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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday January 29, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 17) 
Partisan GOP "Rammed Through" Its Plan; Rather Castigated Senators

1) ABC's Linda Douglass asserted that "Republicans rammed through a plan of their own" and CBS's Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer both referred to how Republicans "pushed through" their plan.

2) Senate Republicans and Democrats disagree. Guess which party the Washington Post blamed for ruining the "bipartisan spirit"?

3) Geraldo Rivera insisted the witnesses "should be pitied" because "they are three private citizens." Sidney Blumenthal?

4) MSNBC's John Hockenberry wove the usual tale about the VRWC and wondered if Clinton "could sue for false arrest if he's not allowed to present a case" before the Senate?

5) Dan Rather complained that while the "trial drags on" because of Republicans, "Questions such as what to do about Social Security, improving the nation's schools....are on hold."

6) Correction: Today did recall how Hillary Clinton said that if the Lewinsky story were true it would be "a very serious offense." But Bob Woodward insisted that showed "she really did not know."

7) Three instances of the media raising conservative angles: Ted Koppel on declining public concern for morality, Jeff Greenfield labeling the Democratic position "extreme," and a CNN guest noting that potential blackmail made Clinton's activity a public concern.

>>> "Why Do Reporters Lionize Clinton Aides Who Advocate Lying or Giving Nothing to Reporters? Cheryl Mills: Liar, Obstructor... Heroine?" The latest MRC Media Reality Check fax report is now featured on the MRC home page. Tim Graham opens the report: "After Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills defended the President before the Senate on January 20, the media touted a new star. But almost none of them mentioned that she's facing her own investigation for perjury and obstruction of justice." To read the entire fax report go to http://www.mrc.org or directly to it at: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/fax19990128.html <<<


douglas0129.jpg (13556 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Partisan "partisanship" by Republicans became the network mantra Thursday night after Democrats and Republicans each backed their own plans for what to do next. ABC's Linda Douglass asserted that "Republicans rammed through a plan of their own," as if it were done unfairly. CBS's Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer both referred to how Republicans "pushed through" their plan.

     ABC and NBC focused on White House anger at Republican unfairness, though at least ABC's Peter Jennings noted that Clinton's lawyers had threatened to delay the process. CNN's Wolf Blitzer explained that the "White House reacted angrily" to the video depositions as "what frightens them is the mere spectacle of Lewinsky openly discussing the most embarrassing and humiliating moments in the Clinton presidency." Blitzer uniquely showed a clip of Lawton Chiles' daughter at his memorial service lashing out at Republicans, demanding they "...sow mercy so that God can then bestow upon you his harvest of mercy." Colleague John King credited "extraordinary pressures from the conservative base of the Republican Party" and the managers for encouraging the Republican Senators to move ahead.

     Every network led Thursday night, January 28, with the just completed Senate votes, except the CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened with how the Governor of Missouri agreed to the Pope's request to commute a death sentence: "Good evening. Josef Stalin once mocked the power of the Pope, asking, 'How many divisions does he have'? He doesn't have any, but again today there was on display the power of John Paul II to prevail over politicians."

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings began by emphasizing how "as of tonight partisanship only looks to become more intense."
     Linda Douglass opened her piece by portraying the Democrats as helpless victims of a Republican onslaught: "Peter, you're absolutely right. The Senate simply degenerated into partisan warfare. First the Democrats tried to get a vote up or down on the articles of impeachment. That failed. Then the Democrats tried to get a vote on their plan for how to proceed with the depositions. That failed. And then Republicans rammed through a plan of their own."

     From the White House Sam Donaldson relayed: "The President's aides are saying tonight that the Republican plan is terribly unfair to the President, that it's vague and allows the mangers on the Republican House side to run amuck if they want, stretch this thing out for months and that it most of all is back to partisanship..."
     Peter Jennings countered: "On the other hand Sam the White House has threatened to drag it out if it doesn't get its way."
     Donaldson agreed, and then concluded with these remarks, which make sense until the end where he lost me: "...but if necessary the President's lawyers are prepared to ask for their own witnesses, look over those 60,000 pages of depositions and string it out themselves. Linda was exactly right. It is in partisanville. And as one White House aide says, 'they tell us not to celebrate. What should we do? Not cancel the Fourth of July fireworks?'"

     -- CBS Evening News. Anchor Dan Rather declared: "Senate Republicans have just pushed through their plan for the next phase of the impeachment trial." In the subsequent story Bob Schieffer employed the very same terminology, referring to the plan "Republicans pushed through tonight."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began:
     "Good evening. Any illusion of a bipartisan spirit in the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate blew up tonight as the two sides now are fighting bitterly over how to handle witnesses and their testimony. The negotiations went on all day, but when they began to call the vote the Republicans were plainly in control."

