White House Plays Nice; Rivera Declares "Love" for Clinton
1) The networks stressed how
the White House decided to avoid attacks. "The message today was 'I
am sorry,'" insisted Tom Brokaw but CBS's Scott Pelley found the
new written defense bashes Starr.
2) Monday night the networks
somberly informed viewers that Clinton is really in danger of being
3) Geraldo Rivera blamed
Clinton's "pro-choice politics" for motivating efforts to
impeach him, declared about Clinton that "I love him," and
exclaimed how he's "delighted" about Amo Houghton.
4) Will Ronald McDonald House
families be able to visit their children in the hospital? Only if Geraldo
Rivera makes good on a bet he lost about how no one is prosecuted for
lying about sex.
5) Boston's Howie Carr
suggested Lisa Myers and Jackie Judd should be thankful Candy Crowley
makes them look like Kate Moss.
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The cable networks stuck with the Tuesday impeachment hearings all day and
into the night before they ended at about 9pm ET. PBS, or at least
Washington's WETA-TV, cut out early to go to the NewsHour and an evening
begathon. The cable coverage wiped out the normal CNN and FNC evening
newscasts, but CNN ran a special at 10pm ET.
The hearings led
the three broadcast network evening shows as each emphasized how the White
House decided to take a more conciliatory approach. "The message
today was 'I am sorry,'" insisted NBC's Tom Brokaw. Seconds
after CBS's Bob Schieffer assured viewers that the "President's
team stuck to the high ground," his colleague, Scott Pelley, reported
that in the just-released written defense of Clinton "the
President's lawyers call Ken Starr's prosecution deceptively
one-sided." So, business as usual but neither ABC or NBC took note.
ABC's Sam Donaldson played clips of Clinton's September contrition
trilogy before warning that his advisers "fear" that showing
contrition again "would be seen as a cynical ploy." Imagine
Here are some
highlights from the Tuesday, December 8 evening shows, including the show
openings from the anchors to give you a flavor of the network spin on such
an important day in the impeachment process.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings began:
"Good evening. On Capitol Hill today the
lawyers for President Clinton settled in to make a last stand on his
behalf. They have two days before the House Judiciary Committee to make
the case why Mr. Clinton should not be impeached for perjury, obstruction
of justice or abuse of power..."
opened her piece of the President's witnesses by introducing a soundbite
from Greg Craig: "Facing Republicans who seem bent on impeaching the
President, the White House lawyer began by apologizing on Mr. Clinton's
Next, from the
White House Sam Donaldson took up the recommendation that Clinton must
show contrition if he is to survive. Donaldson observed:
"When it comes to contrition from President
Clinton, he has already gone down that road. In Moscow."
Clinton, September 2: "I have acknowledged
that I made a mistake."
Donaldson: "In Dublin."
Clinton, September 4: "And I'm sorry about
Donaldson: "At a White House prayer
Clinton, September 11: "I don't think
there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned."
Donaldson: "Now, some of his advisers fear,
for the President to say it all again would be seen as a cynical ploy
rather than a sincere act."
As if it wasn't
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather started by
"Good evening. President Clinton's camp
tonight is already looking beyond a sure-fire, party-line vote for
impeachment later this week in the House Judiciary Committee. The
President's lawyers, allies and political operatives are trying to head
off what comes after that: the growing likelihood, as of this day, of
actual impeachment by the full House of Representatives...."
summarized the hearings and played several soundbites before concluding:
"All this marks a striking departure for the President's team,
which until now has built its defense around attacks on the independent
counsel Ken Starr and the Republicans. But today the President's
personal attorney David Kendall, who has clashed repeatedly with this
committee, stayed in the shadows and the President's team stuck to the
high ground. They haven't changed any minds on the committee yet, but
the Republicans like this new approach, Dan, a lot better than the old
Rather then went
to Scott Pelley who quickly countered the notion that the Clinton team has
dropped its effort to discredit Ken Starr: "Dan, the White House has
just released a new point by point defense of the President. It runs
nearly 200 pages and in it the President's lawyers call Ken Starr's
prosecution deceptively one-sided and they insist that Mr. Clinton's
testimony has always been technically true."
piece Gloria Borger explained how the White House is lobbying Republican
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened:
"Good evening. Bill Clinton sent an all-star
line-up to Capitol Hill today to try to save his presidency from
impeachment, but tonight the jury still is out in a manner of speaking.
And it will be for several more days. It now appears the Judiciary
Committee won't vote before the weekend on whether to recommend
Gwen Ifill led
into a clip of Craig by stressing the nice White House mode: "A new
strategy for White House lawyers today. Gone, the defiant attack on
Republicans and Ken Starr. In its place, a milder apologetic tone."
Brokaw asserted: "The President still does not plan to appear before
the committee personally, but plainly his team has been listening to
complaints the White House is arrogant. As NBC's David Bloom reports
from the White House tonight, the message today was 'I am
Bloom began by
noting that the new 184 page defense starts by saying Clinton is
Myers checked in with one of the struggling Republican moderates: Brian
Bilbray from San Diego.
Clinton could actually be impeached, the networks somberly relayed Monday
night, December 7, the first time network viewers got a real sense from
the anchors that things were going the wrong way for Clinton:
-- Dan Rather, CBS
Evening News: "The President's advisers are now convinced that
there are enough votes in the full House to get the President
-- Jim Moret,
CNN's The World Today: "It's the beginning of a landmark week in
this country's history. Bill Clinton likely is days away from joining
Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon, U.S. Presidents who had to face articles
-- Tom Brokaw, NBC
Nightly News: "Good evening. One week from tonight the full House of
Representatives could very well have a recommendation from the Judiciary
Committee that President Clinton should be impeached. That would trigger a
series of rancorous debates and votes the President is desperate to avoid.
