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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday October 6, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 164)

Rivera: Hillary "Right About a Right-Wing Conspiracy"; "Easy" to Hate Tripp

1) All the nets focused on the partisan split in the committee. CBS relayed a White House complaint that House Republicans are not displaying "statesmanship." Ford's idea "resonates" for NBC.

2) Geraldo Rivera wondered if Hillary was "right about a conservative cabal" out for her husband and insisted that a New York Times story "raises the question of whether Mr. Starr lied."

3) NBC's Katie Couric warned of a backlash against Republicans. ABC's Lisa McRee suggested there's proof that Clinton was the victim of a political hit and it's "easy" to hate Linda Tripp.

4) CBS's Bob Schieffer predicted of Linda Tripp: "You'll see her face at a lot of Halloween parties."



cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The broadcast networks all led Monday night with the all-day House Judiciary Committee hearing on whether to recommend to the full House an impeachment inquiry, though the broadcast networks only devoted two stories at most to the topic. The final vote in favor did not take place until 7:50pm ET, after the broadcast networks had already completed their ET/CT feeds. FNC squeezed in a Fox Report during a break at 7pm ET and CNN was able to show its the World Today, as usual, at 8pm ET. CNN, FNC and MSNBC showed the hearings all day, interrupted only for ad breaks and occasional commentary.

     Every network stressed how the vote spilt along partisan lines, with Dan Rather inserting the word "Republican" into almost every sentence. Only FNC's Carl Cameron noted that the Democrats spent most of the day attacking Ken Starr. ABC, CNN and FNC explained how Majority Counsel David Schippers dropped Starr's charge of abusing power, changed Starr's perjury charge to making false statements and added charges of organizing a conspiracy to coverup and failing to report crimes by others. Incredibly, CBS and NBC only noted how Schippers had expanded the charges and failed to mention any of his other adjustments.

     CBS highlighted a poll showing most oppose an impeachment inquiry, obligingly relayed Clinton's complaint about how Congress is ignoring the important issues and passed along a White House grievance that House Republicans are not displaying "statesmanship." NBC contended that "constitutional scholars" side with the Democratic interpretation of impeachable offenses and that "Ford's idea resonates with some historians."

     Here are some highlights from the Monday, October 5, evening shows:

     -- ABC's World Tonight. Peter Jennings opened:
     "Good evening. In Washington today the Republicans and the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives have been laying out their contrary positions about impeachment of President Clinton. It certainly qualified as a historical day. Only twice before have Presidents faced such extreme action by the Congress. It was a partisan day, to a fault."

     Linda Douglass ran through the committee's day, reporting: "Schippers charged the conspiracy was carried out when the President and other gave false statements and allegedly concealed evidence." She explained his changes to Starr's charges before running a soundbite from Minority Counsel Abbe Lowell. Remaining even-handed she next ran clips from Democrat Robert Wexler and Republican Bob Barr.

     Why all this talk of conspiracy?, Jennings asked ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who replied: "The Republicans showed that in this respect they're being even more aggressive than Ken Starr." Is their argument "impressive" wondered Jennings? Not really, assessed Toobin: "Certainly a very circumstantial case."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began the show by emphasizing how Republicans forced their way:
     "Good evening. The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee tonight rejected a move by Democrats to set limits on the time or scope on more investigations into possible impeachment of the President. The committee's Republican majority left no doubt it would vote tonight or tomorrow to recommend open-ended impeachment inquiries."

     Bob Schieffer went through some highlights from the day but did not detail Schippers' adjustments to Starr's charges. Dan Rather then displayed a CBS poll asking: "Should Judiciary Committee begin a formal impeachment inquiry?" Yes, said 38 percent; No, answered 56 percent.

     CBS then offered time to the White House spin as Dan Rather intoned: "For his part President Clinton's public reaction was to criticize the Republican majority for running a do-nothing Congress. The President accused Republicans of ignoring the U.S. federal budget and allied problems and the global economy, health care and Social Security."
     Scott Pelley relayed a White House complaint: "Dan, the White House fully expects the committee and then the full House to vote for and impeachment inquiry. In fact one senior White House official told CBS News in frustration today, that they were reconciled that there would be no statesmanship, as he put it, in this process until it reached the Senate." (Pelley proceeded to explain that Clinton's team is urging Democrats to oppose impeachment so Thursday's vote will look more partisan.)

