GOP Blamed for Partisanship & "Lynch Mob Mentality"; Tape Release "Smells"
1) The networks Friday night
portrayed the House Republicans as partisan ram rodders, instead of
looking at Democratic cover up. Dan Rather refused to accept the name of
the Christian Coalition.
2) Liberal author Erica
Jong's claim that Clinton's a "victim" was too much for even
Katie Couric, but she argued removing him from office may be an excessive
3) Previewing the tape,
CBS's Bob Schieffer said Clinton's sex definition will make viewers
"laugh out loud." Countering rumors, NBC's Lisa Myers reported
he did not "storm out of the room."
4) "Is there anything
anyone can do to stop this?" pled ABC's Lisa McRee on releasing the
tape. Of the House Republican decision, MSNBC's Edie Magnus declared:
networks have announced special coverage Monday for the Clinton videotape.
All the broadcast networks will go live at 9am ET/8am CT/7am MT/6am PT,
but none will run the tape in its entirety. The media will by then have a
full transcript and should be able to report anything interesting, though
they won't be able to show those sections until the feed reaches those
portions. CNN, MSNBC, FNC and CourtTV all plan to run it live as it's
fed from the Rayburn House Office Building. It's four hours long, so it
should run until at least 1pm ET. ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS
Evening News will double their length to one hour, starting at 6:30pm ET,
so some local affiliates may adjust the normal air time. No word yet on
NBC, but NBC will have Dateline at 10pm ET/PT and ABC will extend
Nightline to at least one hour starting 35 minutes, in the Eastern and
Central time zones, after the end of Monday Night Football.
The cable networks will all re-play the tape in
the evening, but so as to not compete with their broadcasting side's
prime time, FNC will wait until 11pm ET and MSNBC will even avoid West
coast prime time, waiting until 2am ET/11pm PT for a full replay. (CBS and
NBC picked a bad night to debut their new shows.) CNN has announced it
will run a special at 8pm ET, a two-hour Larry King Live at 9pm ET and
then run the tape at 11:30pm ET/8:30pm PT. C-SPAN should prove popular: it
will play the tape in prime time at 8pm ET/5pm PT, but if the House is
still in session the tape will have to wait. <<<
Victory for Republican partisanship or a triumph over Democratic efforts
to suppress the truth? The House Judiciary Committee vote Friday afternoon
to release the videotape of Clinton's grand jury testimony was seen by
the networks through the eyes of Democrats upset by losing to the GOP
majority. Instead of portraying it as a great victory for openness and the
people's right to know over efforts to cover up, the broadcast networks
stressed how it showed "nasty" partisan behavior, with
Republicans taking most of the blame.
sighed that "the Republicans had their way," before Linda
Douglass opened her story: "Democrats came out of the House Judiciary
Committee hearing and said 'so much for bipartisanship.'" Dan
Rather delivered only the Democratic reaction, charging: "President
Clinton's spokesman is calling it a rush to pre-judgment. Others in the
Clinton administration call it quote, 'a lynch mob mentality.'"
CBS and NBC
offered previews of what the tape will show. CBS reporter Bob Schieffer
learned that those who have seen it say Clinton's definitions of sex are
"laughable." NBC's Lisa Myers relayed that while he's
"often irritable," contrary to rumors, he "does not lose
control" and does not "storm out of the room." (See item #3
Friday night ABC
assessed reaction from women and found most mad at Lewinsky for using her
charms and angry at Clinton for deceiving them. NBC's David Bloom
highlighted a 1974 quote from Clinton saying disgracing the office is
justification for impeachment. NBC also tracked down the man who provided
the story of Henry Hyde's affair. Dan Rather warned that Clinton is also
"under fire" again from Paula Jones and, he ominously intoned,
"the forces behind her." And Rather took a shot at a
conservative group by refusing to accept their name, announcing:
"Speaker after speaker addressing the political lobbying group that
calls itself quote, 'the Christian Coalition,' laced into President
Here are some
highlights from the Friday night, September 18, broadcast network evening
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened:
"Good evening. Yesterday it was nasty in
Washington. Today it was almost poisonous. The Republicans had their way
and the public is going to see all the President's testimony to the
grand jury, and most of Monica Lewinsky's, sometime on Monday. That is
four hours of tape and 2,800 pages. In the House Judiciary Committee,
where it was decided, it was absolute party line."
began and ran with the Democratic spin:
"Democrats came out of the House Judiciary Committee hearing and said
'so much for bipartisanship.'"
