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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday October 9, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 166)

Geraldo Depressed; Gloomy Network Reporters; Judge Stops Abortion

1) Hillary Clinton is going to Bulgaria while Geraldo Riverastews: "So melancholy on this rainy day. God, give me an aspirin."

2) Nets find "not a lot to be happy about." CBS featured a poll showing most oppose an inquiry. Robert Bennett rebuked Clinton, saying that Lewinsky's affidavit was false. Zilch on ABC, CBS and CNN.

3) CNN's Bill Schneider posed a series of "what ifs" about how the scandal could have been avoided, but none dealt with Clinton's actions.

4) CBS decried: "Locked inside this Ohio jail is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who wants to have an abortion." But a judge won't let her.

5) Newsweek's Evan Thomas upset "we framed a guilty man" in a "sex trap," so it does not justify impeachment.

6) CNN moves Capital Gang to accommodate repeat airings of its Cold War series.

Correction: As those reading the October 7 CyberAlert on the MRC Web page may have noticed, after seeing the accompanying video clip of Geraldo Rivera standing next to a sign for Dozhier's Bait Shop, the CyberAlert misspelled the name. It's Dozhier, not Dohzier.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) A sad and depressing day for Geraldo Rivera, but at least he didn't flee to Bulgaria. On CNBC's Upfront Tonight on Thursday night Rivera had this exchange with his co-host about Bill and Hillary:

     Geraldo Rivera: "They'll be celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary Diane on the 11th of October, that's a Sunday. And as of now the First Lady plans on spending it in Bulgaria on a four day trip to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic."

     Diane Dimond: "Interesting that she would not want to be in Washington at the White House with her husband today."
     Rivera: "So melancholy. So melancholy on this rainy day. God, give me an aspirin."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)schieffer10-9cap.jpg (16570 bytes)A generally gloomy tone set by the networks on Thursday night. Bob Schieffer concluded his CBS Evening News piece: "All the spin aside, Bill Clinton now becomes the third President to face a serious impeachment challenge. There's not a lot to be happy about in that."

     Earlier in the day, wrapping up live coverage at about 3:15pm ET, Peter Jennings remarked: "The bottom line is that the House Judiciary Committee is now going to have an impeachment investigation of William Jefferson Clinton. That is only the third time in the history of the country that the House of Representatives has done that and if that aint history I don't know what is."

     And late in the evening Nightline took "the pulse in the heartland" where Ted Koppel determined "many in LaCrosse, Wisconsin are fed up." Koppel introduced the set up story: "As John Donvan now reports, folks in the heartland simply want to put this thing behind them." Donvan showed that during the vote people in LaCrosse were in a bar watching baseball, at a weekly bridge game and participating in the final dance at the Oktoberfest.

     The full House vote in favor of the Republican resolution to proceed with an impeachment inquiry led every network with multiple stories. CNN devoted the first 25 minutes of the World Today and FNC over half of its Fox Report to the development.

     ABC, CNN and FNC highlighted how all but a few Democrats voted to proceed with an investigation of some sort, as even the Democratic resolution called for a further inquiry. But the networks couldn't agree on a number. Ten Democrats voted against both resolutions according to ABC's Cokie Roberts and FNC's Carl Cameron; five did said CNN's Bob Franken. Neither CBS or NBC pointed out the overwhelming support for an inquiry of some kind. 

     The CBS Evening News highlighted a poll showing most of the public wished that their member vote against an impeachment inquiry. FNC's David Shuster reported on an offer from a New Yorker to pay Paula Jones $1 million. Only NBC considered very newsworthy a letter from Robert Bennett to the Jones judge saying that Monica Lewinsky's affidavit was false. ABC, CBS and CNN ignored Bennett's public rebuke of Clinton while FNC mentioned it briefly.

     Two White House reporters offered contrasting assessments from the North Lawn. On ABC Sam Donaldson assured viewers: "No one here is trying to spin today's vote as favorable to the President." Not so, insisted NBC's Claire Shipman: "It may seem hard to believe, but the White House is trying to find some way, even a small way, to cast today's vote in a positive light."

