CBS Hits Livingston's PAC; Prosecutions for Lying; FNC Takes on CNN
1) First out of the box with a
hit on Bob Livingston: CBS's Eric Engberg on the evils of how
"Livingston exploited gaping legal loopholes in the election
2) Only the cable networks
covered Lucianne Goldberg's appearance in the Tripp taping case. All led
the last two nights with Iraq.
3) Today and 20/20 highlighted
how people are prosecuted and get prison time for lying about sex in a
civil case. NBC's Matt Lauer: "You are currently being punished for
doing exactly what the President is being accused of doing."
4) FNC focused on the
controversy about how CNN's Cold War series reflects moral equivalency
between the Soviet Union and U.S.
5) The CBS drama JAG found
ratings gold in producing an episode based on CNN's discredited Tailwind
6) Rivera's advice:
"I'm gonna do everything I can to prove that there is a vast
right-wing conspiracy that's been out to smear this man." And now
Rivera's also on MSNBC for two hours a night.
Thursday night CBS News became the first network to deliver a hit on
Speaker-to-be Bob Livingston, portraying his legal fundraising work on
behalf of House candidates as sleazy. And despite Dan Rather's boast
about a "CBS hard news investigation," anyone could have read
the same story in a newspaper the day before.
the November 12 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather announced:
"A CBS hard news investigation tonight digs
deep, into the drive to dump Newt Gingrich and have Louisiana's Bob
Livingston take over as House Speaker. Turns out Congressman Livingston is
a master at winning friends and influencing people the old-fashioned
In a "Follow the Dollar" report Eric
Engberg explained how Livingston, who ran for re-election unopposed, had
$600,000 in funds to give candidates and he created BOB's PAC to
distribute another $800,000. Engberg then ominously intoned:
"And CBS News also found that Livingston
exploited gaping legal loopholes in the election laws to get more bang for
his buck by channeling donations from business lobbyists through his PAC
to other GOP campaigns. Federal Election Commission records show how it
works. Example: In September United Parcel Service sent Livingston's PAC
a check for $5,000, but it's made out to a House candidate named Ernie
Fletcher. Records show the check is earmarked for Fletcher and that
BOB's PAC simply passes it on to him. Livingston thus collects the
political chit. All tolled, business PACS delivered checks totaling about
After allowing no time for anyone to defend
Livingston or this type of fundraising, but following two soundbites from
an official with the Center for Responsive Politics, Engberg concluded:
"Playing the money game better than anyone, Livingston became the
unopposed king of the Hill by first becoming the king of cash."
So, this was a
"CBS hard news investigation" that "digs deep." Yeah,
deep into page A14 of the Washington Post from the day before. "PAC
Gave Speaker-to-Be Some Reach: New in Spring, It Grew to $1 Million, Most
of Which Went to Aid House Candidates" read the November 11 headline.
Here's an excerpt from the piece by Washington Post reporters Charles R.
Babcock and Ruth Marcus:
When House Appropriations Chairman Bob
Livingston (R-La.) decided last spring to make a bid for speaker, one of
his first orders of business was setting up a political action committee.
Livingston's leadership PAC was aptly named
"B.O.B.S. PAC," for "building our bases," and the new
fund-raising tool allowed him to do just that.
In the space of six months, B.O.B.S. PAC
became one of the largest leadership PACs on the Hill. In a
coast-to-coast, industry-by- industry fund-raising drive, it took in more
than $1 million and handed out close to $800,000 in contributions to
Republican candidates, much of it to the House members whose votes
Livingston needs to succeed outgoing Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
That money came on top of the more than
$600,000 Livingston gave to the party and individual candidates out of his
personal campaign funds, and the separate events that Livingston -- a big
draw as Appropriations chair -- hosted directly to support GOP
Babcock and Marcus
proceeded to cite examples of business PACS giving money to Livingston's
PAC that was then passed on to specific candidates. Babcock and Marcus
should get a research fee from CBS News.
