Hyde Hit Topped ABC; NBC: Starr Gone Too Far?; Starr's "Sexual McCarthyism"
1) The Salon hit on Henry Hyde
led ABC's World News Tonight. CBS, CNN and FNC all mentioned it, but not
NBC. Dan Rather repeatedly insisted Clinton's testimony was
2) Tom Brokaw asked: "Did
Ken Starr go too far and reveal a lot more than Americans needed or wanted
to know?" NBC's answer: Yes.
3) The media focus on scandal,
Geraldo Rivera complained, caused "humiliation" for Clinton in
front of a foreign leader. "Does the Starr report herald the
beginning of the era of sexual McCarthyism?"
4) Letterman's "Top Ten
Alternatives To Impeachment." Plus: Letterman annoys the Clintons.
The Salon online magazine hit on Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde
led ABC's World News Tonight. CBS anchor Dan Rather read a short item on
the charge Hyde had an affair in the 1960s, CNN gave it a couple of
sentences in a larger story, FNC raised it three times in questions to
reporters and analysts but NBC didn't touch it. NBC Nightly News did,
however, feature a slanted In Depth piece on whether Ken Starr "went
too far" in his report. NBC's answer: Yes. (See item #2)
CBS, CNN, FNC and
NBC all led with Clinton's press conference with the President of the
Czech Republic. CBS and CNN emphasized how Clinton refused to dispute the
specifics of the narrative about Lewinsky. NBC first stressed Clinton's
refusal to resign. All the networks raised the controversy over release of
the video of Clinton's testimony, with CBS, CNN and FNC running full
stories, but only FNC political analyst Cal Thomas turned Democratic
arguments against them, pointing out they released the testimony video of
Reagan and misleadingly edited video of Gingrich for an ad. Dan Rather
repeatedly insisted that the video of Clinton's testimony is
"widely" considered "secret."
Here are some
highlights from the Wednesday, September 16 evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight allocated the least time of any network Wednesday to the
scandal-front. Peter Jennings opened:
"Good evening. Yes it did get nastier in
Washington today. The House Judiciary Committee presses on with its debate
about releasing the videotapes of Mr. Clinton's grand jury testimony.
Mr. Clinton declines another opportunity to say whether he lied about
Monica Lewinsky. We'll hear the President in a moment, but we're going
to start on Capitol Hill because a widely respected politician, at the
very center of any impeachment process, has had his past questioned
Douglass then explained that Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde had
warned that things might get rough, with the White House possibly
disseminating derogatory information about committee members as part of a
"scorched earth" policy. He warned that he'd consider such
intimidation to be obstruction of justice. Douglass got to the news of the
"But even before he wrote that memo, Hyde
had learned that the President's allies might be spreading a story about
him. Two reporters have told ABC News that a senior White House official
has peddled a story to them that Hyde once had a girlfriend. Another
reporter said the official was offering stories of sexual escapades by
Republican House members."
Over video of the Salon Web page on which viewers
could see the headline "This hypocrite broke up my family,"
Douglass explained: "Today Salon magazine, an Internet publication
often sympathetic to the White House, broke the story that 30 years ago
Hyde had an extramarital affair. The magazine insisted the story did not
come from the White House."
Douglass read Hyde's admission of a long-ago
indiscretion and Hyde's charge that "the only purpose for this
being dredged up now is an obvious attempt to intimidate me, and it
Douglass ended by giving credibility to White
House denials: "Tonight the White House put out a statement saying
that they will have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. The
statement went on to say that if the White House finds out who the
official is that person will be fired."
No mention by ABC
or the other networks about the FBI files and how they may have provided
the White House with some good leads on Republican dirt. ABC also failed
to point out the difference in relevance between an affair with a
contemporary and carrying on with a subordinate in the office and then
lying about it in a court procedure.
talked with Cokie Roberts about the video, more Democrats saying it would
be better if Clinton resigned and how polls taken by Congressmen and
Senators show less support for Clinton among "likely voters"
than media polls find among the general population.
ABC's third and
final item: Jennings played a couple of clips from the press conference of
Clinton evading a question about the Starr report's accuracy and whether
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began by laying
out the events of the day:
"Good evening. President Clinton sought this
afternoon to reassert his leadership of the nation's agenda. The
President did so at his first news conference since Ken Starr's
accusations of sex and crimes were made public. The President also did so
as the Republican majority in the House prepared to release what was
widely thought to be the President's secret videotaped testimony to the
Ken Starr grand jury. That release may occur before the week is out."
Scott Pelley hit
Clinton hard: "Dan, at the press conference today the President did
not dispute the devastating testimony of Monica Lewinsky."
Pelley ran some clips of Clinton responding to
questions about resignation and lying. "When asked again if he lied
under oath, Mr. Clinton sidestepped." Pelley showed him recalling the
"essential truth" he discussed at the prayer breakfast and how
he does not want to get "mired in details."
After his report,
Rather harped on the video release: "Scott, how is it that the
President's, what was supposed to be secret grand jury testimony, can be
made public?" Pelley explained that Starr got court permission to
give it to Congress and they are not bound by rules of secrecy. Pelley did
not tell viewers that the session was videotaped because Clinton refused
to go to the grand jury and then insisted on appearing on a day they were
out of session, so it had to be taped so the grand jurors who couldn't
come in could see it later.
