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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday December 10, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 196)

Jennings: Washington "Somber"; GOP Support Plummeting; Couric Gushed Over Clintons

1) ABC's Peter Jennings twice claimed there's a "somber" mood in Washington and NBC visually contrasted how the Clinton were lighting a Christmas tree just as Republicans were announcing the four articles of impeachment. NBC also stressed how Republicans are losing public support as 68 percent oppose impeachment.

2) If the House doesn't allow a censure vote, "they are being dictatorial" declared Geraldo Rivera.

3) Katie Couric gushed over the Clintons, saying Hillary "looks incredible" and admiring how in a recent trip "you got such an incredibly positive response. That's sort of an early Christmas gift."

4) Letterman's "Top Ten Items on President Clinton's Resume."

5) Bryant Gumbel's CBS News special tanked in the ratings.

>>> Where's your ballot? Join the over 600 people so far who have cast their ballot as a judge for the special Web edition of "The Best Notable Quotables of 1998: The Eleventh Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Just go to our home page to make your picks. And for sharing your assessments, you'll get a free "Don't Believe the Liberal Media" magnet. Balloting is open until 9am ET on Tuesday, December 15. To vote, click on the "Best of NQ" button at http://www.mrc.org. Or, go directly to the sign-up page: http://www.mediaresearch.org/nqbest/nq1998signupa.html <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) All day Wednesday the cable networks and PBS carried the hearings live, cutting out at about 5:30pm to report on the just-released four proposed articles of impeachment. In he evening, coverage consumed half of FNC's Fox Report and CNN's The World Today as CNN dropped its 10pm ET/PT NewsStand: CNN & Fortune in order to run an impeachment special.

     On the broadcast network evening show front, ABC's Peter Jennings twice insisted there's a "somber" mood in Washington. Bob Schieffer on the CBS Evening News described how Democrats are "circulating a harshly worded resolution of censure." NBC Nightly News visually contrasted how the Clinton were lighting the National Christmas Tree, "seemingly unconcerned," just as Republicans were announcing the four articles of impeachment.

     NBC also stressed how Republicans are going the wrong way as David Bloom highlighted poll results showing "68 percent of all Americans oppose impeachment, and 61 percent say the House should not even send articles of impeachment to the Senate."

     Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, December 9 broadcast evening shows:

     ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened:
     "Good evening. We begin again tonight with the President's fate. The country may not be paying close attention but unless there's a dramatic change in the Congress the President is one step closer tonight to being impeached. The articles of impeachment have been drawn up...."
     Jennings summarized the four proposed articles, then continued:
     "Washington is in a very somber mood tonight. Now there's still a powerful tug of war in the full House of Representatives about what to do. So today four Democrats in the House have tried to head off the impeachment by offering a motion to censure the President by, as they put it in their motion, 'reprehensible action.' Nothing decided. Washington is also nervous..."

     Linda Douglass reviewed Charles Ruff's appearance and how he called Clinton's behavior morally reprehensible but not impeachable as Republicans "peppered him" with questions about lying.

     Next, Jennings talked with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Donaldson reported the White House will accept a censure and a fine, anything to avoid impeachment. Roberts explained how the swing moderates want Clinton to admit he lied. Wrapping up the segment, for he second time Jennings pointed out how "somber" this process has left Washington: "Cokie Roberts in the Washington bureau, Sam Donaldson at the White House. As we said, a very big and somber evening in Washington."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather excitedly began with a series of strung together phrases:
     "Good evening. Breaking developments tonight in the slow-speed run-up to the House Judiciary Committee's impeach-the-President vote. Here's the latest: The Republican-dominated committee drew up four impeachment charges. Committee Democrats came up with a censure alternative they know is sure to lose in committee. The President's counsel Charles Ruff called the President's conduct 'reprehensible' but not impeachable, capping the President's marathon, two-day 14-witness defense."

     Bob Schieffer summarized the four counts, noted how Bill Weld proposed a fine and how Ruff labeled Clinton's actions "morally reprehensible." The Democrats are just as tough as the Republicans, at least that's how Schieffer spun the Democratic resolution, stating Democrats are "circulating a harshly worded resolution of censure."

     From the White House Scott Pelley, like ABC's Roberts, emphasized how the moderates want to hear Clinton concede that he lied. Pelley featured clips of an interview with Republican Mark Foley.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw, in Washington, launched the broadcast by stressing how Republicans won't budge:
     "Good evening. For two days now the President's lawyers, professors and other politicians have argued before the House Judiciary Committee that the President's behavior was, as one put it, 'morally reprehensible but not an impeachable offense.' The Republican majority, however, was not moved. Not one vote and tonight they are preparing four articles of impeachment against the President. It is now all but certain to go the full House and, perhaps, to the Senate for trial."

     Gwen Ifill summarized the "blunt critical case" in the four prosed articles and then reviewed the testimony of the day from Ruff.

     Brokaw then jumped to David Bloom, who used video and polls to prove the Republicans are out of sync with public concerns. Over video of the Clintons lighting the tree, he announced:
     "Tom, the contrast could not have been more striking tonight. At the very moment the Republicans were releasing their four articles of impeachment the President and First Lady were lighting the National Christmas Tree, festive, seemingly unconcerned."