Wednesday and Thursday night ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC all led with
multiple stories on the build-up against Iraq. ABC and NBC have not run a
political story since Monday and after two nights off neither did CBS
until its Thursday hit on Livingston detailed in item #1 above. The
Thursday, November 12 The World Today on CNN and FNC's Fox Report did
feature full stories on the appearance by Lucianne Goldberg before a
Howard County, Maryland grand jury looking at whether Linda Tripp violated
state law by taping conversations while in her Columbia, Maryland home.
night, November 11, NBC and FNC aired full reports on the OJ Simpson child
custody situation and all ran pieces on the 80th anniversary of the end of
World War I. FNC's Fox Report ran a short item read by the anchor on how
Senator Arlen Specter recommended dropping the impeachment inquiry and
having Clinton face charges after he leaves office. CNN's Jonathan Karl
provided a report on how some Republicans, led by Brian Bilbray of
California, think the inquiry is hurting the party so an estimated 20 GOP
members a "poised" to vote against impeachment if it reaches the
To give you a
flavor of the showdown with Iraq news, here's how each of the broadcast
networks opened Thursday night:
-- Peter Jennings
on ABC's World News Tonight: "Good evening. We begin tonight with
the high-stakes blame game between the United States and Iraq. The Clinton
administration says again today that Saddam Hussein is liable to be
attacked very shortly because he will not abide by the rules for
international weapons inspection. The Iraqi government says there's a
stand-off because the Clinton administration will not allow international
economic sanctions against Iraq to be lifted. It's a very messy business
in which it is difficult for Iraq or the United States to prevail."
-- Dan Rather on
the CBS Evening News: "Good evening. Quote, 'We're not playing
games anymore with Saddam Hussein.' That's the word tonight from the
President of the United States. Push may come to shove within the next 48
to 96 hours."
-- Tom Brokaw on
the NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. The message to Iraq tonight
could not be more clear: Major, sustained air strikes are headed your way
unless Saddam Hussein allows UN weapons inspectors back into that
Now they tell us. After months of hearing how no one is ever charged with
perjury for lying about sex in a federal civil case, never mind getting
punished for it, on Wednesday NBC's Today and ABC's 20/20 showed how
that's just not "legally accurate" or otherwise true. Today
interviewed a psychiatrist in home detention for lying about sex with a
patient and ABC's Sam Donaldson told her story plus found two other
examples of women who got actual prison time for lying about sex in a
federal civil case. That's exactly what Geraldo Rivera says never
happens, causing him to lose a bet, a fact his colleagues at Today were
not hesitant to point out.
Here are some
excerpts from both stories.
-- From the
November 11 Today, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens. Co-host
Matt Lauer opened the 8am hour item:
"In the wake of this year's scandal in
Washington some people have suggested that lying under oath in a civil
suit never gets prosecuted especially when the topic is sex. Well as NBC's
Dan Abrams tells us now that's not entirely true."
Dan Abrams began: "Many of the nation's
leading legal scholars appeared before Congress this week debating whether
the President's actions could be considered impeachable offenses."
After clips from scholars on both sides, Abrams
continued: "And one presidential historian who worked in the Kennedy
White House questioned the whole idea of prosecuting someone for lying
about sex....That was the issue raised by Geraldo Rivera on his CNBC talk
show earlier this year when he issued the following challenge."
Geraldo Rivera on CNBC: "If anyone could
find another instance of a federal perjury prosecution for a sex lie,
especially one told in a dismissed civil case, in other words a case just
like the prosecution of Bill Clinton we would pay $10,000."
Abrams: "Rivera's point? No prosecutor would
have even considered charging President Clinton for lying in the Paula
Jones case if he weren't the President. But months later attorney Victoria
Toensing found a similar case which was prosecuted."
Victoria Toensing: "Earlier this year, a
woman psychiatrist in a VA hospital had oral sex with her male patient. He
later sues for medical malpractice. She in a civil proceeding denies it.
He, ala Linda Tripp, tape records their conversations and the Justice
Department indicts her."
Abrams: "In that case Barbara Battalino was
charged with perjury and in a plea bargain received 6 months of home
detention. Rivera paid up. And while federal prosecutions for lying are
rare they do happen."
Abrams concluded: "The majority of those
cases weren't about civil depositions or about sex and while that might
help the President it won't help Geraldo get his money back."
interviewed Barbara Battalino from her home in Los Osos, California, where
she's under house arrest. Lauer got right to the point: "You are
the person we just heard about in that story. So just to get things
straight. You are currently being punished for doing exactly what the
President is being accused of doing. Do you think there are two standards
of justice at work here?"
Two more of Lauer's questions emphasized the
double standard afforded Clinton:
"You have been obviously not given the kind
of attention that the President has been given but you think legal
scrutiny, in terms of legal scrutiny you are being held to a higher
"Now lets talk about what's happened to you.