     But emphasizing how White House operatives are upset by a lack of "statesmanship" in the House? Wouldn't a statesman have resigned by now? And does it display statesmanship to discuss troop deployment with a Congressman when your intern has your penis in her mouth?

     -- CNN's The World Today. Co-anchor Joie Chen began:
     "Members of the House Judiciary Committee postured in public, each claiming to take the less partisan stance. But from the first thing this Monday morning to just minutes ago, it was a day on Capitol Hill defined and divided by party politics."

     Bob Franken reviewed the cases presented by both sides in the House committee. Next, Wolf Blitzer highlighted how the White House organized "a hastily arranged opportunity for top Democrats to urge approval of several spending bills. They insisted they're focused on the nation's business while Republican are pre-occupied with the President's sex life." Blitzer later added that Clinton lawyer David Kendal has sent a letter to Janet Reno urging her to investigate Starr for misleading her about the reason for expanding the probe to include Lewinsky. (See item #2 for more.)

     Finally, Candy Crowley detailed the contrasts between how the two counsels, Schippers and Lowell, interpreted the same evidence.

     -- FNC's Fox Report opened with Carl Cameron, who observed:
     "During three hours of opening statements ranking committee Democrat John Conyers led most minority members in an attack on both the independent counsel and his allegations."

     Cameron ran through some of the comments from members on both sides and then David Schuster detailed the new charges laid out by Schippers and how Lowell countered. Next, from the White House, Jim Angle played a soundbite of Dick Gephardt attacking Republicans for lack of action. Angle moved on to note how the White House saw as good news the fact that Democrats in the committee said nothing Starr charged is worth impeachment, before concluding by noting the letter from Kendall to Reno. FNC allocated most of the rest of the show to a roundtable amongst Cal Thomas, Matthew Rees and Ruth Coniff.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened: "Good evening. It is now officially underway, the great constitutional debate of whether this President should be the target of an impeachment investigation in the House of Representatives. Although the beginning of the debate in the House Judiciary Committee was couched in language invoking the Constitution, the judicial system, the American people, it quickly became, once again, a highly partisan debate."

     Gwen Ifill covered the committee's day, but offered no details on the adjustments made by Schippers other than to allude to the new conspiracy charge: "Hyde's handpicked investigator, Chicago prosecutor and long time Democrat David Schippers, argued for an expansion of the inquiry."
     Ifill played clips of Schippers, Lowell and Robert Wexler before endorsing Democratic doubts: "Even constitutional scholars debate how to define an impeachable offense."
     Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School: "Lying to the grand jury is a terrible thing but it's not necessarily an abuse of presidential power."
     Ifill concluded: "Both sides are passionate on one point: They want the issue resolved by the end of the year. This is only the third time in history a Congress has come this close to impeaching a sitting President. And the White House is already worrying that when the full House votes later this week on whether to proceed with the inquiry, dozens of Democrats will join the Republican cogs in doing it." [Yes, she said "cogs."]

     Brokaw then raised the "Ford factor," the op-ed the former President wrote for Sunday's New York Times urging impeachment be stopped and Clinton be rebuked in the well of the House. Lisa Myers read a passage: "I do care, passionately, about rescuing the country I love from further turmoil." Noting that's similar to reasoning he employed in pardoning Nixon, Myers wondered if Ford is again advocating a pardon. A Ford biographer agreed.
     Myers found support for Ford's idea, at least with the media's favorite historian, though Myers did not note that the historian once worked for a Democratic President -- Lyndon Johnson. Myers argued:
     "And Ford's idea resonates with some historians, who view the President's misconduct as not grave enough to warrant impeachment, but more serious than the White House admits."
     Doris Kearns Goodwin: "When he chose to lie to the American people he was using the presidential authority in a way that really demeaned the dignity of the office of the presidency."
     Myers: "As for the President, his spokesman praised Ford's idea but did not say whether Mr. Clinton would be willing to admit guilt and accept a rebuke, which Ford said he must to end quote, 'an otherwise squalid year.'"