     Gwen Ifill actually highlighted how the Democrats wanted to limit public access, contrasting the vote with how the parties were reversed on the dismissal debate: "Another party line vote, but this time it's the Democrats who wanted to keep the secrets, the Republicans who want to open witness testimony to the public."

     NBC gave Claire Shipman time to deliver the unrebutted White House spin: "They do not like this at all. What they're saying tonight is that this vote makes plain from their point of view that bipartisanship in this trial is dead. As one adviser said tonight, 'we've been had.' They think the proposal is blatantly unfair because, as they see it, it means Republicans could keep the trial going for months, could call more witnesses, could bring in outside information. Now, what can they do about it? Not very much. They're continuing to study the proposal. They don't feel they have any choice but to participate in the process obviously, but you can bet they're going to keep complaining about it."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Media definition of bipartisanship: Republicans do what Democrats want. Media definition of lack of bipartisanship: Republicans use their majority to win passage of a plan opposed by the minority Democrats.

     Here's a textbook example -- The headline over a January 27 Washington Post "analysis" piece by Eric Pianin:
     "Republicans Seem Poised to Call Witnesses, Risk Bipartisan Spirit."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Geraldo Rivera thinks the three witnesses should be pitied. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this whining on the January 27 Rivera Live:
     "Henry Hyde called them a pitiful three. Referring to the cut down witness list. But Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal should be pitied. They are three private citizens now again being forced to answer humiliating painful questions about a man, at least one of them loved, maybe they are all loved and admired. It's not the first time they've told their stories obviously but sure hope it will be their last."

     Okay, Lewinsky I'll buy. But Jordan is a high-profile lawyer used to the public spotlight and Sidney Blumenthal is hardly just a "private citizen." He's a political operative for the White House best known for encouraging Hillary Clinton to impugn others with his tales of a vast right-wing conspiracy.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Speaking of the VRWC, MSNBC host John Hockenberry is striving to match Geraldo Rivera's enthusiasm for trying to prove Hillary Clinton correct, despite the weakness of the case.

     Before getting to Richard Scaife as Godfather of the VRWC, Wednesday night on his show, now bumped to 10pm ET, Hockenberry suggested Clinton could sue for false arrest, asking law professor Jonathan Turley: "Although Jonathan, if the Senate does go ahead with this finding of fact idea after the Republicans argued so strongly against censure, doesn't that make this a show trial? And you might even go as far to suggest, as Lanny Davis almost does, that the President could sue for false arrest if he's not allowed to present a case?"

     Then Hockenberry got to the one year anniversary of the vast right wing conspiracy charge. MRC analyst Mark Drake documented how instead of dissecting its weakness, he presented evidence in support:
     "Well, let's see if the elements add up. Start with conservative millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, referred to a moment ago, who poured money into something called 'the Arkansas project,' a private investigation aimed at digging up dirt on Bill Clinton. One of the journalists who took back-channel funding from Scaife, David Brock. He then wrote a story in the Scaife supported American Spectator and named a 'Paula' who claimed Clinton had approached her for sex. Enter Paula Jones and her sexual harassment case against the President."
     Following a soundbite of Jones Hockenberry continued: "While Jones had three legal teams helping her at different times and has the legal bills to prove it today, she also had crucial and very private help from what the New York Times called 'a small secret clique of lawyers who share a deep antipathy towards the President.' Sounds like a conspiracy yet? Well, add this to the mix. One of those lawyers went on to tip off Ken Starr's office about Linda Tripp's tapes, which, of course, were the key evidence in exposing the President's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Other lawyers belonging to that clique later arranged for Tripp to take her evidence directly to Starr, kicking off the investigation which finally triggered the President's impeachment and brought us all to this moment. Let's not forget New York book agent Lucianne Goldberg, the former political operative for Richard Nixon's Watergate tainted 1972 campaign who got Tripp taping or talking to Lewinsky in the first place and taping Lewinsky in the first place...So do the First Lady's charges add up?"


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) "America's Business Is On Hold" read the headline over a January 25 "Dan Rather's Notebook" commentary on the CBS News Web page. In the text of what was also a radio commentary announced by Rather, the CBS anchor blamed Republicans for putting the trial ahead of the public interest. Rather began:
     "The Republican leadership has decided, and spoken. They do not want an end, any end, to the drive to remove President Clinton from office. Not now, and perhaps not any time soon..."

     Rather wrapped up:
     "They want the calling of witnesses and the lengthening out of the process.
     "This is where the matter now stands.
     "Questions such as what to do about Social Security, improving the nation's schools, and the drug menace among America's youth basically are on hold. So is what to do about threats to health of the U.S. economy by what is happening in Asia and Brazil; the threats to U.S. security posed by Iraq, Iran, and North Korea; and the peril represented by a collapsing Russia and an emerging China -- all important parts of the people's business -- all remain pretty much on hold, while the trial drags on."

