Not Enough Reporting on the VRWC; Starr's Vindication Skipped; Pope & Clinton
1) Wednesday night Peter
Jennings hoped the end is near as ABC never informed viewers that a
Democrat joined the Republicans in the two votes. CBS's Scott Pelley
relayed that "the White House seems close to panic" over the
idea of a separate vote on guilt.
2) To mark the anniversary of
Hillary Clinton's VRWC vitriol, Today brought aboard two defenders.
"She obviously was speaking from the heart," assured one as Matt
Lauer wondered "Has enough time been spent" by the media
examining the VRWC.
3) When a judge criticized
Starr and threw out an indictment of Web Hubbell the news led the ABC, CBS
and CNN evening shows. Six months later, an appeals court reinstated the
indictment. Zilch on ABC, 12 seconds on CBS, a bit more on CNN.
4) The Pope and Bill Clinton
can both urinate in the same place, so that erased any doubt for the New
York Times that "Clinton occupied as lofty a plane as the Pope on
5) Letterman's "Top Ten
Questions Submitted by the Republicans."
From the point of view of conservatives and those who want the
Constitution strictly followed, Wednesday was the day the Senate made
clear it would not allow the House managers to put on a proper case. But
none of the networks portrayed events that way.
opened Wednesday's World News Tonight by promising, maybe hoping, the
end is near. He then portrayed the Senate votes as a "setback"
for the White House, though it avoided a real trial. Jennings asked Sam
Donaldson: "The White House fought tooth and nail to keep witnesses
off the table, no good lawyer wants to deal with the unknown, but does the
White House consider this to have been a setback and if so of what
magnitude?" In contrast, FNC's Wendell Goler relayed: "The
White House is taking two losing votes and declaring victory." Only
ABC failed to inform viewers of how Democratic Senator Russ Feingold voted
against dismissal and for deposing witnesses, as ABC's Linda Douglass
called it "a party line vote."
Dan Rather put the
burden on the GOP for not agreeing with the Democrats to end it now:
"Senate Republicans made it clear today they are determined to keep
President Clinton's impeachment trial going." Though Democratic
intransigence and Republican concern about public opinion has left House
managers unable to put on a regular case, Tom Brokaw declared:
"Tonight the Republicans are in the driver's seat."
terrified of Susan Collins? All the networks reported that the White House
probably will not delay the process if they can soon get a vote on the
articles, but CBS's Scott Pelley uniquely informed viewers of what has
Clinton's lawyers scared: the plan floated by Republican moderate Susan
Collins to first have a vote on guilt and then a separate vote on removal.
The Clinton team, Pelley relayed, thinks a majority might vote yes on
guilt, elaborating: "Experts disagree on whether the two-vote idea is
constitutional, but the White House seems close to panic. One adviser told
us the Collins proposal is the greatest fear the White House has. Another
source said Mr. Clinton's lawyers have never been so angry."
During the day the
three broadcast networks went live from 1 to 1:40pm ET to show the two
Senate votes. In the evening the three networks as well as CNN's The
World Today and FNC's Fox Report led with the Senate votes. After a
night off, CNN again aired a 10pm ET special, "Trial of the
Below are the
opening spins from the broadcast networks on Wednesday night, January 27,
as well as how they described the party make-up of the votes:
-- Show openings:
Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight:
"Good evening. There was a major event today
in the President's impeachment trial and to paraphrase Winston Churchill
at a crucial moment during World War II, this is not the end but maybe it
is the beginning of the end. Certainly Democrat and Republican Senators
are struggling for a conclusion, if only they could agree on how to get
Dan Rather, the only anchor still in DC, opened
the CBS Evening News:
"Good evening. Senate Republicans made it
clear today they are determined to keep President Clinton's impeachment
trial going and they will have their way. They defeated a motion today to
dismiss the articles of impeachment and end the trial and then the
Republicans led the vote to depose witnesses, but the Republicans are
still short of the two-thirds majority needed to actually remove the
President. So the questions tonight are how much longer will the trial go
on and to what end?"
Tom Brokaw at the top of NBC Nightly News:
"Good evening. Tonight the Republicans are
in the driver's seat in the impeachment trial and they believe that
they've now got a road map to their destination. Their confidence is in
the numbers. There were two critical votes today and the Republicans held
all of their members in line: votes to dismiss the trial and to subpoena
-- Party line or bipartisan vote.
ABC and Linda Douglass never mentioned Feingold.
Picking up on the Senate chaplain's use of the phrase "crucial
decision," Douglass asserted: "It was a crucial decision,
whether to end the trial now or keep going. On a party line vote they
decided to keep going, though it is not clear for how long."
