
dangerous man who has done great harm."
Top Democrats saying Clinton must drop his legalese defense, Clinton
trying to show all is normal by giving a policy speech and polls showing
continued public approval and opposition to resignation or impeachment,
were the themes pushed by the networks Monday night. NBC Nightly News
opened with a graphic of Clinton with this tag: "On the Job."
Only CBS's Scott
Pelley highlighted the irony of how in his address to the Council on
Foreign Relations Clinton "found himself lecturing struggling nations
on the virtues of honesty, discipline and responsibility." CBS's
Eric Engberg produced a "Reality Check" on the weaknesses of
Starr's case. ABC's Peter Jennings interviewed Senator Orrin Hatch,
but didn't mention an angle raised by Bob Schieffer on CBS that
"Hatch has become so frustrated with the President's legal team he
has sent word to the White House that he would personally be willing to
lead an effort to see that the President is not indicted for perjury if he
would just admit he lied."
CNN explored the
gap between how men and women assess Clinton. FNC's delivered three
unique items: David Shuster on how the Starr report shows Betty Currie was
an active facilitator of the Clinton/Lewinsky trysts, Gary Matsumoto on
how USA Today and other major newspapers have called for Clinton's
resignation, and in poll numbers placed in an on-screen bumper, how most
Americans are ashamed of Clinton.
Here are some
scandal coverage highlights from Monday night, September 14:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings painted a President on the run:
"...And when the most senior members of the
President's own party say they are not satisfied with the President's
standard of truthfulness, when senior, even sympathetic members of both
parties say the President has got to tell the truth as the rest of us
understand it, then you know it is far from over."
Up first, Linda
Douglass on how Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt issued
statements urging Clinton the drop the legalese defense. She reported that
they feel they can only defend Clinton if he's seen to be telling the
truth. That would make censure possible and avoid impeachment, the
Donaldson recounted Clinton's trip to New York City: "With a spring
in his step and his wife by his side once again looking content and
supportive, Mr. Clinton gave no indication today he feels like a man with
his back to the wall. In fact in a speech before the Council on Foreign
Relations on the global economy, he made no reference to the scandal or
his difficulties, just presented the picture of a President battling the
Republican Congress for more money for the International Monetary Fund on
behalf of American prosperity."
Donaldson concluded by relaying how the White
House had just released a response saying "that no legalisms can
obscure the fact that he knows he was wrong." But, Donaldson
countered, "missing from this statement is any indication Mr. Clinton
has instructed his lawyers to change their tactics."
Peter Jennings asked Donaldson about a poll
showing by 57 to 39 percent the public want Clinton to stay, not resign.
It's those kinds of numbers, Donaldson explained, which concern aides
worried that Bill and Hillary may be "beguiled by" them and
think their troubles are over.
Third, Jackie Judd
explained that the White House is pursuing the unpopular legal strategy
because an admission of guilt would risk and indictment after Clinton's
term ends. Next, Jennings talked with Senator Orrin Hatch about how the
Senator wants Clinton to be honest. Then Jennings highlighted an ABC poll
which found 45 percent think the Starr report made a "strong
case," versus 42 percent who said he delivered a "weak
case." That's better than for Clinton's response, which 59 found
weak and just 31 considered strong.
Hayes checked out reaction among teens in Asheville, NC. One girl in a
high school class observed: "I think that now that he is weakened so
much that a lot of people find that when he gets up and says I have sinned
and I shouldn't have done this it's almost funny."
She showed more common sense than the Washington
media. As detailed in the September 12 CyberAlert, far from laughing at
Clinton's prayer breakfast address, network reporters praised it as
"extraordinary" and "poignant." In a Time Daily
dispatch from Friday passed along to me by MRC analyst Clay Waters, Time
Managing Editor Walter Isaacson declared: "It's one of the most
remarkable speeches ever given by a President."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened:
"Good evening. Congress is starting to weigh in tonight after a
weekend of mulling Ken Starr's accusations. President Clinton
concentrated on a policy strong point with the public: the economy. A CBS
News poll tonight indicates still solid approval on his job performance.
