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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday November 30, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 191)

Sawyer's 20/20 Starr Slam; Hating McConnell; Starr = "Pure Evil"

1) Diane Sawyer portrayed Ken Starr as an out of touch square, arguing with him about why he raised Clinton's comment about small breasts and use of a cigar, contending he mistreated Lewinsky, and giving credence to the VRWC by alleging a "one degree of separation" from Scaife.

2) Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson despise Mitch McConnell so much that they support a conservative to replace him. Hunt declared: "Mitch McConnell, every bit as much as the Clinton campaign in 1996, personifies the addiction to sleazy big money."

3) Washington Post TV reviewer Tom Shales on Ken Starr: "Perhaps beneath the dullness lies pure evil."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Diane Sawyer's 20/20 interview with Ken Starr turned out even more slanted than suggested in the preview delivered in the November 25 CyberAlert. Go to the November 25 edition to read the promos and some preview excerpts run on the ABC News Web page: http://www.mediaresearch.org//cyberalerts/1998/cyb19981125.html#1

starr1130.jpg (13929 bytes)     Though Starr and his deputies, including Robert Bittmann and Julie Myers, got a few chances to make their points without being discredited, Sawyer spent most of the hour not only putting Starr and associates on the defense by forcing them to respond to Carville-like criticisms, but she often took the anti-Starr side by arguing with him.

     Referring, for instance, to the details about the cigar and other sexual matters Sawyer insisted it "cannot be denied that they are there to outrage and they are there to shock." After Starr said he was sure of the propriety of his decisions, Sawyer responded: "There is something about certainty that scares a lot of people."

     For a flavor of the November 25 show, which dealt solely with Starr for the entire hour, here's a plug run during one break:
     Announcer: "Did Kenneth Starr go too far?"
     Diane Sawyer to Starr: "I think there were 62 mentions of the word 'breast,' 23 of 'cigar,' 19 of 'semen.' This has been called demented pornography, pornography for puritans. Were there mistakes made in including some of this?"
     Announcer: "The tables are turned. Now it's the prosecutor's turn to be grilled, when 20/20 Wednesday continues after this from our ABC stations."

     Incredibly, after ten months of being pounded by the media, culminating in this kind of treatment in his one and only TV interview, the media establishment really believe they've helped Starr. In a November 30 Newsweek piece on the similarities between Starr and Clinton, Jonathan Alter asserted:
     "A backlash against the 1960s led to Ken Starr's interest in the President's sex life; a backlash against that backlash allowed Clinton to escape. To make matters more complicated, the Washington media establishment has switched teams. Once liberal but always fickle, the press clearly sided with the prim, conservative Starr for much of the year, while the once conservative 'Silent Majority' backed the hip, liberal Clinton, or at least the way he has handled his job."

     Compare that assessment with the reality of Sawyer's interview. Below are some of the more illustrative exchanges and questions I observed:

     -- Sawyer, focusing on the irrelevant as if personality should matter most: "What's your favorite movie?"
     Starr: "A movie that I just found extraordinarily riveting was-was Saving Private Ryan. That was really extraordinary."

     -- Sawyer on his childhood as the son of a minister: "Because a childhood friend was quoted as saying of you alls life then in the church, 'If it was fun, you couldn't do it.'"
     Starr: "Oh, that's absolute nonsense."
     Sawyer: "What did you do for fun?"
     Starr: "Oh, we just did all kinds of things. What did we do."
     Sawyer: "What was the most rebellious thing you did?"
     Starr: "I'd have to stop and think. I was not rebellious. I really was not. Sorry. I kind of played by the rules, and that's the way I lived my life."

     How outrageous.

     -- Sawyer on Starr as out of touch: "So what happens when this man becomes independent counsel and begins investigating a President charged with covering up, lying under oath about a sexual relationship? [To Starr] Do you think in that sense, you were out of touch with the political judgment of the American people who say everyone was covering up sex. There was gambling in the casino in Casablanca and you are the only one who is shocked. We are not shocked."

     -- Sawyer, making David Kendall's case: "Which brings us to the question of the team's highly criticized tactics. Did they cross the line? First with Monica Lewinsky, when nine federal officers took her to a room at the Ritz-Carlton and put pressure on her to turn on the President? People see a young girl who was in tears, who was threatened with 27 years in prison possibly, who was told that her mother might be prosecuted based on things she had said about her mother, who was to wire herself or tape the President or Vernon Jordan. And they say this isn't John Gotti. This isn't Timothy McVeigh."