     Here are some highlights from the Thursday, October 8, evening shows.

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the broadcast:
     "Good evening. We knew in advance what the outcome would be, but it was a dramatic turning point anyway and it was sobering.  For only the third time in the country's history the Congress will decide whether a President deserves to be impeached, and perhaps removed from office. After all the countries been through in thelast eight or nine months it may seem merely an extension of Mr. Clinton's crisis. But now that there's going to be an impeachment process there is no turning back." 

     Linda Douglass introduced soundbites from the floor debate: "The debate was deeply partisan, very fervent. The Democrats were charging that the Republicans are conducting a witch hunt but the Republicans argued that the charges against the President are not trivial." Viewers saw clips of Republicans Henry Hyde, Charles Canady and George Gekas before Democrats Robert Wexler, John Lewis and Zoe Lofgren. Actually, Lewis delivered a yellingbite. Douglass also showed clips of Democrats Patsy Mink and David Bonior as well as Republicans James Sensenbrenner and Bill McCollum. Douglass set up two more bites: "What seemed to catch fire with Democrats who lined up to criticize the Republican plan is the notion that the public doesn't want a wide-ranging investigation." After a clip of Dick Gephardt she led into a comment from Hyde: "Popular or not, Republicans argued they have a duty to investigate fully and completely."

     Next, from the White House Sam Donaldson relayed: "No one here is trying to spin today's vote as favorable to the President. Obviously they're happy that Democratic defections were no greater than they were."
     Donaldson played a clip of Clinton talking about moving forward with the process in timely manner and how his fate is now in the hands of God.
     Donaldson concluded by uniquely noting how Hillary is away: "Tonight President Clinton is home alone. Mrs. Clinton is away in Arkansas. There are no fundraising dinners to go to, no banquets to attend. As far as we know, the President will be having dinner all by himself. After which, if his habits hold Peter, he'll be on the telephone, reaching out to friends across the country hoping for a little sympathy on this the darkest day so far of his presidency."

     Dinner alone? What about desert? He needs a little cheering up and Hillary's away? HELLO MONICA!

     Finally, Cokie Roberts told Jennings: "It is significant that the Democrats did have their own inquiry plan too and almost all of them voted for it, so one way or the other, almost every single member of the House of Representatives today, only ten voted against proceeding with some kind of inquiry of impeachment against the President of the United States."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began by delivering the pro-Clinton spin on Democratic defections:

     "Good evening. The U.S. House of Representatives voted today for a wide-ranging, open-ended impeachment investigation of President Clinton. The President said he hoped Congress would be quote, 'fair, constitutional and timely.' The final tally showed 258 votes favoring an impeachment inquiry. The Republican were unanimous. Not of them voted no. 31 Democrats voted yes. Now this last number was less that the worst fears in the President's camp."

     Up first, Bob Schieffer ran soundbites from Wexler, Gekas, and Sensenbrenner before getting to one Douglass missed: "During the debate Kucinich of Ohio and McHale of Pennsylvania were the only Democrats who spoke in favor of the inquiry. McHale's criticism of the President was withering."
     Paul McHale: "His actions were not inappropriate. They were predatory, reckless, breathtakingly arrogant for a man already a defendant in a sexual harassment suit."  
     Schieffer followed up by showing how Charles Rangel argued that the public opposes impeachment. Schieffer noted that Henry Hyde was "anything but gloating." Hyde, lacking the moral condemnation of McHale, remarked: "It's our duty. It's an onerous, miserable, rotten duty but we have to do it or we break faith with the people who sent us here."
     Just before his conclusion quoted in the first paragraph of this item, Schieffer observed: "Although 31 Democrats voted with the Republicans, the President's defenders claimed victory of sorts, saying they feared it would be worse."
     Maxine Waters at a pres conference: "We didn't win, but we did darn good."

     Rather then showcased two poll results. First, "How should your Representative vote on impeachment inquiry?" For said 40 percent; against replied 55 percent. Second, on punishing Clinton, 54 percent favor "punish in some way," 64 percent "oppose removal from office" and 67 percent "oppose resignation."

