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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
 Tuesday December 22, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 203) 


Barbara Walters Comes Clean; GOP's "Mindless Cannibalism"; Baldwin Chastised

1) Barbara Walters told David Letterman that she thinks it was a "mistake" to impeach and that Linda Tripp is no hero.

2) Geraldo Rivera went to the White House Christmas party on Monday so he could encourage Bill Clinton to "stay strong."

3) Monday night the networks started with Clinton's high approval and negative reaction to Republicans. CBS: "The President is on trial, the Republicans have been found guilty." ABC found a woman who "says it reminds her of a coup in her native Guatemala."

4) Matt Lauer challenged Bill Bennett to have the "courage" to choose censure and asked Jim Wright if in pushing impeachment of Clinton we've "learned nothing" since his call to end "mindless cannibalism."

5) Alec Baldwin was chastised by Jack Valenti for his "stone Henry Hyde to death" outburst. Brit Hume observed that while "it was not in earnest," the thought would not "have occurred to him to say it on that show if it hadn't occurred to him otherwise."

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Good Things About Having President Clinton As Your Cellmate."

>>> "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) Barbara Walters revealed her contempt for pro-impeachment Republicans and Linda Tripp. Appearing on Monday's Late Show on CBS to plug her Tuesday night ABC special on fascinating people, Walters at first deflected David Letterman's questions about impeachment by insisting: "Those of us in the news department are very boring because we don't give opinions."

     But pressed, she soon did. Check out these two exchanges:

     -- Letterman: "Your feeling, in your stomach, in your heart when you see what was going on, do you think that it was a mistake, that we made a mistake as a country, our representative form of government, was a mistake made on Saturday?"
     Walters: "You mean to impeach him?"
     Letterman: "Yeah."
     Walters: "Was a mistake made on Saturday? You know what, I'm just not going to go there as we say. I'm going to have to talk about it in future times, maybe not here with you, you may never ask me to come back again after this. But I'm just not. It was the will of the Republicans, it was what they wanted, it was [rears back and brings hands to face, then waves them forward in a dismissive motion] oh, ah, uh, you know, enough."
     Letterman: "So you think a mistake was made."
     Walters: "I think I'm too opinionated."

     -- Letterman: "There are people who believe that she's actually a hero, people, I've actually heard them say that Linda Tripp is a hero. I just think that if there's more reprehensible behavior in the name of friendship, let's see it. I don't believe it exists."
     Barbara Walters: "Why do they think she's a hero? Because she taped it?"
     Letterman: "Because she shined the white hot pure light of justice on the scum and lowlife that was taking place."
     Walters: "Well, when you put it that way it's very interesting. That's not the way I see it."
     Letterman: "Oh, so an actual opinion."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Geraldo Rivera bucked up Clinton. Live from the White House lawn after the Christmas party for the media, on Monday's Upfront Tonight Rivera recounted for his CNBC viewers what he told Bill Clinton:
     "I told him, because you know how I feel about this, I said 'Mr. President, stay strong.' And he looked me right in the eye and he said 'I think we're going to be okay.'"

     What a relief.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Clinton's high approval numbers topped the three broadcast network evening shows Monday night as each also profiled likely new Speaker Dennis Hastert. CBS and NBC added stories on how the public is turned off to the whole mess as CBS found Republicans at their lowest approval level in 14 years. Here are some highlights from the December 21 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened by citing an ABC News/Washington Post poll showing Clinton's job approval at 67 percent "and whether you judge it sympathy, or anger at the House Republicans, 56 percent in our poll say Mr. Clinton should stand up to a trial rather than resign."

     John Cochran summarized the day's events with Clinton at a soup kitchen, a censure plan from Carter and Ford and how even Senate Democrats believe a trial must be started. Jennings then delivered a quick profile of Hastert, a former high school teacher and wrestling coach who, Jennings relayed, "is described as a conservative but not an ideologue."

     -- CBS Evening News began with Scott Pelley: "Dan, the White House is treating impeachment with defiance and the reason may be the latest poll numbers. A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows the President has a 73 percent job approval rating, that matches his highest ever. Today the White House fairly scoffed at impeachment, suggesting that if there's any humiliation in it, it is for Congress to bear not the President."

     Unlike ABC or NBC, Pelley reported: "Some Senators were infuriated by Saturday's post-impeachment gathering at the White House. One moderate Republican told CBS News, quote 'The President is making a huge mistake. He's acting like this hasn't happened. He's got to stop the arrogance,' end quote."

