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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
 Wednesday December 16, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 200) 


ABC: DeLay Will Lead to Defeat; Van Susteren's Galactic Federation

1) Ten Republicans decided they would vote to impeach, but in profiling Tom DeLay, ABC's John Cochran warned he may be pushing Republicans "toward defeat in the next election." CBS highlighted how in a "mostly Republican" area most want to move on.

2) CNN's Greta Van Susteren belongs "to a religion that teaches of Xenu, evil head of the Galactic Confederation" who "flew people to Teegeeack (Earth)...in space ships, chained them to volcanos and blew them up with hydrogen bombs." And her "pro-Clinton voice hasn't gone unrewarded" while her husband sues Newsweek's Michael Isikoff.

3) "Despite the hand-wringing of plenty of media mavens, Flowers was an important story after all," declared Howard Kurtz in scolding his profession for dismissing Gennifer Flowers in 1992.

4) Letterman's "Top Ten Things That Have Crossed President Clinton's Mind" and "Top Ten Signs There's Tension in the Clinton Marriage."

>>> Baldwin Outburst Video. The December 15 CyberAlert quoted actor Alec Baldwin screaming on Late Night with Conan O'Brien: "If we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death!... We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children." Though the RealPlayer video of this will soon be replaced in the center of the MRC home page, you will still be able to access it through the CyberAlert archives index under the "News Division" button. The direct address for the item on Baldwin and attached video clip: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1998/cyb19981215.html#5 <<<

>>> Balloting is over. As of 9am ET Wednesday, December 16 balloting closed for the special Web edition of "The Best Notable Quotables of 1998: The Eleventh Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." On Friday we'll post the results of this Web edition as well as our printed, hard copy regular version with winners judged by a panel of 50 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists and editorial writers. <<<

Correction: The December 15 CyberAlert quoted Sam Donaldson as reporting that "there's a sense that Mr. Clinton is stealing for the worst." That should have read "steeling for the worst."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Ten previously undeclared Republicans most sensitive to public opinion announced Tuesday that they would vote to impeach, but in profiling Majority Whip Tom DeLay, ABC's John Cochran warned he may be pushing Republicans "toward defeat in the next election." The CBS Evening News highlighted how in a "mostly Republican" area of New Jersey both Republicans and Democrats want to forget impeachment and move on.

     All three broadcast networks led Tuesday night with how Clinton is facing defeat. Below are the show openings for Tuesday, December 15 followed by a quick summary of coverage:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings began: "Good evening. One of the President's political allies said today it is like a tidal wave moving against him. The possibility that Mr. Clinton will be able to fight off impeachment has been growing slimmer by the hour today. A number of Congressmen the White House was counting on to vote against impeachment in the House of Representatives said today they will vote for it. It is still possible for the President to prevail but he must start changing some minds pretty quickly."

     Linda Douglass looked at the pro-impeachment announcements, running clips from Jack Quinn, Michael Forbes, Ann Northrup. Tom Campbell and Nancy Johnson, "the influential moderate from Connecticut."

     Next, John Cochran profiled Tom DeLay who, Cochran relayed, "cannot stand Bill Clinton." After explaining how he moved into a leadership vacuum left by the decision of Gingrich and Livingston to avoid the impeachment battle, Cochran played a soundbite of DeLay saying he has the votes to block a censure vote. On a day when several Republicans, the moderate kind who took a measure of opinion in their districts, decided to back impeachment, Cochran concluded:
     "Some Republicans fear that by pushing them toward impeachment DeLay may also be pushing them toward defeat in the next election. It's a risk Tom DeLay is willing to take."

     Immediately after Cochran anchor Peter Jennings added: "One other comment about this from Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. Any discussion of pressure on members, he said, without mentioning Tom DeLay is like discussing impeachment without mentioning Monica Lewinsky."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened: "Good evening. An influential Senate Democrat warned tonight if it comes to a trial in the Senate no one really knows for sure whether the votes are there or not to remove the President from office..."
     Bob Schieffer explained: "Dan, support for the President seems to be eroding by the hour. Today ten moderate Republicans the White House had been counting on for support said they would vote for impeachment." As for the influential Senate Democrat, Schieffer played a soundbite of Connecticut's Joe Lieberman warning that anything could happen in the Senate.

     Following a report from Scott Pelley in Jerusalem, Dan Rather cited a CBS News/New York Times poll result showing that asked "If there is a Senate trial, better if Clinton resigned?" Yes said 40 percent, no replied 56 percent.

     Then from "rural central New Jersey" CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews found that "this mostly Republican area with its sweeping farms and quaint small towns, has delivered one verdict on impeachment already. In the last election voters here booted out Republican Congressman Michael Pappas, in part for singing the praises of Ken Starr. At the Stanton Reform Church many voices in this mostly Republican congregation are saying the President should be punished, just not by impeachment."