Schieffer looked at the fight over the tape on the Hill, running
soundbites from those on both sides, including Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee
who referred to a "Salem witch hunt." Schieffer concluded:
"Democrats are hoping against hope that somehow it might backfire on
the Republicans and they can be painted as purveyors of smut. So far,
Republicans seem willing to take the risk."
Rather followed up
by highlighting how a new CBS poll determined 70 percent oppose the
release of the Clinton video. Even Republicans do, by 58 to 41 percent.
In what I'd
guess is a reference to ABC, in the 7pm ET feed of the Evening News Rather
read this item about Henry Hyde:
"Some news organizations are running hard
with the following story tonight. The Chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, Republican Henry Hyde, issued a statement tonight
acknowledging, quote, 'youthful indiscretions,' unquote. Hyde was
responding to a published report, quote 'linking him' unquote to a
woman who is not his wife. Hyde, in his statement said, this was dredged
up now in an effort to intimidate him but that it won't interfere with
his committee work."
Wyatt Andrews explored how congressional Democrats are vainly trying to
focus public attention on issues like HMO reform and a patient's bill of
-- CNN's The World Today went first to Wolf
Blitzer who emphasized how Clinton in his press conference
"repeatedly refused to rebut Ken Starr's allegations." Blitzer
contrasted Clinton's sharp "never" reply in February when
asked if he would resign to his meandering response Wednesday about
feeling pain and how he's working on the things he should.
is an understatement," declared John King in a piece on the White
House staff and how they'd like to drop the "legally accurate"
defense but are concerned about later indictment.
From Capitol Hill
Candy Crowley worked in this brief mention of Hyde in her piece on how
he's refereeing the arguments over the video release. In the midst of
that, Crowley asserted, "news of a Hyde affair more than 30 years ago
hit the Internet. He called it a youthful indiscretion. The only purpose
for this being dredged up now, he said in a written statement, is an
obvious attempt to intimidate me and it won't work."
explained that there would be no video if Clinton had testified in person
and raised the issue of Reagan's testimony, but said it was different
because that was at a criminal trial for John Poindexter, not before a
grand jury. Charles Zewe checked in with a piece on how George W. Bush is
having second thoughts about a presidential bid because Clinton has
"sullied" the system.
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Jim Angle handled
the press conference story. Afterward, co-anchor John Scott asked him
about the affair charge against Hyde. Next, Carl Cameron stressed how
Clinton is "resigned" to the video release and that more
Democrats, specifically Jim Moran and Gene Taylor, are suggesting
After an ad break,
Scott interviewed Republican Rep. of Florida Mark Foley and asked him
about Hyde. David Shuster recounted how the Starr report shows Lewinsky
thought Clinton in love with her, Julie Kirtz looked at the split amongst
religious leaders on Clinton and, finally, Juan Williams and Cal Thomas
assessed the press conference and the decision to release the video. Cal
"The Democrats released Ronald Reagan's
testimony in the Iran/Contra affair after he left office and when he was
apparently in he early stages of Alzheimers disease and could not
legitimately remember a lot of thing that happened during his presidency.
I remember when the Democrats, talk about campaign commercials, when they
used clips of a Newt Gingrich speech and clipped it in a way that made him
appear to be against Medicare and exploited that in congressional races
all over the country, saying Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich don't want you
to have your Medicare. He's going to starve people, throw old people out
of nursing homes. So, the chickens have come home to roost for this guy.
They can't be fooling around with videotape of Republicans and then
oppose its release for Democrats."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's opening,
before the theme music, tease: "President Clinton insisting again
tonight he can lead the country....A new NBC poll suggesting many
Americans have doubts. In Depth: What many people are asking. Did Ken
Starr go too far?"
Up first David
Bloom, who asserted: "Tom, asked point blank whether he lied under
oath, the President refused to answer. It was at that point that he urged
Americans not to get mired in all the details, but it's a critical
question. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that a
majority of Americans now believe that if the President lied under oath to
the grand jury impeachment proceedings should go on."
Bloom added: "In a dramatic turnabout from
last month, fully 60 percent of those surveyed now believe the President
has obstructed justice." That's up from 38 percent. Though his job
approval stands at 66 percent and 61 percent oppose resignation, Bloom
relayed that 73 percent tag his moral values as "very poor."
Next, Lisa Myers
explored how an obstacle to a plea bargain with Congress is that Starr is
still investigating and would prosecute if Clinton left office. Myers
explained that Starr is still looking into many matters, such as
intimidation of Kathleen Willey, use of Pentagon files to impugn Linda
Tripp and the silencing of Web Hubbell, so there may be more trouble ahead
for Clinton staffers.
"In Depth: What many people are asking. Did Ken Starr go too
far?" Tom Brokaw asked at the top of Wednesday's NBC Nightly News.
Leading into the first ad break on the September 16 show he delivered this
plug: "Did the Ken Starr report to Congress go over the top? Still
ahead tonight NBC News In Depth. Were all those graphic and intimate
details about the President's Oval Office affair really necessary?"