     Rather then repeated the 73 percent job approval number, contrasting it with a 59 percent unfavorable rating of Republicans. Reporter Wyatt Andrews picked up: "The jury in America has reached its decision. The President is on trial, the Republicans have been found guilty." Andrews relayed how the CBS poll found 63 percent believe Republicans acted mostly "to damage Bill Clinton" while only 34 percent said they acted mostly because the "charges were serious." Andrews asserted: "What's happened is a severe Republican backlash, the worst GOP rating recorded in 14 years."
     Frank Luntz told Andrews the Republicans can only recover if they have a quick trial and move on, which is why, Andrews explained in concluding his story, Republicans like Hastert, a "low key but effective legislator who will take the edge off the hostility the public seems to blame on Republicans. One bright spot for the Republicans is that they do have the next two years to work on the oddest political outcome of the year: How Congress voted to impeach the President and harmed itself."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened: "Good evening. It must be maddening to the President's sharpest critics on Capitol Hill and in other places, but his approval rating only gets better after they take a whack at him." Brokaw explained that he latest NBC News poll found a 72 percent job approval level with 62 percent wanting him to stay in office versus just 34 percent who think he should resign.

     Lisa Myers looked at how both parties say a Senate trial is inevitable and that even Democrats like Dianne Feinstein want Clinton to admit his guilt. David Bloom examined the defiant White House strategy and willingness to fight it out because Clinton will never admit perjury. Gwen Ifill profiled Hastert: "Allies say Hastert is a fixer who can talk to Democrats and heal House Republicans now rocked with internal strife."

     The show ended with Jim Avila on the disconnect between Republicans and the public: "Across the country, from New York City Christmas shoppers."
     Man: "It's kind of taken a little bit away from the holiday spirit."
     Avila: "To the boardwalk along LA's Venice Beach."
     Man: "I'd just like to see the process go as quickly as possible so we can get on with our lives."
     Avila: "America wants Christmas carols uninterrupted by political scandal."

     Saturday night ABC delivered a more biting hit at Republicans. ABC's December 19 World News Tonight ran three reaction stories, but could not find one person proud of Republicans for putting principle first. First, from Chicago, Dean Reynolds ran some man on the street reactions, none positive toward Republicans. Third, from Atlanta, Steve Osunami ran two clips: one from a man who thought Clinton should resign and one from a person who said Republicans had no right to impeach.
     In between, viewers saw Judy Muller in South Central Los Angeles at a Christmas tree lot at Florence and Normandie.
     Woman: "It's sad, it's really sad because it's a lot of other things going on in the world that needs attention besides this."
     Muller: "At a nearby flea market, Athelia Ariano (sp?) says it reminds her of a coup in her native Guatemala."
     Ariano: "We like him. He's doing a good job. Why do Congressmen don't listen to the people?"
     Muller: "And so a lot of people see no point in listening to Congress....Sadness, anger, futility. And a grim determination to get on with the holidays."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) If a jury won't be impartial and listen to the evidence before deciding, don't put the heat on biased jurors. Just cancel the trial. So argued the ABC and NBC morning show hosts on Monday. NBC's Matt Lauer wished Bill Bennett would have the "courage" to call for censure. Minutes later Lauer analogized the impeachment proceedings against Clinton to what Jim Wright termed "mindless cannibalism" as he asked if like during McCarthy's witch hunts anyone has the credibility to demand "have you no decency?"

     -- ABC's Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught these questions from co-host Cynthia McFadden.
     To Senator Orrin Hatch: "Senator, isn't it fairly clear at this point that that two-thirds requirement, that 67 out of 100 senators is impossible at this point to muster?"
     To Cokie Roberts, while discussing impeachment trial in the Senate: "But Cokie, what's the point, if they know they don't have the 67 votes they require, what's the point of going to trial?"

     -- NBC's Today. Katie Couric worried about how a trial would distract from real issues, asking Senator Mitch McConnell: "Why are you convinced of that [a speedy trial in the Senate] because many people have been talking about a long, protracted trial taking attention away from the important issues in this country that people really care about?"

     In the 7:30 half hour co-host Matt Lauer talked with Bill Bennett and deposed Democratic Speaker Jim Wright. MRC analyst Mark Drake noticed that he pressed both from the left.

     To Bennett after noting how Larry Flynt offered big bucks for dirt on Congressmen: "Do Republicans share none of the blame here?"
     And: "Let me just read you a little bit about -- from the op-ed from Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in the Times this morning, talking about the potential trial of Bill Clinton in the Senate....They are writing this probably to members of the Senate but they could be writing it to you as well. Can you find the courage or the will to call for censure and not the removal of this President?"