     From the White House Scott Pelley explained how Clinton said he has surrendered to the impeachment process and that his fate is now in the hands of God. Pelley concluded on a dour note: "We asked a member of the President's defense team whether the White House took any encouragement from the fact that only 31 Democrats voted for the Republican resolution. He told us 'no silver lining can be found when the Congress vote an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States.'"


     -- CNN's The World Today opened with an overview from Bob Franken who emphasized that the 31 Democrats represented "fewer defections than some predicted." He featured clips from Wexler, McCollum and Hyde before concluding: "Only five members of the House, all of them Democrats, only five, failed to vote for either form of the impeachment inquiry and that Jim does not bode well for President Clinton."

     Next, from the White House John King relayed Clinton's reaction and reported that Clinton is now reaching out to old friends, but they may not offer him a lot of comfort as King concluded: "The President says his top priority is restoring the trust of the American people, but even many close allies wonder how effective, how persuasive a leader he can be under the cloud of impeachment."

     CNN the ran a trilogy of stories on Democrats in flux: Candy Crowley on Jay Johnson of Wisconsin who voted no on the GOP resolution and Jim Maloney of Connecticut who voted for both resolutions; Frank Sesno on Lynn Rivers who ended up backing the Democratic resolution; and Ed Garston on Michigan freshman Democrat Debbie Stabenow and the mixed views in her district.

    As noted in the October 5 CyberAlert, a Secret Service officer contradicted steward Byani Nelvis. Thursday night CNN became the first network to pick up on the revelation on Starr's documents.  Pierre Thomas explained that Starr is looking at more than one contradiction: "Sources tell CNN Ken Starr's investigating whether Mr. Clinton lied before the grand jury not only about Monica Lewinsky but also about an alleged encounter with Kathleen Willey in November 1993." After detailing the Willey contradictions, Thomas moved on:
     "Other White House figures at risk because of their grand jury testimony, include Steward Byani Nelvis. In testimony before the grand jury on March 12, Nelvis was asked: 'Did you ever find lipstick-stained towels or tissues anywhere in the are of the Oval Office?' Nelvis: 'No ma'am.' But on July 23, Secret Service officer Brent Chinery testified: 'Nelvis made a statement to me one time that he was tired of cleaning up the mess after Monica and the president had been back in the pantry. He would find tissues in the garbage can.' According to a source close to Starr investigators want to know if Nelvis was telling the truth, and if not did someone at the White House try to keep him quiet..."

      Finally, Jonathan Karl recounted Hillary's warm welcome in Arkansas and how Democratic candidates are "flocking" to her. 


     -- FNC's Fox Report. Carl Cameron checked in from Capitol Hill with soundbites from Hyde, Bonior, Wexler and Republican Steve Chabot before running the same clip of Paul McHale as had CBS. Agreeing with the number mentioned by ABC's Cokie Roberts, Cameron asserted: "Most Democrats voted only for the limited impeachment investigation and only ten Democrats flatly opposed any inquiry and accused Republicans of an election year ploy."
     Cameron added later that the Judiciary Committee will be looking at the affidavits from Jane Does 1 to 7 in the Jones case to see if any of the denials of relations with Clinton were false.

     Jim Angle filed from the White House followed by co-anchor Jon Scott interviewing Lee Hamilton and David Dreier. After a piece on public reaction Scott noted that Newscorp had offered Lewinsky $3 million for an interview on Fox and a book deal. Dick Morris and Cal Thomas discussed the implications of the House vote before David Shuster explained how New York parking garage magnate Abe Hirschfeld has offered to pay Jones $1 million to settle her case.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced at the top of the show:

     "Good evening. Tonight Bill Clinton knows that whatever else happens in his presidency, he will always have a black mark by his name. Only the third President to formally become the subject of an impeachment inquiry which could lead to his removal from office. It was a mostly party-line vote with 31 Democrats joining the Republicans in approving an open-ended inquiry. Most of the other Democrats favored going forward with the process, but they wanted a time limit."