And, just before
the next ad break Brokaw struck again: "When we come back, NBC News
In Depth tonight. Did Ken Starr go too far and reveal a lot more than
Americans needed or wanted to know?"
Finally, after the
three plugs NBC got to the hit piece. First, Brokaw highlighted how when
asked "how much confidence do you have that Starr's report is fair
and impartial," the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found just 36
percent said a "great deal" or "quite a bit," while 62
percent replied "some" or "very little." NBC did its
part to reenforce that view with a full screen graphic: "The Nightly
Question: Did Ken Starr go too far?"
began the story: "As the nation studies the complete Starr report now
in bookstores as an instant paperback, many Americans, even Clinton
opponents, accuse Starr himself of going overboard, going too far in the
level of detail..." After a couple of examples from the report,
"It's not just an argument made by
President Clinton's lawyers. The former top White House lawyer for
Richard Nixon, whose testimony helped bring that President down, calls it
NBC played a soundbite from John Dean who is a
regular Starr-basher on the weeknight cable shows, before Williams
acknowledged that Starr defends the details "as the underlying facts
needed to judge whether the President lied." He let GWU law professor
Jonathan Turley explain how Clinton brought it on himself. But that was it
for pro-Starr comments.
his list of Starr's transgressions: "But some defense lawyers say
the Starr report really is about sex, not cover-ups."
Alan Dershowitz of Harvard alleged:
"Historically, whenever we've gone after people sexually, sexual
McCarthyism, we always say it's not about the sex."
Williams added: "Another question: Did Starr
go too far in pursuing the Lewinsky affair in the first place. Is a sexual
affair worth impeachment? Many constitutional scholars say no, that it's
a punishment meant for a much graver offense against the nation."
Following a clip of Professor Cass Sunstein from
the University of Chicago Law School, Williams insisted: "And other
scholars say Starr failed to spell out clearly in his report why the
President's actions make a case for impeachment and simply dumped it all
Professor Bruce Ackerman of the Yale Law School
agreed. Williams then concluded with the view of Starr's enemies:
"With the Clinton presidency now in serious
trouble, Ken Starr's critics say he went too far in recounting the small
details and not far enough in explaining how they could add up to
Bill Clinton never faces the press except when he's with a foreign
leader, but Geraldo Rivera still considered the scandal questions out of
bounds. And he worried about "sexual McCarthyism."
Wednesday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC: "How can he stay focused on
the nation's business when the press remains focused on him?"
Rivera sympathized with Clinton's plight:
"Imagine the frustration, the humiliation of standing beside another
world leader when all the press really wants to ask is about your sex
Plugging the same
Pete Williams hit on Starr as ran on NBC Nightly News, Rivera warned:
"And does the Starr report herald the beginning of the era of sexual
McCarthyism? Why the gory detail, and who gets hit next? We'll give you
Rivera read a
short item on Salon's Hyde hit, but did not suggest that might reflect
And from the
Freudian slip department, introducing a story on overwhelming support for
Clinton among blacks, Rivera noted that one out of step black paper called
for Clinton to resign. Setting up that point, he stated: "More than
100 newspaper editorials across our country are calling for President
Nixon to resign...."
From the September 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Alternatives To Impeachment." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Must take 63 swings to the head from
9. All of Clinton's interns must now be former "Golden Girls."
8. Arrange for him to be President of France, where they're into that
7. The place: San Quentin. The cell mate: Hillary.
6. Must deliver next State of the Union speech while wearing "the
5. Every day from 9am to 10am, ordinary citizens may come to the White
House and sass him.
4. At public appearances, "Hail to the Chief" replaced by cheesy
porn movie music.
3. Must issue formal apology to Ted Kennedy for giving philandering
politicians everywhere a bad name.
2. See Bobbitt, John Wayne
1. No "Xena" for two weeks.
And from the Late
Show Web page, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it
into the Top Ten."
-- One out of every six cans of soda he
opens has been shaken up.
-- One night in a broom closet with Madeline Albright.
-- Force him to smoke cigar that has "been with" Richard
-- Whenever he eats a Big Mac, it must have a scarlet "A" drawn
onto it with ketchup.
-- Instead of Air Force One, now must fly Kiwi Airlines.
-- Fix his presidential TV so it only gets CBS.
-- Has to take another Martha's Vineyard vacation with Hillary.
-- Must sit in giant dunking booth until every American has had a chance
to knock his fat ass into the water.
-- Must spend one year living in a small studio apartment with Richard
The Clintons avoid
Letterman's Clinton jokes according to an anecdote highlighted by
Time's Margaret Carlson. She opened a piece on Hillary in the September
"It was nearing midnight in the solarium,
the informal room on the third floor of the White House. The Mexican food
had been cleared away, and a few dinner guests were hanging out waiting
for the President to come back from taking a phone call. Just as he was
returning, the First Lady noticed out of the corner of her eye that the TV
was on, tuned to the David Letterman show. Casually, she leaned over,
picked up the remote control and switched the set off before the President
could hear a barrage of scandal jokes."
delivers what the Clintons can't handle. -- Brent Baker
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