     -- Sawyer, making Hillary Clinton's case: "Which brings us to Linda Tripp, the woman people love to hate, and the accusation that Ken Starr was not what he had seemed. Are you part of a right-wing conspiracy?"
     Starr: "No. I don't know that there is one."
     Sawyer: "His key witness, Linda Tripp, is now a recognized soldier in the army of Clinton haters -- among them Tripp's friend and svengali, Lucianne Goldberg. Among them, the lawyers for Paula Jones. Before he became independent counsel, Starr gave them advice. And among them, millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who hired people to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton and funded a chair at Pepperdine University for Ken Starr. Starr says he's never met or talked to Scaife. [To Starr] This one degree of separation, lawyers in your firm to the Paula Jones attorneys, Richard Mellon Scaife and Pepperdine University, and these are the President's enemies. And they're just outside your door, some people think inside. Do you at least see what that looks like?"
     Starr: "What I see is how easy it is to find one or more connections, as in six degrees of separation, that you and I are probably third cousins, you know, five times removed. What counts ultimately are facts."
     Sawyer: "But people have argued that with the President, you have many circumstantial facts and that you always read them as suspicious. But in your own case, the facts are above suspicion."
     Starr: "I've been living in this town a long time. My life has been open for people to see in this community for a long time. And I think that a fair observer would say, 'He's a lawyer. He's a former judge.' Too many formers."
     Sawyer: "A conservative, a Republican?"

     -- Sawyer: "But fairness. Fairness to be asked about all of the people that you slept with?"
     Starr: "Well, then we should, Diane, if that is unfair, then we should, in fact. And society is free at any time to change the law."
     Sawyer: "Is lying about sex different from lying about murder?"
     Starr: "In a legal sense, if it's in court, the answer is no."
     Sawyer: "But I mean a prosecutorial judgment level, a discretion level, because prosecutors have discretion."
     Starr: "A witness comes and says, 'I have additional information and, by the way, I am being importuned to commit perjury. I am being offered financial assistance if I will submit a perjurious affidavit.' Any prosecutor would say this is serious. This is weighty. It would have been a dereliction of duty to just say, oh, well, you know, who cares? Go right ahead and do whatever you think you need to do."
     Sawyer: "Think sometimes you're too literal in reading the statute?"

     -- Sawyer on Clinton and America as the victims: "Driving to the White House that day, for what was -- for all intents and purposes -- a lot of people think your trial, the only trial you were going to get. Did you think to yourself, here is a man who has to deal with Saddam Hussein and bin Laden and what's going on in Russia, and we're putting him through this?"

     -- Sawyer arguing that the Starr report was inappropriate: "I'm trying to imagine you deciding to include in those footnotes, footnotes you will not hear on TV, that cannot be denied that they are there to outrage and they are there to shock."
     Starr: "I totally disagree."
     Sawyer: "You put them in a referral as narrative, as story telling. Everybody knows how a soap opera reads, and it reads like a soap opera."
     Starr: "Diane, we didn't create these facts. These were [cut off]"
     Sawyer: "But the tone was created. Sixty-two mentions of the word 'breast,' 23 of 'cigar,' 19 of 'semen,' and that there is a way of summarizing these things and talking about the dates and the times."

     -- Sawyer, after Starr said he was just following the statutes: "But explain to me what possible relation it has to anything, that the President discussed whether a woman was small-breasted or not."
     Starr: "Diane, I think you could keep going, and I don't think that it serves any purpose to continue to, to read things that makes us all uncomfortable."
     Julie Myers: "I think at the end of the day we agreed that that detail was necessary, given the President's testimony. And Ken, who is the ultimate, I mean, the ultimate decision, and he signed off on every word, every footnote, every sentence. And I think we agreed with him that the tone used was appropriate."
     Sawyer: "I still don't understand what a cigar has to do with whether the President should be impeached."
     Starr: "It has to do, and you may just disagree with this, but this was a professional judgment by men and women that these issues go to credibility. Who is telling the truth?"
     Sawyer: "Were there mistakes made in including some of this?"
     Starr: "We felt, and we made a professional judgment."
     Sawyer: "But looking back?"
     Starr: "No."
     Sawyer: "I want to ask you about doubt, because it seems to me, listening to you, that you have no doubt that what you did in the referral was the right thing. You have no doubt that proceeding against the President in the way you have proceeded is the right thing. There is something about certainty that scares a lot of people."
     Starr: "Sure."
     Sawyer: "Any doubts at all that you went too far?"
     Starr: "I don't think that we went too far."