     As if any of those items would have been solved during these few weeks. And the impeachment trial does not involve the House, but what are they now doing?


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Correction and elaboration: An item in the January 28 CyberAlert, on the Today show's interview with two Hillary Clinton defenders to mark the one-year anniversary of her infamous Today interview, concluded: "'Enough time' on the VRWC? But Today had no time to explore Hillary Clinton's admission on Today that if the charges were true that would be 'very serious.'" (Bob Woodward assured Today viewers that "based on the best evidence we have at this point she obviously was speaking from the heart" and Today co-host Matt Lauer asked him: "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?")

     In fact, after the portion of the interview quoted in CyberAlert, Lauer did play the part of the January 1998 interview in which Hillary Clinton stated: "Well, I think that if all that were proven true I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not gonna be proven true."

     Lauer then asked Woodward: "How does that sound a year later?" Making CyberAlert "legally accurate," Woodward did not "explore" the issue by looking into the hypocrisy of Clinton backers or at her disingenuousness. Matching the pro-Hillary tone of the rest of the interview, he instead contended her reply only proved she really didn't know the allegations about her husband and Lewinsky were true: "Well I think it shows that she really did not know and that in fact for her to say that it would be a very serious offense if this is true, I mean I take her at her word there. I do not think this is an act."


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) For a change of pace, today we'll end on an upbeat note by showcasing three instances from the past week of ABC and CNN raising rarely mentioned conservative agenda angles on the Lewinsky scandal: Ted Koppel asking two Democrats whether public support for Clinton reflects badly on the values of Americans; CNN's Jeff Greenfield suggesting to a Democratic Senator that his party's stance, that even if Clinton is guilty of obstruction and lying under oath Senators should vote to acquit, is "a rather extreme" view; and former Senator Sam Nunn on CNN pointing out that since Clinton's phone calls with Lewinsky could have been tapped, thus opening him up to blackmail, his behavior is not just a private matter.

     -- Doesn't it bother you that the President does not have to be ethical to be popular? From the January 22 Nightline:
     Ted Koppel to Mario Cuomo: "You've got a President who is nevertheless popular because he's been very successful. But what does this say about our country, our values?"
     Koppel to Senator Dianne Feinstein: "Does that bother you at all, that sort of, the fact that we've seem to have almost dismissed the notion that the President of the United States ought to be ethical, moral, a good example to young people?"

     -- It's the Democrats, not conservatives for a change, who have taken an "extreme" position. From CNN's Trial of the President 10pm ET special on January 27:
     Jeff Greenfield to Senator Dick Durbin: "Let me take up a point that Russ Feingold made in explaining his vote. With the single exception of Senator Feingold, every single Democrat, by voting to dismiss, had to assume as true every inference the House managers made. That means that you have said, 'Even if President Clinton was at the center of an attempt to buy Monica Lewinsky's silence, even if he enlisted Vernon Jordan in that effort, even if he lied under oath at the grand jury, even if he obstructed justice, we're not -- we're going to vote to acquit.' Isn't that a rather extreme statement, saying, 'We don't care what witnesses might say, we're not going to vote to remove him from office'?"

     -- Clinton's acts were public because they opened him to blackmail. From CNN's Trial of the President on January 21, an excerpt of an interview with former Senator Sam Nunn:
     Nunn: "There's also the question that I think must be asked, perhaps not directly related to these articles of impeachment, maybe even after it's over, but it seems to me that the Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee must ask the question about espionage. For people to say that the President of the United States having -- allegedly -- telephone sex, is strictly private, has nothing to do with official duties. It means they've never been acquainted with the world of espionage and the world of blackmail. And, certainly, the White House itself is one of the most targeted places in the world in terms of foreign espionage.
     "And so you have to ask the question: What if a foreign agent heard a young woman carrying on discussions, and then tapped her telephone? Those are the kind of questions that have to be asked, and we have the understand there are consequences, and risks and dangers anytime the President has conversations on the phone, which could be intercepted and could be embarrassing to him personally."
     Bernard Shaw: "Let's underscore that. Can you elaborate on that, when you say there are 'consequences?'"
     Nunn: "The consequences are there's exposure and risk. I have no idea whether there was any kind of intercept here. I'm not on the committees, but those questions have to be asked because you don't want any President, or any high-ranking official in a position, to be leveraged by any kind of, either foreign power, or even domestic source. So that's the danger here. And private conduct that can be used in that way becomes a matter of great public concern."
     Nunn later added: "They may not go to the articles of impeachment, but I keep hearing people say that strictly private behavior has nothing to do with official duties. And I just don't see how anybody can come to that conclusion that knows anything about how the world operates."

     Some non-liberal views you don't hear expressed very often on the networks. -- Brent Baker


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