     Gwen Ifill began: "On a gloomy Washington day four hours of debate brimming with emotion, frustration and some bitterness, ending in a wrenching and historic moment." Ifill played the Hyde bite about rotten duty and the McHale soundbite also picked up by CBS and FNC before pointing out how two who normally vote with Clinton, Lee Hamilton and Carolyn McCarthy, voted for the GOP resolution. 

      Contradicting ABC's Sam Donaldson and CBS's Scott Pelley, NBC's Claire Shipman declared from the White House: "It may seem hard to believe, but the White House is trying to find some way, even a small way, to cast today's vote in a positive light. Fewer Democrats defected than expected they point out, only 31. This they say was a partisan vote. But you don't have to push very hard to get them to admit here that the vote itself was a defeat."

     Next, Lisa Myers delivered a broadcast exclusive, though the same information was featured on Thursday's Today, so the others had plenty of time to catch up. Noting that Judge Susan Weber Wright will release Jones case documents that could embarrass Clinton, Myers revealed:
      "And if that weren't bad enough, even Mr. Clinton's own lawyer now has written a letter raising questions about the President's truthfulness. In a sealed letter to the judge in the Paula Jones case, the President's lawyer, Robert Bennett, writes that Monica Lewinsky's affidavit denying sexual relations with the President was in fact 'misleading and not true.' That puts Bennett directly at odds with his client the President who testified in January that the affidavit was, quote 'absolutely true.'"

     Later, the In Depth segment looked at "lost opportunities" because of the scandal. Bob Faw answered the Nightly Question: "Is this the do nothing Congress?" Faw concluded: "Our preoccupation says a lot about our priorities and to some it suggests that our priorities are all wrong."
     Erica Jong, author: "The world is going to Hell in a handbasket and America is busy snooping into the private lives of public officials. It's tragic really."
     Faw: "The President, the intern, the prosecutor, the process, the diversion has been costly."

     (Hours later, on ABC's Politically Incorrect, Erica Jong declared: "I think it's Ken Starr who's guilty of treason.")


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)What if Bill Schneider wasn't so biased? As the September 24 CyberAlert detailed, Schneider dismissed parallels to Watergate: "Then it was about corruption. Now it's just about sex."

     On Wednesday's Inside Politics Schneider posed a series of what ifs, explaining: "Back during Watergate, the favored 'what if' question was: What if President Nixon had destroyed the White House audio tapes? No smoking gun. Watergate would have been Iran-Contra."

      So, he then proceeded to pose some for this scandal, but unlike his Watergate example, none of his contemporary what ifs dealt with actions by the President himself, focusing instead on what others did. (To save space I'll just run Schneider's questions and skip his explanations of what the players have done, assuming CyberAlert readers are up on the history of the case.)
      "What if David Brock had never mentioned a woman named Paula in his 1993 Troopergate article in the American Spectator?....
      "What if the three-judge panel had not fired Whitewater independent counsel Robert Fiske in 1994 and replaced him with Kenneth Starr? Would Fiske have turned his attention from an incomprehensible land deal to a lurid sex scandal? Instead of Starr wars, would we have gotten only a Fiske fight?
     "What if the Republicans had not taken over Congress in 1994? Would a Democratic Congress have gleefully pursued Whitewater or Travelgate or Filegate or the Lewinsky saga?....
     "What if the government shutdown in November 1995 had never occurred?....
      "What if Lewinsky had not been transferred to the Pentagon in April 1996 on orders from resident White House meany Evelyn Lieberman? If she had not been banished to the Pentagon, Lewinsky would never have made friends with another disgruntled White House exile named Linda Tripp.... 
      "What if Ken Starr had gone to Pepperdine University in February 1997, as he originally intended?....
     "What if the Supreme Court had not decided in 1997 that the Jones lawsuit could go forward while Clinton was still in office?....
     "What if presidential attorney Bob Bennett had not insinuated to Newsweek that Linda Tripp was a liar?....
      "What if Lewinsky had cleaned the dress?....
      "What if this whole thing had never happened? We'd be in the middle of a sleepy campaign leading to a status quo election. The big excitement this fall might have been another government shutdown. 
     "What if we had a shutdown instead of a scandal? Then federal employees would be furloughed and the White House would have to use interns to fill in. Some calculating intern might end up delivering a pizza to the President, and then, oh, never mind." 