You are under house arrest. You had to give up your federal job as a
psychiatrist at the Veteran's Affair administration. You resigned your
medical license and you paid a fine. The President still has his job,
still has a license to practice law and there has been no fine. How do you
feel about it?"
-- Wednesday night on ABC's 20/20 Sam Donaldson declared:
"You hear some people say on television or
in the newspaper that no one gets prosecuted for lying under oath in a
civil suit, certainly not if they're lying about sex. The question of
what the evidence shows in the case of President Clinton is now being
investigated by the House Judiciary Committee. And tonight, we are passing
no judgment on that, not even looking at that. But as to the overall
proposition that no one really gets in trouble in such cases, you're
about to meet three women who have first hand knowledge about that. Here
are their stories."
proceeded to detail three cases, interviewing all three women on-camera:
Diane Parker, currently serving 13 months in federal prison in Florida,
former University of South Carolina basketball coach Pam Parsons who
served four months in the mid-'80s, and Battalino. Donaldson explained:
"These three women have never met. But they have something in common.
They were all convicted of perjury because they lied under oath about sex
in a civil suit."
Before getting to
the specific cases, Donaldson allowed federal judge Lacey Collier to tell
why perjury matters in all cases: "If a person comes to court and
cannot be counted on when he takes the oath, then that's very
destructive of the entire system because truth, justice, that is what
we're all about in the judicial system. And it fails when the truth is
not told under oath."
In the Parker
case, she was a postal worker. A colleague sued the Post Office alleging
she had sexually harassed him. While she denies they ever had sex, they
did go on a personal trip together, a fact she denied in a deposition.
In the Parson
case, in 1981 Sports Illustrated ran a story raising the allegation that
she had sex with a member of the woman's basketball team she coached.
Donaldson elaborated: "Parsons filed a civil suit against Time,
Incorporated, the publisher of Sports Illustrated, asking for $75 million.
She gave a deposition under oath in which she denied that she and the
player in question had had a sexual relationship. The problem was, she was
lying." Time won and Parsons was prosecuted for perjury, Donaldson
noted: "In 1985, Parsons and her lover spent four months in a minimum
mentioning Clinton or the usual crew of Clinton apologists on CNBC and
MSNBC, Donaldson observed:
"Federal district judge Lacey Collier says
he's disturbed when he sees people on television argue that it's no
big deal to lie in a civil suit or that no one gets prosecuted for perjury
in such cases."
Collier: "So I would hate to think that I
would have to sentence someone who came before me and their defense was
that I heard such-and-such a professor or Sam Donaldson say that
nobody ever got prosecuted for this, and then why are you giving me a year
in jail, which is what the guidelines require. That's troubling to me
just as a judge."
After the story,
Diane Sawyer asked Donaldson: "I know it wasn't your story, but did
any of them compare themselves to President Clinton?"
Donaldson gave a bit of hope to Clinton:
"Well, we didn't ask any of the women about the President. But
Diane Parker did volunteer that she thinks Mr Clinton should be let
Sawyer nonetheless stressed the bigger picture:
"But the message is sometimes perjury is prosecuted."
Donaldson: "Tonight, there are at least 115
people in federal prison solely because of a perjury prosecution. So while
some people don't have to pay the price, Diane, as we've seen tonight,
some people do."
Now, how long
before evening news viewers learn any of this?
FNC picked up on the controversy over CNN's Cold War series. On
Thursday's "Fox Files" segment on the 7pm ET Fox Report
co-anchor Jon Scott introduced the piece:
"CNN's not just reporting the news these
days, it's back in the news again. The network that last made headlines
over its erroneous reporting on the Tailwind story is now taking shots
over a documentary series on the cold war."
Eric Burns began by allowing Catholic University
historian Lee Edwards to commend CNN for making a $12 million investment
in a serious topic and uncovering fresh archival footage. Burns then
played this series of soundbites interspersed with his prompts:
John Leo of U.S. News & World Report:
"It makes an exact moral equality between the Soviet Union and the
Edwards: "This idea that both the Soviet
Union and the United States were responsible for the cold war."
Burns: "In equal shares."
Edwards: "In equal shares."
Leo: "An outrageous point."
Burns: "It is also a point that a great many
historians do not accept."
Edwards: "The Soviet system collapsed
because it was brutal and it suppressed the rights and obligations and
liberties of millions and millions of people."
Burns: "And killed many of them."
Edwards: "Killed them, of course."
