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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday September 23, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 156)

Lewinsky Exculpates Clinton; Wicked Tripp vs. Dignified Hillary

1) Is not saying you did not lie the same as admitting you did lie? ABC and CBC conflict, or do they? All but CBS highlighted the "grievous error" of not including Lewinsky's "exculpatory" claim.

2) To NBC News Linda Tripp is a "Wicked Witch," but Hillary Clinton "projects a quiet dignity."

3) ABC's Lisa McRee hoped: "Doesn't that pull the rug out from under his [Starr] justification for continuing this Monica Lewinsky investigation or entering it in the first place?"

4) Rivera relayed how the White House won't allow a right-wing coup and denounced Tripp: "Can the President of the United States be brought down by the likes of Linda Tripp, for God's sake?"


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) In the spirit of it depends what "is" is and what you mean by "alone," is ceasing to insist that you did not lie the same as admitting you did lie? Speculation about a censure deal with Congress led the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows Tuesday night while CNN and FNC also considered the possibility but began with the White House attacking Starr for not including in his report a supposedly exculpatory statement from Monica Lewinsky. ABC and NBC also highlighted the Clinton complaint, but not CBS. Only FNC put the complaint in context by quoting from Starr's report.

     As for the question of whether no longer saying you did not lie is the same as admitting you did lie, ABC's Sam Donaldson reported "the President may be willing to stop arguing that he did not lie under oath as part of a deal..." But on CBS, Scott Pelley maintained that "Mr. Clinton is still unwilling to give up the one thing that Congress says it must have, a confession that he did not tell the whole truth under oath."

     Dan Rather highlighted poll results showing a jump in Clinton's personal and job approval. CNN, FNC and NBC all ran pieces on unflattering information about Linda Tripp divulged in the newly released documents. NBC Nightly News pictured Tripp as the "Wicked Witch of the West," but later admired "the quiet dignity" of Hillary Clinton. (See item #2 for this NBC contrast.)

Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, September 22 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the show:
      "Good evening. What a difference a day makes, or videotaped testimony makes. In Washington's political establishment today there are the faintest signs that a political deal to spare President Clinton the impeachment process is inching its way into the serious debate about his future. Nothing cut and dried by a very long shot, but now that the country has seen the President's videotaped testimony there are hints."

     Sam Donaldson explained: "No one will say it on the record, but various sources close to the White House defense strategy suggest the President may be willing to stop arguing that he did not lie under oath as part of a deal with Congress that would spare him the prospect of impeachment and removal from office."
     Donaldson went on to run a soundbite from Mike McCurry about White House interest in a deal and then Donaldson pointed out how Clinton lawyers sent a letter to Capitol Hill complaining about how Starr's report failed to include Lewinsky's statement that "no one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence." That's a one-sided manipulation of evidence, they claimed. Donaldson did note without quoting anything specific that Starr's report had actually said Lewinsky was not asked to lie, but Clinton had suggested cover stories.

     Next, Jennings relayed some new ABC poll results: 68 percent thought the word which best described Clinton's video was "evasive," 68 percent said Clinton was right to refuse to discuss the sexual details and 81 percent think believe sexual relations includes oral sex.

     Linda Douglass then checked in from Capitol Hill, reporting that instead of mumbling behind closed doors about Clinton's problems hurting them, Democrats are now openly saying the video helped Clinton. Democrats, she reported, are talking about a deal: a censure which would include a fine and a reduced pension. Douglass gave the Democratic spin: "They know Republicans are likely to reject an effort to short-circuit the impeachment process, but at the very least Democrats could then accuse Republicans of prolonging the country's misery." Henry Hyde thinks deal talk is premature, Douglass noted, concluding that the House is still headed toward impeachment hearings.