     Memo to Andrews: if most people voted for a Democrat in a district then that district is not "mostly Republican."

     Charging that most viewed Starr and the congressional hearings as partisan, Andrews insisted: "In fact, the let's get on with it sentiment is coming both from Democrats afraid for the economy....and from Republicans who no longer care."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw started: "Good evening. In great political struggles it always comes down to the numbers and tonight in the greatest political struggle of his life the numbers are running against President Clinton. More and more members of the House are publicly announcing they will vote to impeach the President and send the charges against him to the Senate for a trial...."

     David Bloom at White House summarized the GOP decisions to favor impeachment, Pete Williams ran through some reasons why Clinton won't admit he lied and Lisa Myers profiled Tom DeLay.


greta1216.jpg (14110 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) On a February 5 CNN special the network's legal analyst, Greta Van Susteren, highlighted "specific and serious" charges that Ken Starr abused his power and witnesses. She suggested a reason behind his excess, asserting Starr "already has given many people the impression he's on a mission. That may have a lot to do with Starr's religious and Republican roots."

     But what kind of religious mission is Van Susteren on? One few CNN viewers know about. In the words of St. Petersburg Times reporter Mary Jacoby, Van Susteren belongs "to a religion that teaches of Xenu, evil head of the Galactic Confederation" who "flew people to Teegeeack (Earth) 75-million years ago in space ships, chained them to volcanos and blew them up with hydrogen bombs, releasing exploded 'thetas' that are now the source of most human suffering."

     With Van Susteren about to take center stage again in CNN's impeachment coverage I thought I'd pass along some highlights from the December 13 St. Petersburg Times profile to which one attentive reader alerted me.

     Amongst the revelations about Van Susteren exposed by reporter Mary Jacoby:

-- "Van Susteren is frequently in touch with White House officials. And in her on-air questioning, she often seems to repeat the official line."

-- "Van Susteren's pro-Clinton voice hasn't gone unrewarded. In May, she sat with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at a state dinner..."

-- Her husband is representing Julie Hiatt Steele in her lawsuit against Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and "in 1998 he gave $20,000 to various Democratic Party arms, including the Democratic National Committee and Vice President Al Gore's political action committee."

-- She's claimed on air that Starr's ties to tobacco companies being attacked by Clinton is a conflict, but the article reveals that her husband is one of the lawyers suing the tobacco industry.

     Here are excerpts from the December 13 piece:

Cable News Network legal analyst Greta Van Susteren and her wealthy trial-lawyer husband, John Coals, are a Beltway power couple. She is the co-host of CNN's top-rated Burden of Proof. He is a mover behind the multi-billion-dollar anti-tobacco lawsuits. Both have dined at the White House.

And what about the fact they belong to a religion that teaches of Xenu, evil head of the Galactic Confederation? Who flew people to Teegeeack (Earth) 75-million years ago in space ships, chained them to volcanos and blew them up with hydrogen bombs, releasing exploded "thetas" that are now the source of most human suffering?

Well, it's not something savvy insiders would normally emphasize.

Van Susteren and Coals are Scientologists. But unlike members of established religions, whose own beliefs might seem improbable if they weren't so widely held, these part-time Clearwater residents are not exactly eager to draw attention to this fact...

Van Susteren and Coals straddle two worlds: the capital's high-powered media and political milieu, and the close-knit Scientology community around the church's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, where they own a home on Clearwater Beach.

Yet these worlds mix about as well as oil and water.

Xenu and his blown-to-bits thetas aren't something you'd want to drop casually into a cocktail conversation here, the way other people might mention a Harvard degree or friendship with Senator so-and-so.

And as a celebrity legal commentator in a town brimming with lawyers, Van Susteren also has to contend with a perception that the church is out to destroy its enemies at any cost. As Scientology founder the late L. Ron Hubbard once wrote, the church should use the legal system to "destroy and harass" its opponents and "ruin them utterly."....

Her husband has been less visible but just as colorful. Known as "Bhopal Coals" for swooping into India after the 1984 Union Carbide Corp. poison gas leak that killed more than 2,000 people, Coals, who turns 52 this month, is an unabashed "ambulance chaser."....

More recently, he has handled politically charged suits against tobacco companies and gun makers. He was a key negotiator of the now-defunct $360-billion federal settlement that was supposed to end cigarette makers' liability for smoking deaths in exchange for cash payments to the government.

Coals became a Scientologist in the early 1980s. "I did a lot of drugs back in college," he explained. "Into the '80s, I didn't do a lot of them, but I felt that I wanted to handle this problem, and Scientology handled it."....

For years Coals and Van Susteren practiced together in their own law firm, specializing in high-dollar personal injury cases. Along the way, she became a Scientologist, too.