Viewers heard complaining soundbites from John
Conyers (We got rolled) and Jerrold Nadler (Republicans not interested in
impartial inquiry but in embarrassing Clinton.)
Douglass continued: "Democrats saw a rare
opportunity to put the Republicans on the defensive today. Although both
sides agreed to edit out 155 sections from the Starr material, Democrats
wanted to cut out 30 other passages from Monica Lewinsky's testimony,
additional details about her sexual encounters with the President.
Republicans said no."
Republican Steve Buyer then suggested those upset
don't have to watch the tape.
Douglass then explained that the GOP fears just
what ABC emphasized: "Republicans tried to play down the disputes
because they fear the public will begin to see them as a partisan lynch
mob chasing after the President. That is exactly what the Democrats hope
voters will think."
Democrat Robert Wexler asserted: "This has
become an effort that has in fact now been engineered by the right wing of
the Republican Party to take over the impeachment process."
Next, Douglass played the Hyde/Frank exchange in
which Henry Hyde said bipartisanship doesn't mean Republicans must
surrender and Barney Frank declared the meeting "was very civil and
At this point, finally, Douglass got to the
"In fact, a majority of both parties in the House voted to release
all of Starr's evidence, except parts found to be not relevant. Some
Republicans charge the Judiciary Democrats are the ones playing partisan
games, trying to protect the President."
Tom DeLay: "I don't know what they're
afraid of. Are they afraid of the truth. The American people deserve and
have the right to know the truth."
Douglass concluded by playing into the Democratic
spin of highlighting contentiousness: "Now the Judiciary Committee is
notoriously partisan here in the House. Fierce liberals on one side,
outspoken conservatives on the other side, few in between. And Peter if
today was a sign of things to come, this could be a very long and bitter
Up next, Jackie
Judd explained how the committee argued bitterly over what to remove from
Lewinsky's testimony in which she detailed ten sexual encounters. What
remains is still very graphic, such as "what he did to arouse
her." Judd noted that Republicans complained that Democrats wanted to
take out much more and Democrats complained that the Republicans so wanted
to embarrass Clinton that they kept in descriptions of phone sex that do
not impact the perjury charge.
Later in the show,
Erin Hayes took A Closer Look at how women are reacting to Lewinsky. She
learned: "Many women, in light of the Starr report, find themselves
reassessing Ms. Lewinsky." Reassessing negatively, that is. A woman
with a baby asserted: "What I learned was Ms. Lewinsky really pursued
the President and the President was interested." Another women
opined: "She's one of the most willing victims I've ever
Hayes summed up
reaction: "Women's talk about Monica Lewinsky reveals little
sympathy." But that doesn't get Clinton off the hook, letting one
woman explain that he should have resisted. Hayes concluded: "Many
women feel deceived by the man once hailed as the feminist President. And
disappointed that a young woman could acquire enough power to threaten a
presidency using some of the oldest tricks in the book."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began by relaying
the White House spin:
"Good evening. President Clinton's
spokesman is calling it a rush to pre-judgment. Others in the Clinton
administration call it quote, 'a lynch mob mentality.' This after the
Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted to release, at 9am
eastern time Monday, President Clinton's videotaped testimony to the
Starr grand jury. Also being released then: sexually explicit material in
thousands more pages of transcripts. The deeply partisan attempts at
pre-spin control are already under way."
CBS's lead story
then barely touched the House fight, focusing instead on the tape's
content. See item #3 for more.
