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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
 Monday December 21, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 202) 


Time: Starr Worse Than Clinton; Avoid Senate Trial Mantra; Maria Shriver's Agenda

1) In naming Bill Clinton and Ken Starr its "Men of the Year" Time held Starr more blameworthy than Clinton for what transpired in 1998. Time's top editor let slip that if they'd wanted to "honor" somebody with an "award" Hillary Clinton would have won.

2) Old media mantra: Must have censure deal to avoid impeachment. New media mantra: Must have censure deal to avoid a Senate trial. NPR's Nina Totenberg hopes "sanity will prevail." NBC's Jodi Applegate slammed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

3) Don't blame Clinton. Blame conservatives. House Republicans kept moving the goal posts on Clinton, contended Jonathan Alter. Steve Roberts: "It was Tom DeLay...who pulled the pin on this grenade...and it exploded and hit Bob Livingston."

4) What is it about Clinton that "makes the Republicans crazy?" Time's Michael Duffy seriously answered: "His ability to do two things at once. I think it really does drive them up a tree."

5) NBC's Brian Williams discredited the impeachment vote by declaring that "historians may not look kindly" upon it.

6) Peter Jennings argued to Bill Bennett that Livingston's decision should make him "re-think" his position on Clinton.

7) A day with Maria Shriver. Ever hopeful that Republicans would wimp out and when they didn't she demanded: Is the GOP "ruled by extremists?" and those "out of touch, out of control?"

8) Dan Rather's funniest moment: "Hold on just a second. Somebody is really shouting on the House floor." Oh, it's just John Lewis.

9) Freudian slip? ABC's Linda Douglass said that Dennis Hastert is "someone who can get along with both moderates and Republicans."

Note to readers: I know this is a lengthy issue, and looking back I realize I should have sent an edition Saturday night and then another one today. But with impeachment and Livingston still the hot news and with readers leaving on vacation as each day passes this week, I don't want to delay any of this material.

>>> "The Best Notable Quotables of 1998: The Eleventh Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Go to http://www.mrc.org and click on the "Best of NQ" button, or go directly to the Best of NQ page: http://www.mediaresearch.org/bestofnq1998.html. Either way, you'll find both: a) The Print Edition sent to subscribers. The annual special 8-page version of Notable Quotables with award winners and runners-up in 14 categories as judged by a panel of 50 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and other leading media observers who generously gave of their time. Web Bonus: RealPlayer video and audio clips of the biased quotes from television. Don't just read the bias -- hear and see it too. b) Special Web Edition. See which quotes visitors to the MRC Web site voted as the most biased of the year. <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Time magazine would have "honored" Hillary Clinton, but instead decided to equate the law-enforcer with the law-breaker by naming Bill Clinton and Ken Starr its "Men of the Year." Actually, Time did not consider the two worthy of equal censure as the magazine clearly blamed Starr more than Clinton for what the nation experienced in 1998 as its cover story asserted that while "Bill Clinton did something ordinary" in lying about sex, it was Ken Starr who "did something extraordinary" by pursuing it as a crime.

     On Sunday's Meet the Press Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson let slip his pro-Hillary bias, a tilt which showed up in the magazine. Asked by Tim Russert who qualifies as the Man of the Year, Isaacson explained:
     "It's that person or persons who's affected the news the most, effected our history the most for good or for ill. Had it been an award, had it been somebody we wanted to honor, you know there are a lot of other people from Mark McGwire to Hillary Clinton, but in the end we had a pretty messy year. I think Washington went totally mad and these two people are symbols of that."

     Indeed, looking at the time.com Web site I learned that the Man of the Year package in the December 28/January 4 issue includes a story headlined, "The Better Half: During her husband's greatest crisis, Hillary has come into her own."

     Here's how Nancy Gibbs opened and closed Time's lead story summarizing why they made Clinton and Starr the Men of the Year:
     "Bill Clinton did something ordinary: he had an affair and lied about it. Ken Starr did something extraordinary: he took the President's low-life behavior and called it a high crime. Clinton argued that privacy is so sacred that it included a right to lie so long as he did it very, very carefully. Starr argued that justice is so blind that once he saw a crime being committed, he had no choice but to pursue the bad guy through the Oval Office, down the hall to the private study, whatever the damage, no matter the cost. One man's loss of control inspired the other's, and we are no better for anything either of them did.....
     "This, then, is the legacy of a year that cannot end too soon. A faithless President and a fervent prosecutor, in a mortal embrace, lacking discretion, playing for keeps, both self-righteous, both condemned, Men of the Year."