Schieffer was accurate: "It was a near party line vote. All the
Republicans and one Democrat, Feingold of Wisconsin, voted to continue the
NBC's Gwen Ifill
buried Feingold, initially announcing: "The two critical votes today
passed along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate. The Senate
voting to continue the impeachment trial and to call witnesses. Democrats
saw the two votes as the strongest sign yet that the Senate is wasting its
time." Only near the end of her piece did she acknowledge that
Feingold "broke ranks."
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Hillary Clinton's
mean-spirited, politics of personal destruction oriented, blaming of her
husband's problems on a "vast right-wing conspiracy." But
instead of emphasizing how she lied in denying the allegations and
impugned those who were accurate, NBC offered empathy. Geraldo Rivera used
the anniversary to call for an end to the trial and Today brought aboard
two guests to defend her vitriolic remarks, but no conservative.
-- On CNBC's
Upfront Tonight Wednesday night Geraldo Rivera played a clip of Hillary
Clinton on Today back on January 27, 1998: "The great story here for
anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast
right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since
the day he announced for President."
Rivera then opined: "She was right then and
to go on with this trial now seems cruel and unusual punishment, not just
for the Clintons, but for the rest of us."
If it annoys
Rivera that much that's reason enough to not "move on."
-- Wednesday's Today featured two Hillary
defenders: The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Ann Douglass, author
of a recent glowing magazine profile of the First Lady. MRC news analyst
Geoffrey Dickens noted these exchanges:
Today co-host Matt
Lauer: "So Bob at that moment no doubt in your mind that the First
Lady did not know the truth about the story."
Bob Woodward: "Well based on the best
evidence we have at this point she obviously was speaking from the heart
and had which she is able to do with is, I think we all agree great force.
The important thing, she was speaking to a number of audiences here. She
was speaking to the Democratic base in the party and she said, 'Look I'm
on his side, I believe him.' I also think she was speaking to her husband
who then the next day went and gave his first flawless State of the Union
address after the scandal broke. Unfortunately I think it threw some
gasoline on the fire of the independent counsel and the next day we now
know the independent counsel asked President Clinton privately to come to
the grand jury which of course led down this road to his problems that we
now have today."
Lauer: "Ann [Douglas] people have questions
about the First Lady. They say here is this enormously intelligent woman,
how could she not have known? How could she not have suspected considering
especially that she had been through similar situations in the past?"
Woodward mentioned that he didn't think Starr was as tied into
conspiracy as the White House claimed, Lauer pressed him about whether
it's been investigated enough: "And Bob real quickly she said there
if, 'The real story here if anyone wants to take the time to investigate
it.' Has enough time been spent on that aspect of that story?"
Woodward: "Well of course many stories did
come out and Ann is right there are lawyers behind some of this but as we
really now know and is very, very clear the right-wing conspiracy or the
enemies of the Clintons did not cause the President and Miss Lewinsky to
have this sexual relationship. They decided on their own and that's at the
core of this and there is no way and I don't think Mrs. Clinton would say
they caused that."
time" on the VRWC?
A case study in network news bias against Ken Starr.
July 1, 1998: Federal Judge James Robertson,
criticizing Ken Starr's tactics and claiming he exceeded his mandate,
threw out an indictment against Webster Hubbell for failing to pay taxes
on suspected hush money.
January 26, 1999:
A federal appeals court overturned Robertson's ruling and reinstated the
indictment, deciding the activity was within Starr's jurisdiction.
to each story? If you are a regular CyberAlert reader you should already
be able to guess.
The July 1
anti-Starr decision led ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and
CNN's The World Today. FNC's Fox Report and NBC Nightly News gave it a
brief mention. ABC's Jackie Judd relayed a claim that "this further
weakens Starr's image as a man of justice." Dan Rather proclaimed:
"The judge sharpy criticized the tactics Starr used against
Hubbell" and CNN's John King examined how the decision raised
"new questions about the independent counsel and his hardball
The next morning,
it was the lead story on CBS's This Morning, the second report on
NBC's Today and the third story on ABC's Good Morning America.
The January 26
victory for Starr was ignored by ABC's World News Tonight and NBC
Nightly News, got 12 seconds on the CBS Evening News and a few more on
CNN's The World Today, but CBS failed to correct the record on how Starr
did not abuse his power. And in the morning: zilch, nada, not a syllable
on January 27, the MRC analysts informed me.