Burns: "Is this now, Lee, the consensus
opinion of historians?"
Burns went on to
note that both columnist Charles Krauthammer and the Weekly Standard
recently made the moral equivalence criticism, allowing Edwards to
complain: "When you start equating, as this series does, Joe Stalin
and Joe McCarthy. The KGB and the FBI..."
Burns read a
response from CNN's Steve Haworth: "How anyone can measure moral
equivalency strictly in terms of air time devoted to separate subjects is
beyond me." Burns added that "Jeremy Isaacs, co-executive
producer of the series, points out that it includes a vivid description of
the violence of Stalin's regime, a comparison of the Soviets and Nazis
and an account of Soviet takeover techniques."
Let me try to help
Haworth. It's not just that equal time is devoted to the bad things done
by both sides it's that by giving each side's bad things equal weight
and time CNN's series does suggest both were equally wrong or equally
culpable for the cold war. As Krauthammer wrote in a column run in the
October 30 Washington Post about episode 6 which aired on November 1:
"The premise is explicit: There was paranoia
on both sides of the Iron Curtain. 'Both sides turned their fear inward
against their own people. They hunted the enemy within.' In the Soviet
Union it produced he gulag; in the United States the Red scare. Half the
show on one, half on the other. This is moral equivalence with a
I hope the
November 1 episode was an aberration to an otherwise quality series, but
I'm not confident. CNN has yet to get to the 1960s, Gorbachev, Reagan
and "Star Wars." This Sunday's 8pm and 12 am ET episode is
called "Sputnik." Here's the plug from the CNN Web page:
"With security and pride at stake, the Americans and Soviets embark
on a decades-long space and arms race." Last week's show on Stalin
will air again Friday and Saturday night at 10pm ET and PT.
To read the October 30 CyberAlert on the Cold War
series, which includes excepts from a critical New Republic story, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19981030.html#4
If you have any
doubts about the moral equivalence displayed in the November 1
"Reds" episode on the 1950s, go to the Cold War web page which
has transcripts for all the already aired episodes: http://www.cnn.com/coldwar
More bad news for CNN. Thanks to CBS a lot more people know about the
Tailwind story than ever saw it in the first place. As reported by Lisa de
Moraes in the November 12 Washington Post:
CNN's discredited "NewsStand"
report on the use of sarin gas during the Vietnam War may have been a
debacle for the cable network, but it was a ratings gold mine for CBS. The
eye network's drama series "JAG" pulled down its biggest
audience ever Tuesday night -- about 17.1 million viewers -- with an
episode based on the subsequently retracted CNN report.
The episode of the "Few Good
Men"-ish drama series featured Lt. Cmdr. Harmon Rabb Jr. (star David
James Elliott) -- a former ace pilot turned lawyer -- helping a
congresswoman investigate a journalist's report that U.S. soldiers used
the nerve gas to kill fellow Americans during the Persian Gulf War.
Only about 722,000 viewers watched CNN's
first telecast of its Operation Tailwind report, on the June 7 debut
edition of "NewsStand," which alleged that the United States
used sarin against American defectors during the Vietnam War. A second
telecast, at 1 a.m. June 8, averaged 400,000 viewers. CNN retracted the
story in July.
An impassioned Geraldo Rivera jumps to Clinton's defense by denigrating
Ken Starr. And now NBC's cable channels are featuring him for five hours
Geoffrey Dickens caught this advice for Clinton's lawyers from Rivera on
the impeachment hearings. On CNBC's Rivera Live he demanded:
"Because if I were the President's lawyer
I wouldn't let Starr be the only witness. The public be damned, excuse
me ladies and gentlemen, but I'm not gonna let my client go down for
reasons of expediting our discomfort. I'm gonna call any witness I can
to prove that Ken Starr is a partisan zealot who has had a chip on his
shoulder and has it in for my client from the get-go. And I'm gonna do
everything I can to prove that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy
that's been out to smear this man."
temporary or permanent I don't know, but this week NBC has decided to
nearly double Rivera's night-time exposure. In addition to Upfront
Tonight at 7:30pm and 2:30am ET (4:30 and 11:30pm PT) and Rivera Live at
9pm and 12am ET (6pm and 9pm PT) on CNBC, MSNBC now repeats Rivera Live at
10pm and 1am ET (7pm and 10pm PT) each night, replacing Time & Again.
Just what we need.
More Geraldo. --Brent Baker
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