     Brokaw nicely transitioned into te world economic crisis by focusing on how Clinton is on top of the matter: "While Capitol Hill was debating and voting on the impeachment investigation tonight, President Clinton was dealing with the economy here at home and overseas. He met with top officials of 22 countries gathered in Washington to try to figure out how to stop the growing financial crisis..."


geraldo10-6cap.jpg (15000 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) "What are the implications of Hillary Clinton being right about a right-wing conspiracy to get her husband?" wondered Geraldo Rivera Monday night in endorsing the implications of a New York Times story. But as National Review documented the story delivered more insinuation than fact and Greg Pierce of the Washington Times detailed a false charge the New York Times made about Ken Starr.

     "Starr Said to Have Received Tip on Affair Before Call by Tripp: Information Came From Lawyers with Ties to Jones Legal Team," announced a top of the fold, off-lead headline in Sunday's New York Times. As detailed in the October 5 CyberAlert, ABC's Mike von Fremd picked up the October 4 story, declaring on World News Tonight: "This has given even more ammunition to the First Lady's claims that all of this is part of 'a vast right-wing conspiracy.'"

     Geraldo Rivera agrees. On CNBC's 7:30pm ET/11:30pm PT Upfront Tonight on Monday night, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Rivera announced:
     "Even as Congress debates the fate of the President, new questions are being raised about the conduct of the man who has brought Bill Clinton to the breach of impeachment. In his zeal to take down this President did Ken Starr mislead Congress and the Justice Department? Remember what the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, said back in January:
     Hillary on the January 28 Today: "The great story here for anyone willing to find it and write about it and explain it, is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President."
     Rivera then made the case for Hillary Clinton's allegation:
     "What if she were right about a conservative cabal to bring down her husband? An investigation by the New York Times reveals that Ken Starr may have lied to Congress in his impeachment report when he said he was first informed about the President's affair with Monica Lewinsky by a concerned citizen named Linda Tripp in a phone call on January 12. Evidence uncovered by the Times suggests that Ken Starr may have known about Monica days earlier. A group of anti-Clinton lawyers, all of whom are members of the conservative Federalist Society and all of whom have ties to Ken Starr, helped bring the allegations of an affair to Starr's attention at least a week before Linda Tripp's infamous telephone call.
     "The finding raises the question of whether Mr. Starr lied, first to Janet Reno and later to Congress, when he claimed it was the phone call from Linda Tripp that triggered the request to expand the scope of his failed Whitewater investigation to include the Lewinsky affair."

     Rivera went on to show a clip of Clinton during his testimony saying he was set up. Rivera added: "Starr's office does not deny that someone in their office got a call from an unnamed lawyer. But the independent counsel's spokesman, Charles Bakaly, said today quote, 'We believe these kinds of allegations that something was improper or inappropriate are merely efforts to divert attention from the facts and evidence that was gathered by this office,' end quote."

     But Rivera wants to divert attention. Interviewing Watergate counsel Richard Ben-Veniste later in the show Rivera moved from asking if Hillary were on target to declaring her so:
     "What are the implications of Hillary Clinton being right about a right-wing conspiracy to get her husband?"

     Remember, Upfront Tonight is Rivera's "news" program, not his 9pm ET/PT talk and advocacy show.

     Monday night National Review's Internet Update by Ramesh Ponnuru and John J. Miller delivered a better rebuttal than I could provide of the New York Times story, so here it is:

Sunday's New York Times gave front-page, above-the-fold billing to a story by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jill Abramson on the legal arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy. It's a shoddy piece of work.

The story includes a lot of allegations and half-allegations, but here's the main one: Jerome Marcus, a conservative lawyer "with ties to the Jones legal team" -- i.e., he filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Jones v. Clinton -- tipped off a friend in Ken Starr's office about the Lewinsky affair "at least a week" before Linda Tripp called. Marcus and two other conservative lawyers helped Mrs. Tripp find a lawyer and conferred with Tripp's friend Lucianne Goldberg about how to get her information to Starr.

That's it: basically, one phone call. Starr's office did nothing about it. Van Natta and Abramson quote Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly III: "A person in our office did get a heads-up call that some information may be coming or may be out there. And this person was instructed that we accept information through the front door, and that the appropriate person to contact is Jackie Bennett, the Washington deputy." Only when Mrs. Tripp called Bennett bearing tapes was any action taken.