     For the last story of the night, Jennings suggested Clinton can look overseas for "comfort." Jennings highlighted how "the regional French paper said the Starr investigation was 'totalitarian.' As for the conservative German newspaper Hamburger Morning Post, under the headline 'We've Had Enough' two of their news pages were completely blank."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began by getting right to new poll numbers:
     "Good evening. There was movement tonight on some of the key indicators likely to determine the future of the Clinton presidency. Public reaction and the Republican-led Congress's reaction. First, public opinion. Our CBS News poll out today shows a shift among the very same people we surveyed just last weekend. Since the Clinton grand jury tapes aired, the President's overall job approval is up significantly [59 to 68 percent] so is personal opinion of the President [37 to 44 percent]. This even though some 63 percent of those who watched found some of Mr. Clinton's answers evasive."

     From Capitol Hill Bob Schieffer found that Democrats think the Clinton video helped his case, but not enough. So, Democrats like Robert Torricelli are saying that to avoid long fight, work out a deal for a fine plus a censure. But Republicans say it's too early for a deal and Orrin Hatch said he heard grounds for impeachment so, Schieffer concluded, Republicans plan to proceed to hearings.

     Up next, from the White House Scott Pelley contradicted Donaldson, or did he? Pelley stressed: "Dan, the White House is looking to negotiate punishment for the President, but Mr. Clinton is still unwilling to give up the one thing that Congress says it must have, a confession that he did not tell the whole truth under oath." Pelley insisted that a "senior member" of Clinton's defense team told CBS News: "Clearly the President is not going to give up the technical argument that he did not lie under oath."

     Later, the Eye on America segment looked at the reasons behind Clinton's solid support among blacks.

     -- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET opened with fresh video from an evening White House event of South African President Nelson Mandela praising Clinton. John King then jumped to the "grievous error" by Starr charged by Clinton's lawyers with leaving out one line from Lewinsky, which King relayed, they claim "raises grave questions about the fairness" of Starr's report. King noted talk about a deal before citing a late retort from Starr about how the White House attack on his report represented an "intentional effort to mislead" because the report did include Lewinsky's point if not that quote.

     Next, Bob Franken previewed what is expected to next be released by the House on Thursday and Candy Crowley measured the impact of the Clinton video: "It was like some kind of national Rorschach test, everybody saw what was already in their head."

     Later in the hour, Brooks Jackson focused on how Tripp is under investigation for perjury because many of her tapes are duplicates so could possibly have been altered. After showing Tripp's "I'm just like you" comment from July, Jackson countered that the documents reveal some unflattering facts: that Tripp told Lewinsky to save the dress and when she wanted to wear it Tripp told her she looked fat in it. Jackson concluded by highlighting how Lewinsky told the grand jury "I hate Linda Tripp" and a grand juror reassured here that "whatever goes around comes around."

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. Jim Angle began with the White House attack on Starr for not including the supposedly exculpatory evidence, letting Mike McCurry complain. But, Angle quoted from the Starr report, the only reporter to do so Tuesday night: "The Starr report did say near the beginning that Monica Lewinsky testified 'the President did not expressly instruct her to lie... he did suggest misleading cover stories.'"

     Next, from Capitol Hill Carl Cameron explained Henry Hyde's suggestion that Democrats are complaining about partisanship as part of a strategy to confuse the public. Rita Cosby then got to Tripp, and how new documents "cast Linda Tripp in a new, more calculating light." She ran through the same points as CNN's Jackson about the tapes and dress, adding that Lewinsky said Tripp had threatened to expose all in tell all book. Cosby did allow time for Tripp's retort: "Attorneys close to Linda Tripp say any allegation that she was trying to set up the President is quote, 'preposterous.' They say that she was just trying to help her young friend Monica Lewinsky. They say that Linda Tripp never did anything illegal and never lied under oath."

     Finally, David Shuster examined how the documents show a pattern of stonewalling and delay. A Secret Service officer, for instance, was told to leave the room after each question and Clinton rejected six invitations to testify.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw topped the show by emphasizing public disinterest:
     "Good evening. The President, Lewinsky, Starr, Congress and an exhausted nation. Now the question is how does all of this end? No one is sure tonight. The capital is abuzz with possibilities. While President Clinton was in New York today meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister about the global financial crisis, in Congress the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the President would be welcome to testify. And there is continuing speculation about a deal."