He does not want to become only the second President in history to face an
impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. So tonight his White House team is
Later, David Bloom uniquely relayed: "A top
White House aide acknowledges the President gave, and this is a direct
quote, 'snotty and lawyerly answers' to Chairman Hyde's 81
Geraldo Rivera blamed Clinton's "pro-choice politics" for
motivating efforts to impeach him, admitted to Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett
that "I love him maybe more than you do," and blurted out how
he's "delighted to announce that Amo Houghton...has just said
he's coming out against impeachment." All that in under 48 hours.
want to impeach in order to ban abortion. Rivera opened the December 7
Upfront Tonight on CNBC:
"Hello everybody and welcome to something
many never expected to see: the impeachment of a President for committing
adultery and then lying about it under oath. Why are House Republicans
doing this to Clinton? Because they can. For the next few weeks until the
next Congress is seated in January the lameducks still have the votes to
defy the will of the electorate. So infuriated by everything from
Clinton's evasive answers to his pro-choice politics, they are about to
do something that has not been done for 130 years."
-- Declaring his
"love" for Bill Clinton. Journalistic norms say you challenge
your guests with the arguments and points made by political opponents of
your guest. Not Rivera. Check out the slant of these questions, caught by
MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, on Monday's Rivera Live to Clinton
lawyer Bob Bennett.
After running down polls showing public doesn't
want Clinton impeached: "Where does the arrogance come from, from the
House. Where does it come from Bob?"
"Volcanic pressure being applied. What
drives this ideology? Hatred of this man? What?"
"Is Ken Starr an ideologue? Is he a member
of a vast right wing conspiracy?'
"Knowing that this ideological pit bull was
after him, my characterization not yours, what on God's green earth was
your client thinking when he thought that he could be serviced in the
corridors of the Oval Office when everybody in the world was out to get
"That I understand and I love him maybe more
than you do Bob but I know that he lied to you not once but the good
lawyer that you are I am positive that you asked him ten different ways
whether or not he had done Monica Lewinsky."
-- In the midst of this convoluted question to
Lanny Davis, on the December 8 Upfront Tonight, Rivera displayed his
happiness with another no vote on impeachment:
"Why doesn't he, because he is being
blocked in a very undemocratic way by Tom DeLay, the hammer as he's
called, whose applying, and I've reported, volcanic pressure on his
colleagues to hold the line. And I'm delighted to announce that Amo
Houghton, the upstate New York Republican has just said he's coming out
against impeachment. But why doesn't the President preemptively just
announce his contrition and his apology as if he would in censure vote,
one that won't be allowed because of the Republican leadership?"
Will Vermont families be able to travel to the hospital to visit their
sick children? Only if Geraldo Rivera makes good on a bet he lost about
how no one has ever been prosecuted for lying about sex in a federal civil
In a USA Today
story last Friday reporter Kathy Kiely disclosed that Rivera has yet to
make good on the $10,000 he admitted in late October that he owed. The
winners want to give it to a Ronald McDonald house which hopes to buy a
new transport van. Here's an excerpt from the December 4 story:
The case of Barbara Battalino, one of the
convicted perjurers who testified this week in the House impeachment
inquiry, could result in a Christmastime gift to the families of sick kids
But first Geraldo Rivera will have to make
good on a bet.
Battalino's case, eerily similar to
President Clinton's, came to the House Judiciary Committee's attention
because of a challenge Rivera issued earlier this year on his CNBC show.
The flamboyant TV personality offered to
pay $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a case in which a person was
penalized for lying under oath about sex.
Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, a
husband-and-wife Washington legal team with close ties to the GOP, took
Rivera up on the offer....
[Battalino] was fined and sentenced to
house arrest after a former patient proved that she lied under oath when
she denied having sex with him....
On Oct. 30, Rivera announced on the air
that DiGenova and Toensing had won the $10,000 bet. They have decided to
donate the money to a Ronald McDonald House that provides housing for
families of children hospitalized at the Fletcher-Allen Health Care center
in Burlington, Vt., Toensing said. Their grandson, now 5, had surgery at
the hospital several years ago.
Pam Fenimore, an administrator at the
Ronald McDonald House, plans to use the money to replace a 10-year-old van
that ferries families between the house and the hospital.
"We do not know when we're going to
get the check,'' she said. "Hopefully, the money will be here by
The check is "still in the processing
stage,'' Rivera spokesman John Brine reported when USA TODAY inquired. He
said Rivera's not commenting on whether the money is coming out of his own
wallet, or his television network is footing the bill.
Liberals like Rivera love to use anecdotes
to demonstrate the insensitivity by conservatives to the needs of the less
fortunate. So, will Rivera live up to his liberal ideal and fulfill his
promise so sick and dying children can spend time with their families?
It's already been over a month since he lost the bet and Christmas is
just a few weeks away -- so he better move fast.
Finally, catching up on a Thanksgiving Eve item which shows some
conservative columnists are much more cutting than I in their comments
about media figures. Here's one item from Boston Herald columnist and
WRKO radio talk show host Howie Carr's November 25 Herald piece on what
some should be thankful for:
"Lisa Myers of NBC, for the fact that Candy
Crowley of CNN is still around to make her and Jackie Judd look like Kate
Moss by comparison."
That should doom any chance he'll be invited to
appear again on Inside Politics or any other CNN show. -- Brent Baker
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