In Clearwater, the couple cuts a wide swath. Coals tools around town in a vintage red Cadillac (until a recent paint job, it was pink). Van Susteren zips through their Carlouel neighborhood in a 1987 Mercedes sport coupe. They are major donors to a church expansion project and have reached the upper levels of Hubbard's "Bridge to Total Freedom."....

Van Susteren won't talk about her relationship with the church. She declined an interview, citing privacy concerns. "The thing about Florida, it's like my home town. I can walk into the Beachcomber(restaurant on Clearwater Beach) and people treat me as a regular guest. I like that."

In Washington, though, there's little doubt Van Susteren stirs emotions, mostly among conservatives, who accuse her of a pro-Clinton bias.

Writing in the National Review, Jonah Goldberg called her the "high priestess of Clinton apologists," and Clinton's "chief cheerleader."(Goldberg is the son of Lucianne Goldberg, the mischiefmaking New York literary agent who encouraged Linda Tripp to tape record Monica Lewinsky).

Indeed, Van Susteren is frequently in touch with White House officials. And in her on-air questioning, she often seems to repeat the official line. 

"If one side gets two hours, why not let the White House have two hours? At least, you know, appear to be...fair," Van Susteren said on CNN last month, referring to the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.

She has since branched out into quasi-political commentary, appearing on CNN's Inside Politics during the impeachment hearings. When the White House released a 184-page rebuttal of impeachment articles, Van Susteren told viewers, "It's a plea to the Congress. "Please, just read the records. Don't rely on what everybody's saying.'...I've actually gone through them, and I'm not as horrified as most people."

A CNN spokeswoman said Van Susteren appears on Inside Politics as a legal analyst. "Those comments are based entirely on her interpretation of the Constitution and the law, not on her personal political beliefs, which are private," Maggie Simpson said. 

Meanwhile, Van Susteren's pro-Clinton voice hasn't gone unrewarded. In May, she sat with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at a state dinner for the Italian prime minister that Coals also attended.

For his part, Coals has taken on a case dear to the Clintonites. He represents a woman who is suing Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff.

Isikoff exposed Monica Lewinsky's affair with Clinton, and he broke the story of former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey's charges that the president had groped her outside the Oval Office.

Coals's client is Julie Hiatt Steele, a former friend of Willey's who is suing the Newsweek reporter for allegedly breaking a promise not to quote her in an article. In conversations with Isikoff, Steele initially backed up Willey, then changed her story to say Willey had asked her to lie.

"It puts me in the game" of Washington, Coals said of the case, which is still is preliminary stages. "Besides, I'm outraged at what has happened to Julie Steele."

His political donations also put him in the game. In 1998 he gave $20,000 to various Democratic party arms, including the Democratic National Committee and Vice President Al Gore's political action committee.

Despite their contacts with the White House, Van Susteren and Coals do not seem to be lobbying for Scientology, unlike John Travolta, who met Clinton to discuss Germany's hardline policies against the church.

"It's not like I'm standing on the corner of 16th and Pennsylvania handing out Dianetics books," Coals laughed. 

So while the church trots out its celebrity members for maximum P.R. effect -- beside Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, Chick Corea and Lisa Marie Presley all have promoted Scientology -- a Washington celebrity like Van Susteren keeps a low profile. 

Even church documents refer to her by less well known names. A Scientology brochure lauding top contributors to a Clearwater building project lists a "Greta Conway" in a category of people who donated $100,000 or more. Conway is Van Susteren's middle name. Another brochure lists a "Mr. and Mrs. John Coals" in the same category.

Coals said his wife isn't trying to hide anything. "Her affiliation with the church has been all over the media for years."....

Still, in a religion-besotted town where politicians seek out churches for photo ops and one of the top lobbying groups is named the Christian Coalition, it's curious that few people know of Van

Susteren and Coals's Scientology affiliation. "I had no idea," said Chuck Conconi, Washingtonian magazine editor at large....

END Excerpt

     To read the entire story, go to: http://www.sptimes.com/Floridian/121398/High_profile_couple_n.html

     If it has moved, you can access the last seven days of the St. Petersburg Times at the bottom of their home page, sot his should be accessible until Saturday somewhere at http://www.sptimes.com


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) "Monica and the Other Woman" read the headline over a Monday Washington Post piece in which media reporter Howard Kurtz conceded journalists really blew it in not taking the Gennifer Flowers matter more seriously in 1992. Given what behavior led to the current situation, Kurtz argued, "despite the hand-wringing of plenty of media mavens, Flowers was an important story after all." Here's an excerpt from his December 14 "Media Notes" column:

The press was roundly denounced in the first weeks of 1992 for reporting the tawdry charges of illicit sex involving candidate Bill Clinton.

But now that Clinton has become the second president in a quarter-century to be recommended for impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee, it's clear that the same issues -- of personal credibility and private misbehavior -- were raised by the seamy spectacle of Gennifer Flowers.