Then Dan Rather
announced: "President Clinton is under fire tonight on another front.
It's a move by Paula Jones, and the forces behind her, to have the
President cited for contempt."
Scott Pelley explained that the issue rises from
when Clinton swore at the Jones deposition that he had no sexual relations
with Lewinsky and could not remember being alone with her. Judge Susan
Weber Wright was in the room and now the lawyers for Jones will file a
motion to cite Clinton for contempt of court. Raising a development
ignored by the networks when she issued a ruling just before Labor Day,
Pelley noted that in that ruling Wright had said she "had
concerns" about the accuracy of Clinton's testimony.
Rather, who works
for a company that calls itself quote, "CBS News," then turned
his fire on, well I'll let him tell you their name:
"Also in Washington today, speaker after
speaker addressing the political lobbying group that calls itself quote,
'the Christian Coalition,' laced into President Clinton. Some of the
strongest criticism came from the group's founder, television preacher
and Republican leader Pat Robertson. He said even if the President resigns
it isn't good enough."
Finally, from the
Kansas State Fair, where people "get together for carousels and candy
apples," Jim Axelrod found that because Clinton lied most want him to
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw delivered the
only opening summation that even attempted some balance, but he still had
the GOP in the position of defending their action:
"Good evening. There was never any real hope
the President's fate before Congress would be resolved in a truly
bipartisan fashion. And that was never more clear than today when the
House Judiciary Committee voted to release the President's videotaped
testimony and 2,800 pages of documents. Republicans defended the vote as
being in the public interest. Democrats said it's designed only to
From Capitol Hill
Gwen Ifill let Democrats complain about "obscene and sexually
explicit" material and Republicans charge Democrats with trying to
cover up. Noting that more documents will probably be released later next
week, Ifill warned that will happen "even as both sides are watching
the polls that say Americans may not want to learn any more details of the
President's sex life." She then concluded:
"One congressional leader says impeaching
the President is the most serious duty the Congress has other than
declaring war. Today it got off to a less than promising start."
checked in with the White House reaction and how they are trying to show
business as usual but at an event to release a report from the race
advisory panel "the event, overshadowed by scandal, served as a
poignant reminder of how much the Lewinsky affair's cost Mr. Clinton's
presidency in lost momentum. And his talk of the need for reconciliation
sounded very personal."
Bloom noted that the White House hopes the public
will recoil, especially with Pat Robertson on the attack. After a clip of
the Christian Coalition head, Bloom picked up an illuminating quote from
Clinton, the first time I've seen this point raised on a network. Bloom
"And Republicans who believe that disgracing
the Oval office is alone grounds for impeachment, point to this statement
from Bill Clinton at the height of Watergate. Quote, 'another factor
that I think constitutes an impeachable offense,' Mr. Clinton said in
1974, 'would be willful, reckless behavior in office, just totally
incompetent conduct of the office and the disregard of the necessities
that the office demands.'"
didn't say so, the quote ran a few days ago in the New York Times and on
Friday in the Washington Post and came from an interview conducted by a
then-law student with Clinton, then a congressional candidate. The law
student: John Whitehead, now head of the Rutherford Foundation which is
funding the Jones case. A small world.)
Later, for the In
Depth segment, Kerry Sanders tracked down in Florida Norm Sommers, the man
who told Salon about Hyde. Sommers claimed that while playing tennis six
years ago Fred Snodgrass told him how Hyde had destroyed his marriage.
Sanders picked up the story: "Fast forward six years. Clinton
supporter and life long liberal Democrat Sommers says he's troubled the
same Henry Hyde will now sit in judgment of the President."
So, he peddled his story, asking for $1,000, to
56 media organizations. All ignored him, but the 57th, Salon, bit, though
they did not pay. Sommers assured Sanders that there was no White House
In a second piece
for the In Depth segment, Bob Faw looked at what all the sexual outing is
doing to politics. Leading into a soundbite from a liberal author, he
summarized her view: "And writer Erica Jong says if we want only
squeaky clean we will pay a price."