Against this backdrop Congress talked about how or whether to consider
impeachment, censure or keeping the pressure on for resignation."
Schieffer highlighted how both Republicans and Democrats are urging
Clinton to "reign in his lawyers and just admit he lied to the grand
jury. They are telling him that frustration with his legal team is the
main factor driving the increased pressure here to hold impeachment
hearings. We've learned that the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, Republican Orrin Hatch has become so frustrated with the
President's legal team he has sent word to the White House that he would
personally be willing to lead an effort to see that the President is not
indicted for perjury if he would just admit he lied."
Pelley looked at Clinton's New York speech, uniquely noticing that he
"found himself lecturing struggling nations on the virtues of
honesty, discipline and responsibility."
Clinton: "We need to be honest with Russia
and everyone else. No nation rich or poor, democratic or authoritarian,
can escape the fundamental economic imperatives of a global market. No
nation can escape its discipline, no nation can avoid its responsibility
to do its part."
Pelley delivered the same conclusion as had
"This evening the White House has just
released a statement saying that the President believes, and I quote,
'no legalisms should obscure the fact that what he said was wrong, he
apologized for it and he has asked for forgiveness.' But the White House
has still not given up the legalism that it wasn't technically
Next, Dan Rather
defined what censure would entail and then introduced a Jerry Bowen story
on public reaction by noting that a CBS poll discovered 61 percent approve
of his job performance. Bowen explained that while only 32 percent now
want him to resign, if he obstructed justice 50 percent would want him to
resign or be impeached. For now, 57 percent favor censure. Bowen added,
without a specific number, that most thought Starr's report was meant to
embarrass the President.
Engberg checked in with a "Reality Check" on Starr's report.
Citing Starr's claim of abuse of power by claiming executive privilege
in order to delay the investigation, Engberg protested: "But
Presidents routinely fight to protect the powers of their office."
As for obstructing justice by having an
understanding with Lewinsky that she should lie, Engberg countered:
"But no explicit order to lie was uncovered."
Engberg continued after clips of Clinton lawyers
Ruff and Kendall: "Experts agree Starr's most damaging case against
the President is allegations of perjury, that he lied under oath three
times." Noting that Clinton claimed he did not recall being alone
with Lewinsky, Engberg led into a soundbite from former prosecutor Greg
Garrison by suggesting: "prosecutors would pounce on that."
Engberg concluded by highlighting his doubts:
"But perjury cases can also be difficult to
prove because the issue is what the accused was thinking, did he intend to
lie, did he know he was lying after he took an oath to tell the
-- CNN's The World Today opened with anchor Jim
Moret reporting that Clinton is "trying to project a business as
usual image." John King examined complaints by Democrats about
Clinton's legalistic defense and Wolf Blitzer explained that White House
strategy is to convince Congress that the public supports the President.
Candy Crowley summarized the various views from Capitol Hill before CNN
ran an on-screen graphic of a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showing that when
asked "Do you respect Clinton?" 54 percent replied no, 43
CNN also ran a piece from Jonathan Karl on how
more women than men support Clinton, a story about public reaction in
Glendale, California, and a report from Brooks Jackson on how the scandal
is helping Republican Congressman Steve Chabot in Ohio.
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Jim Angle suggested
that by giving his New York speech Clinton "tried to remind voters of
the good old days" when he concentrated on policy. Angle also
highlighted Democratic complaints about Clinton defense. Next, David
Shuster suggested the Starr report has transformed the image of Betty
Currie from "shell-shocked victim" to an active facilitator who
came in on weekends to clear Monica in. Shuster elaborated: "Another
time, fearing that the White House staff was suspicious, Currie walked
with Lewinsky and the President, then headed through a door to the dining
room and waited 20 minutes."
relayed reaction from Capitol Hill, anchor Jon Scott interviewed Judiciary
Committee member Lindsey Graham, and Jane Skinner plugged a Crier Report
interview in which Clinton childhood friend Dolly Kyle Browning claims
Clinton once admitted that he's a sex addict.