Report with Brit Hume on January 26 aired a full story by David Shuster,
the only show to take the appeals court ruling seriously. After explaining
the background of the case and how the appeals court did decide that so
Hubbell will avoid self-incrimination Starr must show he had independent
knowledge of what Hubbell's tax records would show before Hubbell turned
them over, Shuster reported: "But the rest of the ruling validated
Starr's contention that the charges are related to possible obstruction
of the Whitewater investigation and, therefore, within his
(For a visual
illustration of the lack of media interest in the Hubbell story on
Tuesday, go to the MRC home page at http://www.mrc.org
where Webmaster Sean Henry has posted an image from FNC's story which
shows all two members of the media outside of Hubbell's home as he and
his wife stand before two microphones: You'll see Shuster and a woman I
don't recognize, along with a cameraman for each.)
Dan Rather gave
the news 12 seconds: "A federal appeals court in Washington today
reinstated tax evasion charges against Clinton friend Webster Hubbell.
Hubbell insists special prosecutor Ken Starr is just trying to squeeze him
for information damaging to the Clintons."
CNN on Tuesday,
MRC news analyst Paul Smith observed, raised the issue briefly in an end
of Inside Politics discussion with reporter Pierre Thomas about the
deadline approaching for Janet Reno to decide on whether to appoint an IC
for Harold Ickes. Later, on the World Today, co-anchor Jim Moret read this
brief item: "Renewed legal woes for presidential pal Webster Hubbell.
A federal appeals court has reinstated tax evasion charges against the
former Justice Department official. A judge tossed out those charges last
year saying independent counsel Ken Starr overstepped his authority by
bringing them. In a two to one split, the appeals court validated
Starr's actions but it also questioned whether the independent counsel
can use Hubbell's own records to prosecute him."
Now, compare that
piddling coverage to the July 1 onslaught, as lifted from how it was
detailed in the July 2 CyberAlert. On ABC's World News Tonight Jackie Judd
concluded her lead piece: "A definite political blow for Starr
tonight. What the judge said, Peter, plays directly into what the White
House's allies have been saying, that this is an over-zealous prosecutor
over-reaching in a bid to bring down the President. One of the President's
allies told us tonight this further weakens Starr's image as a man of
Dan Rather opened
the CBS Evening News by introducing a full report by Phil Jones: "Ken
Starr's efforts to send a longtime friend of President Clinton back to
prison failed today. A federal judge dismissed new tax evasion charges
against Webster Hubbell. And the judge sharpy criticized the tactics Starr
used against Hubbell in the special prosecutor's efforts to get
incriminating information about the President and Mrs. Clinton."
CNN's The World
Today dedicated its first 11 minutes to Hubbell. First, Bob Franken
delivered the overall story. Second, Pierre Thomas profiled Hubbell and
how he became part of he Whitewater case. Starr was trying to get him to
tell what he knew, and he had agreed to cooperate in Whitewater, but did
not to Starr's satisfaction. One of Starr's questions: "Did a friend
give him lucrative jobs to keep him quiet?"
Third, White House correspondent John King began
his story: "Another setback for Ken Starr and new questions about the
independent counsel and his hardball tactics..." King emphasized how
it's the third defeat in a week for Starr after the release of Susan
McDougal and his loss on getting notes from Vince Foster's lawyer, but
King did acknowledge that he has earned 15 convictions. Fourth, Roger
Cossack appeared to explain the judge's reasoning and its implications.
Clinton is on the same "lofty plane" as the Pope -- because they
can use the same restroom? MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson caught
this gem from the last paragraph of a January 27 New York Times story on
Clinton's visit in St. Louis with the Pope headlined, "Again,
Clinton Creates His Own Political Aura." Reporter James Bennet's
"If there was any doubt that by virtue of
his position, Clinton occupied as lofty a plane as the Pope on Tuesday --
or that the Pope, by virtue of being human, had some of the same needs as
Clinton -- it was erased by the sign marking a restroom near their meeting
room: 'President or Holy Father Only,' it read."
If the MRC put
this one in our annual April Fools issue no one would buy it, but the New
York Times published it.
From the January 26 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Questions Submitted by the Republicans." Copyright 1999 by Worldwide
10. In 10,000 words or less, what is your
definition of sex?
9. Seinfeld retired...Michael Jordan retired...can't you take a hint?
8. Is there any way you could get N'Sync deported?
7. What's it like to kiss a girl?
6. If Air Force One is traveling 3,800 miles from Washington to Paris at a
speed of 600 mph, how long will it take before you hit on a flight
5. How the hell did the Falcons make the Super Bowl?
4. You really couldn't do any better than Monica?
3. Do you deny denying your earlier denial about denying lying under oath?
2. So -- are you done ruining the whole damn country yet?
1. How the hell did you get elected?
I like #6 the best. And I'd point out that
despite how much the public is supposed to be disgusted with Republicans,
only one of these hits on Republicans while six take on Clinton, with two
of those suggesting he should resign. -- Brent Baker
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