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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday September 24, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 157)

Gingrich Intransigence; Scandal Just Sex; Vilifying Tripp

1) CBS and NBC painted Gingrich and the GOP as unreasonably holding to a "hard line." But FNC noticed that Democrats who weeks ago said the GOP were in a "reckless rush to judgment" now "seem to think that the GOP is moving too slowly."

2) CNN's Bill Schneider dismissed parallels to Watergate: "Then it was about corruption. Now it's just about sex." And he disparaged everyone from Matt Drudge to Ken Starr to Dan Burton.

3) More Tripp attacks. ABC's Lisa McRee wondered "was it all politically motivated?" NBC's Dan Abrams declared it "a setup from the beginning" by a woman who is not "just like the rest of us."

4) Overseas reaction: Starr's methods are reminiscent of the Stasi, making him "more successful than Stalin."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Hurricane Georges led ABC and NBC Wednesday night, CBS went first with the stock market rebound and CNN and FNC began with the latest on the Clinton scandal front. Every network but ABC, which provided just a 30-second item, ran a full story on the new Democratic strategy of demanding a resolution to the mess within 30 days. CBS and NBC painted the GOP and Gingrich as the uncooperative ones blocking progress. "Republicans take a hard line," declared Tom Brokaw before Gwen Ifill found "one Senate Republican" who decided "that House Republicans are too shrill."

     Only FNC picked up on Democratic hypocrisy, as FNC's Carl Cameron observed: "For the last couple of weeks the Democrats have said Republicans are in a 'reckless rush to judgment.' Now they seem to think that the GOP is moving too slowly."

     ABC featured an interview with Clinton's two new pastoral counselors and CNN's John King reported that Clinton actually opposes any of the deals being floated which fine him or impact his pension.

     Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, September 23 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight dedicated the least time of all the shows to the Clinton scandal. Anchor Peter Jennings took 31 seconds to tell viewers:
     "In Washington today, whatever the Republicans decide about President Clinton, they will decide because they're in charge, congressional Democrats are pushing to get it over with soon. Democratic Leader in the House Congressman Dick Gephardt says the House should be able to decide about impeaching President Clinton within 30 days. However the Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, says it will take as long as it takes. And he says there should be no talk of a possible deal to save the President's job until the House has completed its investigation."

     Jennings then went to religion correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer for a preview of a longer story which appeared Wednesday night on 20/20, an exclusive talk with the two ministers counseling President Clinton: Tony Campolo and Gordon MacDonald. "These are the two men who've been charged with the job of preparing the President's soul," she began. MacDonald explained how Clinton is a "deeply broken man," how he avoids politics and talks with Clinton about his "walk with God," and how he's "gone to the bottom with this man." Campolo jumped in, describing how Clinton has yelled at him and that's when the "conversation becomes real."

     Wehmeyer did force both to consider doubts about Clinton's sincerity: "And what if the two of you worked with the President all these hours and discover that he's pulled the wool over your eyes, that he wasn't sincere, then what?" Both promised they would tell the world and walk away.

     -- CBS Evening News. After stories on the Dow climbing 257 points and the hurricane, Dan Rather announced:
     "In the caldron that is Washington these days House Speaker Newt Gingrich made it clear today: no deal with President Clinton. He said the Republican majority in the House will proceed toward an impeachment inquiry. The Clinton camp kept pushing for a punishment arrangement short of resignation or impeachment. This includes a push, even a plea from the top."

     Scott Pelley explained how Clinton is personally calling members of Congress to talk about punishment: "He's talking to Democrats and Republicans about censure, about appearing before Congress, about any scenario that is swift but not too severe."
     Pelley noted: "Last night former President Jimmy Carter said even he had concluded Mr. Clinton had lied under oath but he still did not believe he would be removed from office."
     Carter: "Even though he will be damaged in his moral reputation and perhaps in his influence, with the Congress and many of the American people, our nation will survive."
     Leading into a laudatory soundbite from Nelson Mandela, Pelley asserted: "Mr. Clinton's most constant defenders remain foreign leaders."
     Since a deal is unlikely, Pelley concluded by saying that the White House is reconciled to fighting impeachment.

     Rather then emphasized the unreasonableness of Republicans:
     "On Capitol Hill not only did the Republican-led majority reject any punishment deal, they're even talking now of a wider, deeper, longer investigation of the President."

     Bob Schieffer ran a soundbite from Newt Gingrich saying Democrats want to "put the cart before the horse" before he led into a clip from Tom Daschle by suggesting that Democrats "got the impression" that Gingrich wants to go beyond Lewinsky and open up other areas not in the Starr report. Continuing with the Democratic complaints, Schieffer added: "On yet another front the top House Democrat charged in a letter to Gingrich that independent counsel Starr is unfairly holding back information that could help the President."

     The show ended with an Eye on America piece on reaction in Park Ridge, Illinois, home to Hillary Clinton and part of Henry Hyde's district. Elizabeth Kaledin ran soundbites from those for and against Clinton, concluding: "At least in this corner of the country Republicans aren't waiting for Congress to make up its mind about the President, they've already decided for themselves."