Next, prompted by USA Today's call for
Clinton's resignation, Gary Matsumoto reported that 7 of 39 papers with
a circulation over 250,000 have done the same, but a Los Angeles Times
poll found 63 percent of the public opposes resignation.
Rick Leventhal looked at the controversy over
Starr's report which uses the word "sex" 548 times, but
"Whitewater" just four times.
A bumper displayed by FNC relayed the findings of
a Zogby America poll. "Are you proud or ashamed to have Bill Clinton
as your President?" Proud: 31.9 percent; Ashamed: 50.1 percent; Not
sure: 18.1 percent.
-- NBC Nightly News. Over a picture of Clinton
with the tag "On the Job" beneath, Tom Brokaw announced:
"Good evening. President Clinton tonight
wants the world to know, and especially the financial markets, that he's
on the job and that he intends to stay. With Mrs. Clinton at his side he
made a trip to New York today to outline a major plan to deal with the
global financial crises before they sink the U.S. economy. And at the same
time Congress is deciding whether to proceed with impeachment steps and
the public continues to offer its reaction to the Ken Starr report."
Up first, David
Bloom who relayed the complaints about legalese from Democrats, adding:
"The President was all business today, or at least he wanted it to
look that way..." After reading a bit of Daschle's statement, Bloom
asserted: "But Mr. Clinton's supporters say they're bolstered by
public opinion polls which show most Americans know about the Starr
report, disapprove of the President's behavior but don't want to see
him resign or be impeached."
Gwen Ifill offered
reaction from Capitol Hill, including how top House Republican John Kasich
called on Clinton to quit.
piece by Lisa Myers, Brokaw declared: "Lying is not always a black
and white issue, but Starr is convinced he has caught the President lying
repeatedly." Myers highlighted some, such as how Clinton
"claimed he never touched her breasts or other intimate parts of her
body, quote 'that is not my recollection.' But Lewinsky said it
happened ten times and is backed up by friends she told at the time."
Mitchell explained how 60 percent say Congress should not drop the matter.
Mitchell outlined three options for the Congress: impeach, censure, or
censure plus a fine.
Geraldo's pissed and he lashed out at NBC and Peter Jennings Monday
night, demanding to know when the media will say it's sorry to Clinton
for over covering issues ignored by Starr. On CNBC's Rivera Live he
"The President's not the only one who
should fess up....almost drown in the sea of sludge, the fact that despite
the four year, $40 million blah, blah, blah, Whitewater mentioned two
times, Travelgate not once, Filegate not once, not even a reference to the
infamous talking points. Jonathan Alter my good friend at Newsweek said
80,000 stories had been published, 80,000 stories on those three topics,
on Whitewater alone, 80,000 just on Whitewater."
like a Nexis search that included whitewater rafting.
"We have done
some research of our own," announced a crusading Rivera. On screen
viewers saw story tallies from the New York Times, Washington Post and
Wall Street Journal. Without any source offered or time frame given,
Rivera announced the totals: 5,456 "references" to Whitewater,
217 to the talking points, 273 to Travelgate and 157 to Filegate. Again,
without any definition of parameters, for NBC he claimed 746 stories
"referred to" Whitewater, 62 to Filegate, 94 to Travelgate and
52 to the talking points.
"Will all of the media, including NBC, give even a fraction of the
airtime and the newsprint that we gave to these allegations to the fact
that no impeachable offenses were found? When are we going to say to the
President of the United States, 'we're sorry'?"
Later, he lashed
out, in an apparent reference to Peter Jennings: "At one network they
got an anchorman married four times and the reporter married four times,
there's eight divorces between them, and they're talking about the
President's bad morals!"