As MRC news analyst Paul Smith pointed out to me, there's one obvious "what if" that Schneider skipped: What if Bill Clinton hadn't lied for eight months?


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)"Locked inside this Ohio jail is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who wants to have an abortion. Sitting inside this courthouse is a judge who won't let it happen." So bemoaned reporter Diana Olick in opening an October 8 CBS Evening News story.

      Olick explained that the woman with the last name of Kawaguchi (I couldn't even guess at how to spell her first name) pled guilty for forgery in a Cleveland case involving credit card fraud. Judge Patricia Cleary sentenced Kawaguchi to six months so she couldn't get an abortion, or so her lawyer told Olick, claiming probation is normal for a first offender like Kawaguchi. Olick let Cleary deny the charge before countering:
     "But according to court documents, when she told Judge Cleary she was planning to have an abortion, the judge said she is not and sentenced her to enough time in jail to make abortion legally impossible."
     On screen graphic of transcript of what judge said in court: "I'm saying that she is not having a second term abortion."
      Olick jumped to Kawaguchi via phone, who complained: "She did not give me the right to choose...she pretty much de-humanized me, she took away all my rights."
     Cleary then got a chance to explain that she considered her sentence charitable since she set up Kawaguchi with a social agency to help her after her release.  
      Before concluding by noting how probation is most common in such cases but it's always up to the judge, Olick declared: "When Kawaguchi is released in about a month she'll be close to seven months pregnant, forced to have her child."

     At no point in the story did Olick tell viewers how much time Kawaguchi will have served when she is released in a month when she will be seven months into her pregnancy. The natural implication: she was sentenced when she was one-month pregnant, just when she discovered she was pregnant and in plenty of time to have a first-trimester abortion.

Now, reviewing the above transcript do you catch what I noticed? Scan back a few paragraphs and read the on-screen transcript of the judge's words, words not uttered by Olick: "...a second term abortion." That suggests to me Kawaguchi's only serving a portion of the six months and she had been pregnant more than three months when she appeared before Cleary. So, not quite the case CBS implied of a woman just wanting to exercise her rights to a first-trimester abortion, but one who had already waited until her child was well along, to a time when even many pro-choicers find abortion inappropriate.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) "We framed a guilty man" in a "sex trap" so it does not justify impeachment, declared Newsweek's former Washington bureau chief on this past weekend's Inside Washington. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson picked up this exchange between Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer:

     Thomas: "A President lying in front of a grand jury is a serious, serious thing. But you can't divorce it from the context, which is this weird sex trap. Yes, Clinton was completely guilty, but he was also entrapped. Both are true, we framed a guilty man."
      Krauthammer: "You can argue that he was entrapped and surprised in the civil deposition, but then he lied for seven months. He was not trapped and surprised for the seven months.  That is deceiving the American people for a very long time."
     Thomas: "I agree with all that, I just don't think that's, I don't think, I mean, to me, Gordo [host Gordon Peterson] asked what's an impeachable offense. I think it has to be a more serious attempt to subvert the system of government than that one lie."


cyberno6.jpg (1848 bytes)CNN not only has a new set, it has also changed its schedule. Capital Gang no longer repeats at 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT on Saturday, though the initial telecast still occurs at 7pm ET/4pm PT. The repeat now airs at 7:30am ET/4:30am PT on Sunday.  The previous repeat time had to be dropped to accommodate repeat airings of the Cold War series which now runs six times each week: 8pm and 12am ET Sunday nights; 10pm and 1am ET Friday nights; and 10pm and 1am ET Saturday nights. So, you still have four more chances to see part two of the 24-parter: "Iron Curtain: 1945-47." Up next on Sunday, part 3: "Marshall Plan: 1947-52."

     Cold War and its 30-minute follow-up on Sunday nights only, CNN Postscript, have also knocked out the 10pm PT showing on Sundays of NewsStand: CNN & Time. It still airs three times, however: 10pm ET Sunday and 10pm and 1am ET Monday night.

Rick Kaplan is turning CNN into the Classic News Network. -- Brent Baker

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