     Not only is Starr out of line, but so is the whole conservative movement according to Time's wisdom. An accompanying story by Time's Richard Lacayo is headlined, "Where the Right Went Wrong: In backing Starr's witch hunt, conservatives fell in love with Big Government."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Having spent all autumn advocating the desirability of a censure deal, without missing a beat, within hours of the impeachment vote many leading media figures "moved on" to insisting that the Senate must make a deal to avoid a trial. Here are two illustrations:

     -- On Inside Washington just hours after Saturday's House vote, Nina Totenberg of NPR and ABC News reminded her fellow panelists of how she predicted impeachment would prevail and that something must be done so "sanity will prevail and we'll avoid a trial." She intoned:
     "Didn't I say to you that we are marching off the cliff? Reason tells you we should stop this and get on with the business of governance. But, there is precious little. I mean I spent most of today and yesterday half on the phone while I was covering this thing, with Senators Republican and Democratic, and at the moment everybody's fondest hope is that the two week hiatus, between now and the new year, in that period impeachment will sink in and sanity will prevail and we'll avoid a trial. But there are a lot of people that don't want that to happen."
     Fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer did note: "If you're Clinton it's a cliff. If you're an American it's not a cliff."

     -- Today co-host Jodi Applegate pushed a deal in her questions to both Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg.

     To Hutchison on the Sunday, December 20 show: "Now that this is in the hands of the Senate, would you mind seeing some kind of a censure deal worked out? Or would you like to see a full blown trial of the President?"

     To Lautenberg: "Are you confident that a deal can be worked out to avert the spectacle of a trial?"

     And back to Hutchison again: "Senator Hutchison, the poll numbers reveal the American people don't want the President removed. His approval ratings are up to 72 percent, Republicans ratings are down. What kind of leverage do Republicans really have given the conventional wisdom, which admittedly has been wrong before, that no way are Republicans ever going to get the 67 votes, what kind of leverage do Republicans have against the President given all that?"
     Hutchison: "The Constitution."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Don't blame Clinton. Blame conservatives. Angry House Republicans kept moving the goal posts unfairly on Clinton, contended Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. And, charged Steve Roberts, "it was Tom DeLay and the other Republican leadership who pulled the pin on this grenade...and it exploded and hit Bob Livingston."

     -- On Sunday's Today, December 20, co-host Jack Ford picked up on Jonathan Alter's point that Clinton's August speech failed in that he did not admit lying and apologize, asking: "You have to wonder, given the politics of anger that I know you've described here, the toxic atmosphere in the House, if he had come forward and done all that do you think it really would have made any difference?"
     Instead of holding Clinton accountable for still, even after 11 months, refusing to acknowledge his lying, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter held House conservatives culpable:
     "That's a really good question because what ended up happening here was every time he would do something that his critics demanded, the critics would just move the goal posts a little bit and so at a certain point he just said I'm tired of playing their game. So at the end, for instance, when they said all you have to do is just admit that you lied I think he realized that even if he admitted what they wanted they would have impeached him anyway..."

     -- Sunday on CNN's Late Edition Steve Roberts of the New York Daily News, and formerly of the New York Times and U.S. News, ignored the difference between private sexual affairs and lying about them in court proceedings and using governmental powers to cover them up, asserting:
     "I have great sympathy for Bob Livingston. I agree with Dick Gephardt. He's an honorable and good man. But it was Tom DeLay and the other Republican leadership who pulled the pin on this grenade, tossed it out there, and it exploded and hit Bob Livingston, because they were the ones, they were the ones who made private sexual morality an issue in the public..."

     The Weekly Standard's Tucker Carlson cut him off before he could elaborate any more, remarking "I realize Tom DeLay is responsible for the world's evil, but to blame him somehow for what happened to Bob Livingston."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) A major media figure, apparently serious, actually argued that what makes "Republicans crazy" about Clinton is not his duplicity or policies, but "his ability to do two things at once. I think it really does drive them up a tree." Check out this exchange from Friday's Washington Week in Review on PBS.

     Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist: "One of the things that on listening to this debate that just strikes me, the law and everything else aside, there's something about Clinton that makes the Republicans crazy. What is it?"
     Michael Duffy, Time magazine's Washington Bureau Chief: "Yeah, it's true. Part of it I think we saw this week is his ability to do two things at once. I think it really does drive them up a tree. He has this extraordinary compartmentalized ability. This week we saw him on Wednesday go from meetings about impeachment on the Hill to meetings about Iraq to phone calls to Senators about what will happen there if it goes on to the Senate, back to writing his statement about you know. The extraordinary thing about Clinton is he's able to compartmentalize these stories in ways that lot of Americans are not, certainly I'm not. And it's hard for, I think, people to understand how he does his job, how he can do this with all this that's swirling around him."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) NBC anchor Brian Williams, by highlighting how historians supposedly "will not look kindly" on the impeachment action, opened Saturday's NBC Nightly News by discrediting the vote led by Republicans. With the Capitol dome behind him, Williams declared at the top of the December 19 show:
     "Good evening. It has been a day for the history books here in the nation's capital, though historians may not look kindly on what transpired behind me here today: William Jefferson Clinton is now the first elected President to be impeached by the House, the second President in all of history..."


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Peter Jennings befuddled Bill Bennett by asking, if in light of Bob Livingston's resignation, "you want to re-think your position on the President?"

     At 10:55am ET Saturday after Bob Livingston made his surprising announcement about withdrawing his name as a candidate for Speaker, ABC News viewers saw this exchange during live coverage of the impeachment debate. After Bill Bennett said he was not sure if Livingston made the correct decision in deciding to resign, Jennings lectured:
     "Here is one of the leaders of a movement in the Congress which is, who's been after the President for a very long time for his moral, it all starts with his moral behavior and Miss Lewinsky and it has brought the country to this moment of impeachment, I think you'd agree. And now you have a man standing up who admits to having adulterous affairs over the 33 years of his marriage and you're not all together sure whether you agree with his notion that it's ground for resignation."
     Bennett replied that the affairs are grounds for resignation, but that he was not pushed so he set a higher standard and "in doing so he has created a real problem for the White House. He has said this is how I have acted, now how will you act? He wasn't forced into this by his colleagues."
     Jennings countered with this hard to follow argument: "Given the fact that the country now seems to feel we're having an endless debate about issues which are, the country appears to think largely subscribe to family matters, you want to re-think your position on the President?"
     Bennett: "Do I want to?"
     Jennings: "Uhha."
     Bennett: "Not in the least. The President, as you just heard, lied under oath consistently and over time and that is why he should be impeached...."


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) If you see NBC News flying Maria Shriver from Burbank for a live news event you know it's big entertainment show for the network. They reserve her for the big stuff like conventions. All day Saturday during live NBC News coverage of the impeachment debate and votes, from 9am to 2:25pm ET, NBC and MSNBC viewers were treated to Shriver's liberal political advocacy instead of the more professional and knowledgeable work an actual Washington-based correspondent, such as Lisa Myers, surely would have delivered. (Once MSNBC was on its own at 2:30pm ET NBC's Capitol Hill reporter Gwen Ifill magically returned to the air.)

     NBC put Shriver in a room somewhere near the House floor and about once every 30 minutes she got about two minutes to quiz a member live on air. Below are illustrative examples the agenda she pushed. Before the vote she kept hoping that Republicans would wimp out and afterward she demanded that Republicans respond to Democratic assertions that the vote means "the downfall of he Republican Party." Of course, she never asked a Democrat anything about why they are standing so enthusiastically behind a man they say disgraced the presidency. In between she argued Tom DeLay was forcing members to vote for impeachment and she put on a Valley Girl voice to mock Republican concerns about Bob Livingston.

     -- Just after 9am ET to Richard Gephardt: "Do you think she [Hillary Clinton], the President, yourself, you kind of gave an indication, are holding out some glimmer that people may have said I'm in favor of impeachment but at the last minute they won't be able to do it?"

     -- At about 9:30am ET to Republican impeachment foe Peter King: "So many people say they're voting one way and when they get into the ballot box they change their mind. Do you think that might happen here today, that many of your colleagues have said I'm going to vote for impeachment, when they actually have to stand up and impeach the President of the United States they may say, 'you know what, I'm not going to do it'?"