So, just how much
attention did the media pay to these other scandal areas. Not as much as
Rivera implied. Check out "Now They Decide to Cover a Scandal,"
an Investor's Business Daily op-ed I wrote back in January. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/oped/news/ibd19980126.html
In a January, 1997
MediaWatch study the MRC's Tim Graham documented how the networks
dropped Filegate soon after it broke: from June 30 to the end of the year
running "only six evening news stories and seven morning
reports." To read the entire study, titled "TV's Top Ten
Undercovered Stories," go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1997/mw19970101stud.html
Mendacity in the morning. At Good Morning America it's Starr who needs
investigating and Clinton who is the victim of a prosecutor "chasing
down his personal life."
-- Concluding a
September 10 Good Morning America interview with former Starr deputy John
Bates, MRC analyst Clay Waters noticed, co-host Lisa McRee suggested Starr
has done wrong: "And finally, Mr. Bates: What does Kenneth Starr do
now, and do you think he'll be investigated?"
-- On Monday's
GMA, observed MRC analyst Mark Drake, after George Washington University
law professor Jonathan Turley asserted that it will be hard to justify
prosecuting any perjury case involving an average person if Congress does
not pursue Clinton's perjury, McRee's co-host, Kevin Newman, shot
"But I guess the difference here is not, the
average person wouldn't have a $40 million grand jury chasing down his
Monday morning Today's Katie Couric came at Pat Buchanan with all the
most used Clinton spins, observed MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens who
transcribed these questions:
-- "Pat, of
course the bottom line here is what President Clinton did is a heck of a
lot different in the minds of many Americans than what President Nixon
did, in terms of what exactly they were covering up. Can you understand
that people have a hard time feeling that President Clinton should resign
because of sexual indiscretions or because [of] an adulterous
-- "Do you think Ken Starr really had to get
so graphic in this report? I mean it's, much of it is in the 'more
than what we really wanted to know' category. Did the details have to be
-- "Meanwhile we've been hearing through, in
recent days Pat, Dan Burton say that he fathered a child out of wedlock.
Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth say that even despite the fact she
campaigned on family values and won as a result of that campaign admit
that she had an affair with a married man for several years. I mean are
there bunch of self righteous hypocrites on Capitol Hill?"
Of course, neither Chenoweth or Burton lied under
oath about it, which is why Clinton is in legal trouble and they are not.
-- "Well what about the American people Mr.
Buchanan? 67 percent are saying that they still approve of President
Clinton and many say he should serve out his term."
To be fair to
Couric, she did at least ask Dee Dee Myers:
"I know c'mon Dee Dee. Really, I mean this whole thing, definition
of sexual relations. I mean who's advising the President to do that? And
isn't it just a totally bogus explanation?"
But she also
delivered a pep talk: "And they've got to be heartened by the polls
showing a lot of support still exists for the President. Although as Tim
Russert mentioned and Matt, as well, earlier this morning they still want
Congress to handle this. So they're really not home free."
Just like Rivera,
Today co-host Matt Lauer whined about media over coverage, asking liberal
columnist Molly Ivins:
"Over the past month there have been
something like 400 segments on network news shows dealing with the
President's scandal. To be very honest 300 of them have aired on the
main morning shows like this one. Is that too much coverage and why?"
And he wondered:
"Do you think then that this scandal, Molly let me ask this, has this
scandal done more to hurt the presidency or the press?"
Not a concern back
in the Iran-Contra period.
Hollywood is still solidly in Clinton's corner. MRC Entertainment
Division Director Kasha Kelley passed along to me this blast at Ken Starr
from film director John Frankenheimer as quoted in the September 11 USA
"I think Kenneth Starr is a man who has done
irreparable harm. I think there is nothing here that is so urgent that,
even if it warranted any kind of attention, it couldn't have waited
until the President finished his term. Starr is like some character out of
a Victor Hugo novel. He's a witch hunter and a very dangerous man who
has done great harm to the country."
analyst Tom Johnson informed me that Frankenheimer is best known for the
Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, Black Sunday and last year's
movie about George Wallace on TNT. He's also director of a new film
While on the topic
of the entertainment community, from the September 14 Late Show with David
Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard at the Emmys," here's
#6: "The gown is Bob Macke but the stain is President Clinton." -- Brent Baker
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