     -- CNN's The World Report at 8pm ET. Bob Franken summarized Dick Gephardt's demand to put the inquiry on a time table and complaint that Starr has withheld exculpatory evidence, but added that Starr has offered to let them look at what's left.

     From the White House, John King put a damper on one "censure-plus" idea: "CNN has learned that President Clinton is raising concerns about paying a big financial price as part of any plea bargain..." Complaining about the legal fees he already owes, King reported he objects to docking his pension. King moved on to lay out the New White House strategy of singling out Gingrich for playing partisan games, hoping to force Republicans to agree to deal.

     For the third story, CNN went to Bill Schneider for a comparison with Watergate. See #2 for details.

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. Wednesday was one of those days when FNC demonstrated how it offers a fresh perspective missed by the other networks. While CBS and NBC stressed Republican unreasonableness, FNC noticed a lack of Democratic consistency. The show opened with a live report from Carl Cameron on Capitol Hill, who observed:
     "Republicans have argued that the minority has been doing all it possibly can to throw monkey wrenches into the works. For the last couple of weeks the Democrats have said Republicans are in a 'reckless rush to judgment.' Now they seem to think that the GOP is moving too slowly."
     Noting that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt claims Republicans want to humiliate Clinton, Cameron played this soundbite from Gephardt: "The bottom line is if the Republicans don't want to drag this out we can do it fairly and judiciously and justly in the next 30 days or so."
     Cameron continued by illustrating the Democratic change of ploys: "Quite a contrast to recent Democratic complaints that Republicans have moved too fast. The ranking Judiciary Democrat just nine days ago."
     John Conyers, September 14: "What is it that we're rushing for? What are we trying to find? What deadline have we self-imposed on each other?"
     Leading into a clip from Republican Lamar Smith, Cameron noted: "Republicans accuse the minority of trying to pick fights and cause distractions."
     Cameron proceeded to uniquely play a soundbite from Gingrich explaining that the speed of the investigation will depend on the level of White House cooperation and how Senator Tom Daschle acknowledged that talk of a deal is premature.

     Next, from the White House Jim Angle explained how Democrats want to rescue Clinton with a deal but the White House is attacking Gingrich, with McCurry criticizing the "Jihad Caucus" among Republicans led by Gingrich. Senator John Kerry, Angle warned, "was even more threatening" as he predicted the public will turn on the GOP for prolonging the mess as they did with the government shutdown.

     After Angle, David Shuster observed that for the second day McCurry lashed out at the Starr report for not highlighting Lewinsky's assertion that no one asked her to lie. Shuster explained that Starr did explain that Lewinsky said Clinton reminded her of cover stories, to say she was coming to see Betty Currie.

     Finally, Rita Cosby picked up on Lewinsky's views displayed in the documents released Monday, such as how she "felt trapped and frightened" when approached by Starr's team at the hotel. Cosby allowed former U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson to explain that 12 hour session with FBI agents is routine, but after relaying how Lewinsky says she was threatened with 27 years in prison if she didn't cooperate, ran a soundbite from a defense lawyer who declared that Starr employed "mafia tactics."

     -- NBC Nightly News. In the top of the show tease Tom Brokaw declared: "The White House crisis: the President looks for a way out. Republicans take a hard line."

     Later in the show David Bloom told viewers the White House will accept anything "short of impeachment. But the White House also reverted to an old strategy: blame House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in this case for Republicans' refusal to cut a deal."
     Bloom highlighted former President Carter's comments, and uniquely added a comment from George Bush: "And two former Presidents have now weighed in. Jimmy Carter predicting the House will vote to impeach Mr. Clinton for lying to the grand jury."
     Carter: "My own opinion is the President has not been truthful."
     Bloom: "On the Today show this morning Bush was asked about the impact of he Lewinsky scandal on the presidency."
     Bush: "I'm afraid for now it's been diminished."
     Bloom concluded by outlining, in rhyme, the Clinton plot:
     "Make no mistake the White House is trying to engineer a public backlash tonight, hoping that moderate Republicans break ranks with their more ideological colleagues if the American people can be convinced the President is humbled and willing to go to the dog house as long as he can stay here at the White House."

     As if on cue, Gwen Ifill then delivered a story which matched the White House effort to paint Republicans as unreasonable. After running Gingrich's "cart before the horse" soundbite, Ifill asserted: "It was as if it were a call to arms. After weeks of pained silence Democrats suddenly came to life today, attacking independent counsel Kenneth Starr for concealing evidence they say, and demanding a speedy end to congressional impeachment investigations."
     Following a clip of Gephardt denouncing the GOP for a partisan probe, Ifill picked up: "Senate Democrat John Kerry says Republican leaders are dangerously off course."
     Kerry: "They need to remember this is a democracy where the people elect the President, not the Congress."
     Ifill noted Starr's offer to give Congress any more documents it wants before concluding with a hit on the House conservatives for being too extreme:
     "Congressional leaders plan to vote in about two weeks to begin a formal impeachment inquiry, but one Senate Republican told NBC News today that House Republicans are too shrill and even if they vote to recommend an impeachment inquiry the Senate will never go along."