In short, despite the hand-wringing of plenty of media mavens, Flowers was an important story after all. If the purpose of a presidential campaign is to allow voters (and journalists) to take the measure of their would-be leaders, then Clinton's handling of the problem was all too revealing.

The networks initially ignored the Flowers flap, except for a couple of sentences on NBC, while the New York Times gave it a few paragraphs inside the paper. (The Washington Post ran a lengthy story on Page A8.) Once Clinton himself took to the airwaves to deny the charges, the story reached fever pitch and the self-flagellation began. The coverage was described as "sickening" (Jim Gannon of the Detroit News), "grab-your-crotch journalism" (David Nyhan of the Boston Globe) and the "degradation of democracy" (The Post's David Broder). Max Frankel, then the editor of the New York Times, said he was "ashamed for my profession."

Clearly, reporters are uncomfortable dealing with outbreaks of bimbonic plague, and every allegation -- particularly one sold to a supermarket tabloid, as in Flowers's case -- certainly doesn't deserve media coverage. But Flowers had tapes of intimate-sounding conversations with Clinton long before anyone had heard of Linda Tripp.

The former lounge singer alleged a 12-year affair with the then-governor of Arkansas; Clinton, in his deposition in the Paula Jones suit last January, finally acknowledged one instance of sexual contact with Flowers back in 1977. But that's clearly not the impression that candidate Clinton tried to leave when fencing with journalists nearly seven years ago. Instead, he engaged in the same lawyerly parsing of the truth that would be reflected in the article of impeachment -- for perjury -- considered most likely to pass the House.

During the New Hampshire primary, Clinton said that "the story is just not true." When Clinton sat down for his famous "60 Minutes" interview, correspondent Steve Kroft said: "I'm assuming from your answer that you're categorically denying that you ever had an affair with Gennifer Flowers."

"I've said that before, and so has she," said Clinton, fudging his response with the finesse of a politician who would later question "what the definition of 'is' is."

Other parallels are eerie: Clinton acknowledged having assigned a staffer to find Flowers a state job, a precursor of the Monica Lewinsky job hunt. A Washington Post-ABC poll found 54 percent of those questioned saying Clinton should quit the race if it turned out he had lied, but eight of 10 saying the alleged affair should not be a campaign issue -- the same public dichotomy that has marked the Lewinsky saga.

The journalists of '92 were rightly accused of descending into tawdriness over the man the tabloids dubbed the "Luv Guv." But as impeachment moves to the House floor, it's clear that episode turned out to be good training for covering the Clinton presidency.

END Excerpt


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) From the December 14 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by Bill Clinton's claim resignation never crossed his mind, the "Top Ten Things That Have Crossed President Clinton's Mind." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "Nicole Kidman? Nude? One ticket, please!"
9. "How about a new meal between lunch and dinner called 'linner'"
8. "I hope no one finds out about me and Vernon Jordan"
7. "I'm sure glad no one can read my thoughts -- oh, let's see what tonight's Top Ten list is"
6. "If I can just find an intern from Wyoming, I'll have all fifty states!"
5. "When did the Marine Corps band switch from 'Hail to the Chief' to 'Taps'?"
4. "How am I gonna be able to sneak chicks into prison?"
3. "Isn't it weird -- we drive on a parkway, but park on a driveway"
2. "I wonder what the precedent is on nuking Ken Starr to kingdom come"

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

-- "I'm not sure what a Furby is, but I think I saw Monica's."
-- "Oh, Cokie, your mouth says 'impeach,' but your body says 'Take me.'"
-- "Before I leave the White House, maybe I should sleep with Hillary there at least once."
-- "Paula Jones looks great after that nose job. Should I take another shot?"
-- "Is it too soon to start hitting on Mary Bono?"

     From the December 15 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs There's Tension in the Clinton Marriage." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Hillary recently photographed in New York Post holding hands with Jerry Seinfeld.
9. Hillary's just not been her cold, distant self lately.
8. For the first time in our nation's history, the President's staying at the "Y."
7. After dinner, she pointedly offers him a cigar.
6. Hillary no longer laughs at joke, "You may be the First Lady, but you sure ain't the last!"
5. They've already started talking about who gets to keep the White House.
4. Canceled weekly game of "Scattergories" with the Gores.
3. He's surpassed his monthly allowance of 60 extra-marital affairs.
2. Their towels are monogrammed "Hers" and "Philandering Bastard's."
1. Every morning she greets him with a 21-slap salute.

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

-- No more threesomes with Barbra Streisand.
-- Hillary's back together with Martina Navratilova.
-- Body language experts detect a trace of hostility in the way Hillary tries to strangle Bill.
-- Arafat and Netanyahu keep begging them to stop bickering.  

     I liked #7.   -- Brent Baker


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