     And: "Representative Frank was saying to several of us reporters yesterday that he does not think this is the downfall of Bill Clinton, this is in fact the downfall of the Republican Party. Do you agree?"

     -- At 10:06am ET, arguing with Republican George Gekas: "Several Republicans I've talked to told me today you cannot imagine the pressure on people down there to vote with the Republicans, they'd break your leg if you broke with them today."
Gekas: "Who said that?"
Shriver: "Oh, somebody told me that."
Gekas: "Well you check with that somebody."
Shriver: "I did. I checked with them and they said the pressure was so intense from the Republican leadership."
Gekas: "Ask him if he ever talked to me and the answer would be no."
Shriver: "He didn't use your name but he said the pressure is unbelievable to stay the course."
Gekas: "Well that's your description of it. I have seen no evidence."
Shriver: "That's his. Break a leg was his description."
Gekas: "Do you want my answer?"
Shriver: "Sure."
Gekas: "My answer is I have not seen any evidence of that kind of pressure..."

     Shiver seconds later, still ever hopeful: "Do you think anybody will break, any of the Republicans who've actually said that they will vote for impeachment, when push comes to shove and they actually have to stand up today and vote for the impeachment of the President of the United States that they'll just say 'I can't do it?'"
Gekas: "I have no evidence of that."
Shriver: "Haven't heard any rumblings of that?"

-- At 11:10am ET to Democrat Marty Meehan, Valley Girl-like, with voice rising and cadence picking up in her last four words:
     "What sounded me quite shocking, was that a week ago these people were all incredibly behind Livingston. The minute they hear that he has quote 'strayed from his marriage,' and those are his words, they're like 'Don't like the guy!'" [first five words are what she said]
     (Note the use of "these people," as if Republicans are aliens.)

     -- At 12:06pm ET to Republican Lindsey Graham, in a question that in context reflects her shock that he doesn't realize most are angry at the Republicans: "You said to me before we went on camera you don't think there's much outrage in the country about this. How can you say that?"

     -- At 1:50pm ET to Democrat Tom Barrett: "We were just talking, before we came on, about that this is certainly a mark against Bill Clinton, against his presidency, but it's also a mark against this Congress and this Congress will be forever known as the Congress that impeached the President of the United States. And I wanted to know from you personally how you felt about that?"
     (Performing a constitutional duty will leave a "mark"?)

     -- At 2:09pm ET to Republican Ann Northrup: "Several of your colleagues from the other side of the fence have said that today marks the downfall of the Republican Party, that it shows that this party is ruled by extremists. You're in it. True?"
     Northrup noted that there are lots of Republican moderates, to which Shriver retorted: "So you don't buy Congressman Bonior's assessment that this House, and particularly the people like yourself, out of touch, out of control?"


cyberno8.gif (1522 bytes) You can always count on a little wackiness when Dan Rather is on live for any length of time. While CBS went to a NFL pre-game show at 12 noon, that still gave Rather three straight hours on Saturday morning.

     -- Funniest Rather moment. At about 11:15am ET, in the midst of talking with former Senator Warren Rudman, Rather jumped in and cut off Rudman dramatically, pleading: "Hold on just a second. Somebody is really shouting on the House floor. Let's see who that is. Oh, I'm sorry. It's Representative John Lewis from Georgia who has the microphone again."

     If you are unfamiliar with Lewis, his normal floor speech mode is "full yell."

     -- Wackiest question. At about 11:50am ET to former Clinton speechwriter Donald Baer: "Don, help me here. After the Republican sweep led by the now resigned Newt Gingrich in 1994 when the Republicans had their peak victory in recent history, President Clinton said that after that, after 1994, that if you left them, the Republicans, alone that they would burn themselves out. Now is or is not what we have now a race sort of between when the Republican burn themselves out or burn the President up?"


cyberno9.gif (659 bytes) Freudian slip of the weekend? Asked by anchor Charlie Gibson to describe leading House Speaker candidate Dennis Hastert, on the December 19 World News Tonight on Saturday night Linda Douglass replied:
     "Rumbled, charmed, low-key, conciliatory, someone who can get along with both moderates and Republicans, a veteran, a nuts and bolts legislator..."

     So, if you're a Republican you are by media definition an extremist. -- Brent Baker


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