     NBC's David Bloom raised the White House quest for a deal, but Bloom added that since Republicans are not interested, Clinton operatives are on the attack. "Today the President's lawyers jumped on the fact that Starr's report, for all its sexually explicit sexual detail, makes no mention of this line from Monica Lewinsky's grand jury testimony, quote 'no one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence.'" In a letter, Bloom added, Clinton lawyers claimed that undermines the obstruction of justice charge.


Ltripp2cap.jpg (20101 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Immediately after Bloom NBC went to Andrea Mitchell for a piece on Linda Tripp. A few sentences in Mitchell observes that "she's been portrayed as everything from the Wicked Witch of the West to a soccer mom." Mitchell then proceeded to prove she's more of the Wicked Witch. But minutes later on September 22 the NBC Nightly News ran a piece on a woman the network likes a lot more, asking "how much more can Hillary Clinton take?" and asserting that she "projects a quiet dignity."

     First, the Tripp story:
     Andrea Mitchell: "Investigators now believe some key evidence that helped launch the investigation of the President may have been altered: Linda Tripp's tapes."
     Clinton soundbite on how Tripp stabbed Lewinsky in the back
     Mitchell: "New grand jury documents say nine of Tripp's 27 tapes are not originals and one was stopped, in other words, could have been altered, casting doubt on her credibility. Her friends deny it."
     Jonah Goldberg soundbite on how Tripp taped in order to avoid being accused of lying
     Mitchell: "She's been portrayed as everything from the Wicked Witch of the West to a soccer mom."
     Tripp in front of the courthouse in July: "I'm an average American who found herself in a situation not of her own making."
     Mitchell: "Not of her own making? According to Monica Lewinsky's newly released testimony Tripp had a lot to do with this entire drama. For example, the blue dress. Tripp tells Monica to put it in a safe deposit box because it could be evidence some day. Monica says quote 'ludicrous.' Tripp later advises her not to clean and wear it because it makes her look fat, thus saving the critical DNA evidence. Another example: Vernon Jordan. Lewinsky says it may have been Tripp who first suggests involving the President's best friend in a job search. Also, Monica's computer records. Lewinsky says Tripp suggested they do a spreadsheet to chart the dates she saw or talked to the President. More evidence for the prosecutor.
     "And most fateful of all, Tripp's cooperation in the FBI sting of Monica. What Lewinsky calls the wired lunch. According to Lewinsky Tripp at first pretends she too has been caught by the FBI, tries to hug Monica and then while Lewinsky is being questioned by prosecutors, Tripp goes shopping. On Lewinsky's last day of testimony the jurors tell her Tripp will have to give an accounting of what she did. Lewinsky's last words to the jurors: 'I hate Linda Tripp.' Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington."

     Maybe Tripp should be praised for her foresight in making sure evidence was saved and records kept.

     Now, let's fast forward about 20 minutes to the last story of the night, an admiringly look at Hillary Clinton:

     Tom Brokaw: "What many people, especially women, are asking tonight is how much more can Hillary Clinton take? Now the President's videotaped testimony accompanied by thousands of pages of lurid details of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. In fact, she seems to be winning more admirers than detractors during this crisis."
     Kelly O'Donnell: "Today many American women see her in a different light. Not simply as the First Lady, but now as the first defender, first protector of her family. A role no President's spouse ever played before, thanks to excruciatingly painful revelation's about her husband's infidelity. A role no American woman would envy."
     O'Donnell played soundbites of women sorry for her followed by a mother daughter contrast with the daughter saying it's great she stands by him and the mother suggesting that means we all might as well be stomped on.
     O'Donnell: "Counselor Sue Berger says woman's anger toward Mrs. Clinton is more of a reflex than a recommendation of what the First Lady should do."
     After a clip of the counselor O'Donnell went a swim fitness class in Glendale, California where "some here personalize her pain and know the damage caused by infidelity."
     One woman insisted sympathy for Hillary is well deserved and another urged her to dump him after he leaves office.
     O'Donnell concluded: "But that choice is her's alone. For now Hilary Clinton's public face projects a quiet dignity, while many women who support her say that speaks volumes."