Schnied2cap.jpg (19537 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) There's just no comparison between this scandal and Watergate, determined CNN's Bill Schneider on Wednesday's The World Today. "Then it was about corruption. Now it's just about sex." CNN's senior political analyst insisted that while "Watergate gave us real heroes...the heroes of the current White House scandal just don't look very heroic" and though "Watergate gave us real villains," the "villains of the current White House scandal just don't look very villainous."

     Anchor Joie Chen introduced the September 23 story: "Some students of scandal compare the current presidential controversy to Watergate, and found it wanting in terms of people involved and the principles being contested."

     (In the interest of space I've dropped all the soundbites, which appeared wherever you see ....)

     Schneider: "Then there was Archibald Cox, a martyr, and Leon Jaworski, a pro. They did so much to increase respect for the Office of Independent Counsel, it got written into law. Now there's Ken Starr whose excesses make the Office of Independent Counsel look dangerous.
     "Then there was Judge John Sirica sending down legal thunderbolts in a showdown with the White House. Now there's Judge Norma Holloway Johnson. Competent certainly, but heroic no.
     "Then there was Woodward and Bernstein. They made the press look heroic and inspired a generation of journalists. Now there's Matt Drudge? And as for the press looking heroic in all this, forget about it.
     "Then there was Senator Howard Baker who clarified the situation with a simple question....Now there's Senator Joe Lieberman who complicated the situation with wordy distinctions...
     "Then there was Senator Sam Ervin who stood for the Constitution, not for his party....Now there's Senator Orrin Hatch whose effort to play the Ervin role has ticked off his party....
     "Well, maybe Henry Hyde can bring it off. Then there was Martha Mitchell, truth teller. Now there's Dick Morris, tattletale.
     "Then there was Congresswoman Barbara Jordan whose oratory stirred the nation. Now there's Congressman Dan Burton whose antics embarrass even his GOP colleagues.
     "Then there was John Dean whose betrayal of his boss looked courageous....Now there's Linda Tripp whose betrayal of her friend looks contemptible....
     "Get the point? Watergate gave us real heroes, but the heroes of the current White House scandal just don't look very heroic.
     What about the villains? Well, let's see. G. Gordon Liddy was the shadowy villain of Watergate, complete with mustache. Who's the shadowy villain of Clinton White House? Bruce Lindsey? Nah, too preppy. Then there was Donald Segretti, the dirty trickster. Now there's James Carville, the wild warrior....
     "Then there was Haldeman and Ehrlichman, the President's henchmen. Now there's Vernon Jordan, the President's fixer. Back then, Rosemary Woods did away with the evidence of Watergate. This time, Betty Currie went to the Watergate to get all of the evidence back.
     "Then the country heard audiotapes and was shocked by the President's language. Now the country sees videotapes and is impressed by the President's endurance.
     "Then the figure at the center of it all was the unindicted co-conspirator, a scheming and malicious figure who got caught subverting the Constitution. Now the figure at the center of it all is the naughty baby boomer, a reckless and irresponsible figure who got caught with his pants down. Then it was about corruption. Now it's just about sex.
     "Get the point? Watergate gave us real villains, but the villains of the current White House scandal just don't look very villainous. 'History always repeats itself,' a philosopher once said, and Karl Marx added, 'The first time is tragedy, the second is farce.' This story will have to be written as a farce. 'All the President's Women' perhaps or maybe 'There Is Something About Monica.'"


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Good Morning America and Today zoomed in on Linda Tripp Wednesday morning and didn't like what they saw.

     After a piece by ABC's Jackie Judd on how some of Tripp's tapes may not be originals, co-host Lisa McRee talked with ABC News legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about Tripp, whom she dubbed "America's worst friend." MRC analyst Clay Waters caught this diatribe from McRee in the form of a question:
     "Well it raises legitimate questions too. If in fact, these prove to be duplicates of the tapes and the originals are somewhere else, what was her purpose in making them in the first place. Was she trying to entrap the President, was it all politically motivated, which the Democrats would love to prove?"

     Over on NBC's Today, Dan Abrams of Court TV challenged Lucianne Goldberg about Tripp's taping. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down these leading questions:
     "This was a setup from the beginning wasn't it?"
     "How can it not be a set up if you're recording conversations, you're taking notes?"
     "Linda Tripp said in a press conference that she's really just like the rest of us, in essence, but is she really?"


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) No matter how bad the liberal bias of the news media is in the United States, American reporters can't compete with Europeans. The MRC's Tim Graham pointed out to me this passage about the foreign press from a September 23 Washington Post story by Charles Trueheart on overseas reaction:

     "The Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad compared independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's methods to those of the Stasi, the former East Germany's ruthless security force. And the German daily Berliner Zeitung headlined its story: 'Starr more successful than Stalin.'"

     Ken Starr should consider canceling any plans he has for a European vacation. -- Brent Baker

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