Van Natta and Abramson repeatedly note that the phone call was "not disclosed" in Starr's request to the Justice Department to expand his investigation or in his report last month. Of course it wasn't; it was irrelevant. But look at the sandcastle of speculation the Times builds on this foundation: "The tip in early January indicates that the independent counsel's office could have been developing a strategy to persuade the Justice Department to expand the scope of the stalled Whitewater inquiry before the call from Mrs. Tripp." The "could have been" isn't nearly good enough cover: the tip "indicates" nothing of the sort. Van Natta and Abramson produce zero evidence to support this accusation.

Instead, they produce more insinuations -- in fractured English: "[T]he role of go-between played by a group of conservative lawyers with ties to the Jones case created an early and previously undisclosed back-channel between Mr. Starr's office and Mrs. Tripp." The implication of words like "go-between" and "back-channel" is a two-way flow of communication. But all Starr's office told Marcus was: brush off.

END Reprint

     To read or sign-up for NR's Washington Bulletin report, go to: http://www.nationalreview.com

     In his October 6 Inside Politics column in the Washington Times, Greg Pierce observed that the New York Times story "said Mr. Starr had been briefly involved in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case: 'Before becoming the Whitewater independent counsel in August 1994, he helped the Independent Women's Forum, a conservative organization, file a friend of the court brief in the Jones case. Mr. Starr was not paid for his services.'"

     Pierce documented how the effort to show Starr's sympathy for the Jones case is based on fallacy: "Barbara Ledeen, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, told this column yesterday that her group never filed such a brief in the Jones case -- and that the New York Times previously had published two corrections on the subject, with another one in the offing. 'This is the third time. This is a world record, I will bet, for the New York Times on corrections,' she said."

     To read Pierce's weekday compilation of political items, go to: http://www.washtimes.com/politics/inside.html


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) NBC's Katie Couric warned of a backlash against Republicans for pushing Clinton too hard and ABC's Lisa McRee asked a Democrat if there's "anything you can do" about Republican efforts to inflict "political damage," suggested a New York Times story supports Clinton's contention that he's the victim of a political hit and laughed about how "easy" it is to hate Linda Tripp. Another day on the network morning shows.

     -- On Monday's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that after pressing Republican Judiciary Committee member Asa Hutchinson about alternatives to impeachment and Gerald Ford's idea for a rebuke in the well of the House, this exchange took place between the Arkansan and co-host Katie Couric:
     "I'm sure Congressman you are aware of the polls and most people in this country, according to the polls, do not believe impeachment hearings should go forward. Are you afraid of a backlash against the GOP?"
     Asa Hutchinson: "Well the greatest concern for a backlash would be that the American people perceive that we're being unfair, overly partisan in this battle and trying to be vindictive."
     Couric: "Don't you think they perceive that right now?"

     -- Over on the October 5 Good Morning America, MRC analyst Mark Drake observed some interesting comments from co-host Lisa McRee.

     She tossed to Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California on the Judiciary Committee, this set up question:
     "But with regard to this report that new charges will be added: Is there any doubt in your mind that this is about inflicting political damage and is there anything you can do about it?"

     Talking with ABC News legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin in the 7:30am half hour, McRee endorsed the idea that Starr is part of a political conspiracy to get Clinton:
     "Just to catch our viewers up in case they didn't read the story in the New York Times over the weekend -- that Kenneth Starr was first tip offed about the Monica Lewinsky matter by a lawyer in the Paula Jones case and that, of course, does sort of support the President's charges all along that it's been political."

     And showing that you just never know where liberal bias will pop up, Mark caught this insult at Linda Tripp uttered during an interview with New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica about the Yankees, the team that finished with the best record in the American League.
     Mike Lupica: "...What the Yankees have done across this summer is, they have taken away an American constant. I think people could count on hating the Yankees at this time of year. It's like, it's like hating Linda Tripp. You know, I mean it's just something you can count on."
     McRee, laughing: "It's easy."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Linda Tripp Halloween masks? Yes, predicted Bob Schieffer on Sunday's Face the Nation. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed this little shot from Schieffer as he concluded an end of the show "final thought" on the fate awaiting players in Monicagate:

     "And then there's Linda Tripp. Before she fades into history, my guess is you'll see her face at a lot of Halloween parties."

     I bet you'll see a lot more of Monica Lewinsky.  -- Brent Baker

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