     Bloom went on to acknowledge that the White House is lobbying moderates and saying Clinton will accept a fine. After Bloom played a soundbite of Dick Gephardt insisting a censure vote is required for fairness, Bloom picked up on the theme:
     "It seems most people agree. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 68 percent of all Americans oppose impeachment, and 61 percent say the House should not even send articles of impeachment to the Senate. As Republicans push ahead their support is going down while support for Democrats is going up. Still, there's a dilemma for the White House: 52 percent of those surveyed believe that if the President is to be censured rather than impeached, he must first admit he lied under oath."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) We can't go a day without at least one Geraldoism. Wednesday night he accused the Republican leadership of being "dictatorial." On the December 9 Upfront Tonight, after Diane Dimond interviewed Democratic Representative-elect Jay Inslee about how he's upset that the Republican he beat is still in office to vote on impeachment, Rivera picked up on one of Inslee's other complaints:
     "He's absolutely right. If they deprive the members of the ability to vote they are being dictatorial. Let them vote on censure and impeachment. Whoever wins, wins."


today1210.jpg (16662 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) NBC and Katie Couric delivered an early Christmas gift to the Clintons: a chance to appear on television together without being pressed about his or her lying and, instead, get heaped with admiration from Couric. Over the weekend Couric and Today's camera got a preview look at the White House Christmas decorations. At one point Couric cooed to the First Lady how "everywhere you went" in a recent trip to New York "you got such an incredibly positive response." Couric gushed: "That's sort of an early Christmas gift."

     Couric only made a mild attempt to talk about anything serious. At the top of the 8am hour on the December 9 show Couric teased:
     "The White House is about to begin its second day of defense before the House Judiciary Committee. In just a few minutes actually. Impeachment hangs in the balance. I visited the Clintons at the White House last weekend to check out the holiday decorations. But I did take the opportunity to ask the President if he had any comment on the events of this week."
     Couric to Bill Clinton: "Before we go you don't want an opportunity to talk about anything else do you Mr. President?"
     Bill Clinton: "Nope."
     Couric: "Big week coming, big week coming up. I just wanted to give you the opportunity if you so desire."
     Bill Clinton: "I'm just gonna try to do my job this week and hope everyone else does theirs."
     Couric: "We'll show you more of that conversation as well as the incredible holiday decorations in just a few minutes. Talk about a strange juxtaposition of events."

     Following the news update Today played Couric's piece, which began with a tour of the decorations and some comments from staffers involved in the project. Then the Clintons walked into the room. As transcribed by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, here are all of Couric's questions/prompts/praise uttered to the Clintons:

     -- "And now the holiday season officially begins. Hello, don't you guys look great. Hi Mrs. Clinton nice to see you. Hi Mr. President. Fine thank you. Happy holidays."

     -- "This is quite exciting."

     -- "It's a very glam look here at the White House this year. I mean very gold, very silver, very glam don't you think?"

     -- "Meanwhile are you all looking forward to the holidays?"

     -- "Do you all have any big plans for the holidays?"

     -- "Meanwhile I guess this is a time of year when people count their blessings and reflect on sort of the things they have to be thankful for. Anything in particular that leaps to mind for you all this year?"

     -- "Any New Year's resolutions? 1999 is around the corner."

     -- "Meanwhile your wife looks incredible. You're wearing the dress you wore on the cover of Vogue."

     -- "And you, she spent a lot of time in New York last week going to many events. And everywhere you [Hillary] went you got such an incredibly positive response. That's sort of an early Christmas gift. Are you grateful or gratified by that display of affection that you really see wherever you go now?"

     -- "You've done your Christmas shopping yet?"

     -- "How about you Mrs. Clinton are you all finished?"

     -- "And more and more people, you know, are giving gifts that will actually go to someone needy in that individual's name and that's a really nice gesture I think."

     -- "Thank you. Appreciate it. Same to you and your family Mr. President."

     It's one thing to agree to stick to happy talk in order to get a nice holiday-themed look inside the White House, but after Bill Clinton has spent months avoiding media questions did Couric really have to be so affectionate and full of praise after all both of the Clintons have done this year to deceive the public?


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) From the December 9 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Items on President Clinton's Resume." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. 1986-89: Body Double for Pillsbury Doughboy.
9. 1973: Voted Yale Law School "Most Weaselly."
8. References available upon subpoena.
7. June 1988: Secretly married Carmen Electra.
6. Career objective: Keeping my fat ass out of prison.
5. 1997 Winner of the Golden Moonshine Jug for Outstanding Hillbilly Achievement.
4. Executive Director, American Society of Bubbas.
3. 1997: Cruller Tester, Winchell's Donuts.
2. Proud father of over 200 students at Little Rock Junior High.
1. Can lie fluently in seven languages.

     And from the Late Show Web page, here are some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."

-- 1969: Oxford "Draft Dodger" of the Year.
-- August 2, 1992: Sees Tipper Gore in a bikini.
-- August 4, 1992: Chooses Al Gore as running mate.
-- 1947-1996: Didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky.
-- Incredible phone skills.
-- Uncredited appearances in over 300 porn films.


Conservatives may be disappointed with how the public is reacting to Clinton's lies, but at least they aren't showing much affection for one liberal media star. From the December 9 Washington Post media column by Lisa de Moraes, an item on the ratings for shows aired last week:
     "People of the Century. The CBS News special, produced in conjunction with Time magazine, scored the network's smallest audience this season in the Wednesday 10pm hour. That's not good news for show host Bryant Gumbel, whose future at the network is under discussion. He's one of the highest paid people on the broadcast networks without a regular slot; CBS signed him for about $5 million a year."

     A couple of years ago Gumbel was delivering his liberal sermons to a huge morning broadcast network audience. Now his show has been canceled and people don't tune in to see his occasional appearances. Keith Olbermann is now off to Fox Sports and Geraldo Rivera, annoyingly liberal as he is, is on a cable network and hardly ever makes it onto NBC. So, in some ways, things are getting better.  -- Brent Baker


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