     -- Sawyer wrapped up arguing that justice would have been better served if Starr bent the law. Playing clips from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, Sawyer explained that for the hero lawyer in the film "his commitment to duty is one lesson of the story. But we reminded Starr that there's another. He says, to his daughter Scout, 'sometimes it's better to bend the law a little in special cases.' At the end of the story, Finch [the lawyer] compromises on the law to preserve the delicate balance of justice."
     Starr: "I don't like the idea of bending the law. I love the model of Atticus Finch of doing what he thought was right when everybody was saying, 'Why are you doing this? This is a terrible thing.' There is truth, and the truth demands respect. And maybe in the fullness of time, after the heat of battle has subsided, that will be the abiding lesson of this episode, that the truth was important and don't compromise the truth."

     Maybe in the fulness of time the networks will give as much weight to Starr's view of the importance of truth and the law as they do to self-interested political spin spun by Clintonistas.

     To read the transcript of the entire show, go to:


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson advocating the election of a conservative? Yes, apparently they hate Senator Mitch McConnell so much for fighting their beloved "campaign finance reform" that on Saturday's CNN Capital Gang they actually advocated the election of Senator Chuck Hagel to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Hunt even equated McConnell's quest to gather and distribute legal donations with the 1996 Clinton and Democratic effort which raised money improperly.

     Asked about the challenge to McConnell by Nebraska Senator Hagel, Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt declared:
     "It'll be an uphill fight, but it's a real test of whether the Senate Republicans mean what they say when they talk about ethics and clean politics. You know, Mitch McConnell, every bit as much as the Clinton campaign in 1996, personifies the addiction to sleazy big money..."

     National Review's Kate O'Beirne then observed: "The media loves this race because they love no one better to beat up than Senator Mitch McConnell because he has so courageously stood in the way of this unconstitutional campaign finance reform you all favor....And so this might be a chance to somehow get licks in against Mitch McConnell. But it seems to me good Senator Hagel is running a campaign designed for liberal media sensibilities, criticizing soft money while ignoring how much the Democrats get from unions and environmentalists and talking about negative ads."

     Time columnist Margaret Carlson soon chimed in:
     "It shows the hypocrisy of Republicans on campaign finance reform. They want an independent counsel to investigate Democrats but when they have their hearings and when they get a chance to move someone out who fought Russ Feingold only because he's the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill."

     Moderator Mark Shields soon tried to go to a commercial break, but before he could Carlson announced: "I'm with Hagel." Hunt seconded her: "I like Hagel, too."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) "Perhaps beneath the dullness lies pure evil," syndicated Washington Post television reviewer Tom Shales suggested of Ken Starr after Starr's November 19 House Judiciary Committee appearance. Catching up with a post-Starr hearing item, here's a look at what Shales had to say in his November 20, top of the "Style" section, column. In addition to aligning Starr with "evil," in the excerpts that follow Shales denigrates Starr's presentation as "a mealy-mouthed diatribe" and dismissed as a "myth" the idea that Henry Hyde earned a reputation for fairness:

Ken Starr may have disappointed his enemies by coming across as primarily calm and collected in his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, but say, how'd you like to get stuck next to this guy at a dinner party? Good Lord, what a bore.

America got its first long look at Starr during his hours and hours of testimony, and it's very unlikely there will be a huge public outcry demanding another one.

Perhaps beneath the dullness lies pure evil. Or perhaps just more dullness. He may have reminded some viewers of the most tedious teacher they'd ever had in high school -- in shop class, maybe, or algebra. The teacher whose classes you were most desperate and likely to skip....

He was supposedly offering up the facts as gathered at great expense by his costly posse of investigators, but the speech really consisted of Starr attacking Clinton and defending himself. He's a coy, sly and even coquettish attacker, however, so what he delivered was unique in its way: a mealy-mouthed diatribe. He seemed alternately mousy and weaselly.

In the course of his long monologue, he tried to make Linda Tripp sound like a courageous and public-spirited citizen; insisted that the President's affair with Monica Lewinsky was not the heart of the matter -- but still managed to bring it up again and again; and tried to equate perjury, which he claimed Clinton had committed, with bribery, which Starr said is an impeachable offense....

Everyone, meanwhile, appears to have bought into the myth that Hyde is the noblest and fairest creature ever to grace the unworthy marble halls of the Capitol. He certainly didn't seem fair on TV yesterday. He would snap angrily at Democrats when they refused to take Starr's evasive obfuscations for answers. He introduced Starr with a glowing and fawning biography. He even cut Starr off when it looked as if Starr was going to go too far in denigrating Monica Lewinsky and thus saved the independent counsel from looking bad....

END Excerpt

     Too bad an editor didn't cut off Shales before he turned in a liberal diatribe instead on an even-handed analysis.  -- Brent Baker


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