Speaking of Jong, author of "What Do Women Want?", she appeared
on Friday's Today along with Anita Blair of the Independent Women's
Forum. MRC news analyst Mark Drake noticed that Jong went too far even for
Katie Couric but Couric also countered Blair.
about how Clinton had appointed Ruth Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, named
the first female Secretary of State, and vetoed the "misnamed partial
birth abortion" bill. So Couric asked if his public accomplishments
should overshadow his personal indiscretions. "Yes they should,"
declared Jong, claiming: "I think he's been the victim of a witch
Jong whined on about how it's "a sad story
of a man fighting an addiction and in the end succumbing once or twice to
this semi-consummated sex, fumbling around in doorways, behind the
bathroom door. It is so sad. Your heart goes out to this President....I
see them both as victims."
That was too much for Couric, who replied:
"To portray them [Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton] as victims is
certainly, you know, something that's worth considering but you
realize, full well, that people across the country are listening to you
and they are basically going, [to cameraman] Joe, get me on the shot,
[points finger in mouth and gags] 'give me a break.'"
suggested we need a President we can trust, which is why Clinton must go,
"But Anita, you've looked at the polls.
Clearly, the American people are disgusted by what they have read, but
they do, as we've said here on this program, want the punishment to fit
the crime. I mean, are you, are you coloring this with too broad a brush,
do you think?"
Friday night CBS and NBC delivered previews of what we can expect to see
on the Clinton video.
-- On the CBS
Evening News, Bob Schieffer reported: "Dan, sources who have seen the
videotapes say the President's attempt to explain how he did not have
sex with Monica Lewinsky, as he explains and defines sex, is laughable,
that it may cause people to laugh out loud. They also say that the tape
raises real questions about whether the President tried to get others to
lie for him. But these sources also add that at the times when the
President talks about how Ken Starr has hounded him, he is very
Schieffer added: "Sources say some of the
saltiest passages are Miss Lewinsky's descriptions of phone sex with the
President. Democrats are convinced they're being released only to
embarrass Mr. Clinton."
-- On the NBC Nightly News, Lisa Myers informed
viewers: "Congressional sources who've seen the four-hour tape
describe this Clinton as often irritable, at times so angry he turns
purple and at one point appears shaken by a question. But these sources
say the President does not lose control, blow up or storm out of the room,
contrary to some reports."
She too raised the possibility that viewers may
sympathize with Clinton: "But some Americans also may be offended by
the prosecutors and their tough sexually explicit questions which clearly
Can't we stop this tape release, pleaded ABC's Lisa McRee hours before
NBC's Edie Magnus denounced Republicans for a decision she declared
-- Questioning ABC
legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin Friday morning, Good Morning America co-host
Lisa McRee posed a plea in the form of a question, noticed MRC analyst
"Is there anything anyone can do to stop
this? Could a grand juror say, 'I don't want my questions released.'
Could the President do it, could anybody stop this release?"
And: "As a lawyer, is this a terrible
precedent we're setting?"
-- At 3:16pm ET on Friday MSNBC host Edie Magnus made clear how upset
majority rule made her. Opening a roundtable with four guests she went
first to former federal prosecutor and Jones lawyer Gilbert Davis, but her
question was more of a declaration of misdeed by the House Republicans:
"Gil, I'm going to start with you. We've
been hearing a parade of lawmakers during the day today, come out to talk
about this meeting where the Judiciary Committee came to the decision to
release this. The Republicans of course are coming out and saying this was
serious, bipartisan, collegial, cooperative, respectful conversation, and
the Democrats are coming out and saying they rammed it down our throats.
There was never any discussion. This is a rush to judgment purely to
embarrasses this President. My question at the get go is already it
smells. It's the weightiest thing they do, to remove a President from
office, and already it smells."
What smells is
that no matter what Clinton does and no matter how far Democrats go to
hide his deeds, many in the media still are unable to rise above their
long-held assumptions that Republicans trample on fairness. -- Brent Baker
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