     A quiet dignity NBC will not allow Linda Tripp.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Let's forget the whole thing, the whole Starr probe has been illegitimate, ABC's Lisa McRee argued Tuesday morning based on a few quotes dug out of thousands of pages of testimony. And NBC's Today led Tuesday by highlighting how most don't want impeachment.

     MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught these two questions, better described as arguments, from Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee to Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Canady on the September 22 broadcast:

     -- "Congressman, there apparently is also a lot of exculpatory evidence within those mounds of testimony that were delivered to Capitol Hill. The New York Times highlights a number of things today. For example, very clearly Monica Lewinsky says that no one ever asked her to lie nor was there any sort of deal made of silence in exchange for a job. She says that very clearly. She also says she lied to Linda Tripp when she claimed that she told her that she had told Vernon Jordan she wanted a job in exchange for her signature on an affidavit denying a sexual relationship. What if there is more of this exculpatory evidence? Doesn't that damage Ken Starr's case?"

     -- "The statement from Monica Lewinsky saying that she never made a deal to exchange her silence for a job is very important, because that is one of the reasons that Janet Reno gave Kenneth Starr permission to go ahead with this Monica Lewinsky investigation in the first place, is it not? So if she had told investigators from the very beginning, 'No one told me to lie, Vernon Jordan was not trying to get me a job to keep me silent,' doesn't that pull the rug out from under his justification for continuing this Monica Lewinsky investigation or entering it in the first place?"

     Today opened Tuesday, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens documented, with this upbeat spin for Clinton:
     Bill Clinton: "Yes, I'd give anything in the world not to be here talking about it. I'd give anything in the world not to have to admit what I've had to admit today."
     Matt Lauer: "Good morning. Overnight polls show that most Americans don't think the President told the whole truth in his grand jury testimony."
     Bill Clinton: "We have seen this four year, $40 million investigation come down to parsing the definition of sex."
     Lauer: "But those same polls show a majority of Americans do not think he should resign today, Tuesday, September 22, 1998."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Geraldo's back in top form. After a one-day vacation, Geraldo Rivera returned to CNBC Tuesday night and didn't disappoint, picking right up on the White House line and denouncing their enemies.

     He opened CNBC's 7:30pm ET/11:30pm PT Upfront Tonight by reading a White House-fed attack on right-wingers who supposedly want a coup:
     "Who won this confrontation between our adulterous President and his zealous and self-righteous foe? So Upfront Tonight, where in the world do we go from here? And Diane [Dimond] permit me to read this statement from my source very close to the President: 'I know the right wing of the Republican Party would like to see President Clinton resign and save them the embarrassment of voting in public on an attempted coup. It sure as Hell won't happen.'"

     After running the Andrea Mitchell hit piece on Linda Tripp, detailed in #2 above from Nightly News, Rivera indignantly exclaimed: "Can the President of the United States be brought down by the likes of Linda Tripp, for God's sake?"

     A bit more than an hour later on CNBC's Rivera Live at 9pm ET and PT, he opened the show with Mike McCurry complaining about "...exculpatory evidence that was not mentioned by the office of independent counsel. That is a grievous wrong to the President."
     Rivera agreed: "Please think about that. The report Ken Starr sent to Congress, 445 pages long. 445 pages filled with filthy, salacious, intimate, explicit descriptions of sex and oral sex, of sex with a cigar, even blatant double hearsay remarks attributed to the President, to his girlfriend, to her girlfriend about the allegedly shaky state of his marriage. But in all those 445 pages the eminent judge Starr found no room to squeeze in the following sentence from Monica Lewinsky's grand jury testimony, quote: 'No one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence.' No ever asked me to lie says the star witness and I was never promised a job for my silence. My God, is this a coincidence? An omission in editing that judge Starr happened to leave this out of his encyclopedic report?"

     My God, can NBC News really consider Rivera capable of balanced journalism?  -- Brent Baker

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