     To Jim Wright: "Speaker Wright, let me start with you. When you resigned nine years ago you had been battered by the right. You called for an end to what you called 'mindless cannibalism' Nine years later we're hearing terms like that again and others swirling around the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Have we learned nothing in nine years?"
     And: "Speaker Wright, during McCarthy's sort of communist witch hunt, the really turning point was when one person being grilled by the Senator said 'do you have no decency.' Do you see anybody with the credibility in Washington right now to ask that same question?"


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Fox News has played the Alec Baldwin video outburst, first detailed in the December 15 CyberAlert, three times in the past few days. He may have meant the December 11 Late Night with Conan O'Brien bit, in which he yelled about stoning Henry Hyde and his family to death, as a comedy sketch, but he's apologized to Henry Hyde, NBC has promised to never repeat the show and even Jack Valenti has denounced his comments.

     The December 20 Fox News Sunday showed an excerpt of Baldwin: "We would stone Henry Hyde to death" and "kill their wives and their children," prompting host Tony Snow to remark: "There's our Howard Beale moment of the year." Fox's Brit Hume then, in my opinion, accurately assessed Baldwin's intention and beliefs: "I think it was not in earnest. On the other hand, I don't think the thought would have occurred to him to say it on that show if it hadn't occurred to him otherwise."

     -- Baldwin has apologized. The December 17 Washington Post reported:

Baldwin wrote a letter of apology to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) for a bit in which he shouted, "We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children!" Baldwin said the exchange was a parody mocking the sanctimony of representatives on the Judiciary Committee, and that he was sorry Hyde took it badly. "In the current supercharged climate there's no room for this kind of glibness," he said.

NBC has promised not to rerun the show, ever. "The skit was obviously a joke and meant to be taken as such," the network said via a spokesman for the show. "However, in retrospect, there are sensitivities, given the climate in Washington, and we won't re-air it," he said.

END Excerpt

     -- "Valenti to Baldwin: Cool It, Smart Alec!" read the headline over a December 21 Washington Post item by TV columnist Lisa de Moraes. Here's an excerpt:

Jack Valenti has fired off a letter to actor Alec Baldwin, chastising him for suggesting in a comedy bit that people stone to death House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

The Motion Picture Association of America president said he wrote to Baldwin after "a few friends of mine in Congress -- Democrats and Republicans" complained about Baldwin's recent comments on NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."...

The actor's outburst was part of what was supposed to be a big laugh-getter in which Baldwin became so agitated that O'Brien had to administer oxygen.

Hollywood's No. 1 lobbyist acknowledged he had not seen Baldwin's appearance on the talk show but said he didn't need to. "This was to go stone somebody and kill his family," Valenti said. "However it was said it's not something you use as a joke, it's not something you parody. This is incendiary."

Baldwin spokeswoman Lisa Kasteler said Friday that "I was surprised that he would comment on something he hadn't seen and would get involved at all." She has said the incident was intended as parody.

Valenti responded: "If I were clowning around and said something in a racist way and said it was only parody, if I said something in an antisemitic way and said it was only parody, what do you think the press response would be?"

END Excerpt

     The answer to Valenti's question: Far greater than it's been, but FNC and Rush Limbaugh have highlighted it. Last Wednesday Special Report with Brit Hume played the RealPlayer clip from the MRC Web page and Hume showed a brief excerpt again on Thursday as he informed viewers they could see it on the MRC home page. Hours earlier on Thursday Rush Limbaugh directed his listeners to the MRC page if they wished to see it.

     So, to read a transcript of his outburst or to see and hear it via RealPlayer, which you must download if you don't already have it on your computer, click on the link MRC Webmaster Sean Henry put on our home page at www.mediaresearch.org or go directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1998/cyb19981215.html#5


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) From the December 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Good Things About Having President Clinton As Your Cellmate." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Finally, the connection you've needed to meet your hero, Roger Clinton.
9. That Bubba makes one mean license plate.
8. You guys are a cinch to win the big health care debate against rival prison.
7. His doughy folds of back fat are a great place to hide cigarettes.
6. His stories of life with Hillary make you appreciate how good things are in prison.
5. If you're caught breaking out, he's got a great definition of "escape."
4. Thanks to constitutional loophole, you're fourth in line for the presidency.
3. Hilarious "Uh oh, is that Barney Frank?" joke he always makes in the showers.
2. Tell him there's a Wendy's outside the prison wall and he'll dig a tunnel in 20 minutes.
1. Four words: care packages from Monica.

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

-- Unlike most prisoners, he isn't constantly moaning about how much he misses his wife.
-- If you get jumped in the shower, he feels your pain.
-- His knowing smile when you ask him if he knows how to sneak out of places in the dead of night.

This is the last CyberAlert until after Christmas, so I hope everyone has a merry one.
 -- Brent Baker


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