More Trial Would "Terrify People"; Hitchens: "A Male Linda Tripp"
1) Cokie Roberts admitted she
was perplexed by GOP opposition to censure, declaring continued debate
"depressing." NBC avoided any clips of the House managers while
NBC's Lisa Myers looked at how the trial has hurt Republican support,
even in Hyde's district.
2) CNN relayed White House
blame shifting. Chris Black highlighted the charge that Christopher
Hitchens is "a male Linda Tripp" as she zeroed in on how
Hitchens violated journalist ethics.
3) In Monday afternoon
coverage Peter Jennings worried that the idea the Senate trial may
continue could "terrify people" and Jeffrey Toobin assured
viewers "this national nightmare is over."
4) 60 Minutes contended that
in defending General Motors Ken Starr had "a much different view of
perjury and obstructing justice."
5) Since some confused
"niggardly" for a racial slur, ABC's Aaron Brown offered a
solution: "throw it out of the language."
"It wasn't so much the defense on the defensive today, it was just
the defense and the prosecution over again," a bored Peter Jennings
sighed in opening the Monday World News Tonight after both sides finished
their closing arguments. Cokie Roberts soon admitted she was perplexed as
to why Republicans would oppose censure, declaring it would be
"depressing" if Senators were still debating the idea in March.
ABC and CBS led
with King Hussein's funeral while NBC, CNN and FNC went first with the
Senate trial. Contrasting Clinton's trip to Jordan as his trial
continued, Tom Brokaw contended: "Once again the two worlds of this
President could not be more distinctive or disconnected." All but NBC
showed clips from both managers and White House counsel Charles Ruff.
NBC's Gwen Ifill played only a soundbite from Ruff. Only CNN's Bob
Franken picked up on complaints from managers that Senators were not
paying attention and NBC's Lisa Myers looked at how the trial has hurt
Republicans, featuring two women in Henry Hyde's district who castigated
Here are some
highlights from the Monday, February 8 evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight began with highlights from both sides from Linda Douglass.
Then anchor Peter Jennings talked to Cokie Roberts who expressed
bafflement over why Republicans would not support censure: "I don't
understand how the Republicans are going to explain the politics of this
if the Democrats come back and say let's censure him and some
Republicans, as Senator Phil Gramm is saying 'no, let's filibuster
that. Censure is not good enough.' How they explain that at home I
don't know but the fact that we might still be going through it in March
is pretty depressing."
on both sides of censure, but those opposed might argue that there is no
sense politically in giving Democrats cover to condemn Clinton when they
refused to follow the rule of law and vote to remove him if they really
think he did the things listed in the various censure proposals.
reported: "Law enforcement sources tell ABC News today that the
Justice Department has informed independent counsel Ken Starr it is going
to start investigating his office. One thing to be investigated are
complaints about the night that Monica Lewinsky was detained by Mr.
How about an afternoon she spent window shopping in the Fashion Centre at
Pentagon City, including time browsing in Crate&Barrel.
Upfront Tonight Geraldo Rivera told viewers the Justice Department would
look at "whether his henchmen denied Monica access to her
-- CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer reviewed the
floor action and explained how Henry Hyde asked for witnesses to explore
the possible perjury of Sidney Blumenthal before Dan Rather highlighted a
CBS News poll which found the public as confused as Senator Byrd: 55
percent think Clinton is guilty of the impeachment articles but should not
be removed from office.
-- CNN produced a 10pm ET Trial of the President
special, but at 10pm PT re-ran Sunday's NewsStand: CNN & Time. On
the 8pm ET The World Today reporter Charles Bierbauer provided an overview
of the arguments made by both sides. Bob Franken told anchor Jim Moret
that the managers are frustrated, explaining:
"The House managers, in fact, were quite
candid about the fact that they believe the deck was stacked against them
and that in one case they even complained the Senators weren't being
fair, talking under their breath while the trial was going on."
Next, Wolf Blitzer
checked in from a very confident White House.
-- FNC's Fox Report. Rita Cosby handled the
review of the Senate floor presentations, Carl Cameron looked at how the
managers want to call witnesses to probe the Blumenthal/Hitchens conflict
and Jim Angle updated viewers on the status of censure talks.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened by linking
the two big events of the day:
"Good evening. Bill Clinton, the President,
leading a delegation of former President's to the funeral of Jordan's
King Hussein. And Bill Clinton, the defendant, the closing arguments today
in the Senate trial. Once again the two worlds of this President could not
be more distinctive or disconnected..."
Gwen Ifill played
a clip of Ruff but not of any Republican managers on the floor before
noting their interest in further probing Blumenthal and reciting some of
the proposed censure language.
Lisa Myers then
examined the political damage to Republicans caused by the impeachment
process, beginning with the backlash in Pasadena against James Rogan. (She
did play a clip from the floor of Rogan.) Noting that pollsters presented
a "gloomy picture" to House Republicans at retreat over the
weekend, Myers illustrated: "The erosion can be found even in
overwhelmingly Republican districts, like Henry Hyde's outside
Woman: "The impeachment hearings have
changed my opinion of Henry Hyde and I certainly don't approve of his
actions and I don't think I'd vote for him again."
Another woman: "It's as if he's heading
kind of a Republican vendetta against Clinton."
Myers allowed Hyde to hope public opinion will
change and explained that the GOP has been advised to unite behind an
agenda and stop their infighting. She concluded:
"A highly successful Republican strategist
complains that his party has allowed its dislike of Bill Clinton to
overcome its political judgment. But he predicts only a few Republicans in
close races will pay the price. Voters have short memories, he says, or so
Christopher Hitchens, another Linda Tripp? Three Blumenthal items: Eleanor
Clift dismissed his contradiction with Hitchens as a "sideshow,"
Geraldo joked that maybe he and Starr will soon share a jail cell and CNN
reporter Chris Black highlighted how Blumenthal's lawyer disparaged
Hitchens as "a male Linda Tripp" as Black zeroed in on how
Hitchens has supposedly violated journalist ethics by telling on
-- Eleanor Clift
on the February 8 Fox Report: "I think the Sidney Blumenthal story is
a sideshow to a sideshow to a sideshow. It doesn't change any minds and
I agree with the heckler in the gallery last week who said, 'God
almighty, take the vote and get it over with.'"
-- Geraldo Rivera
on CNBC's Upfront Tonight: "Ken Starr's in his own hot water now.
He's been notified by the Justice Department that they're
investigating his handling of Monica Lewinsky among other things so maybe
he and Sid Blumenthal will share a holding pen in the DC jail."
-- Former Boston
Globe reporter Chris Black, now CNN's #3 at the White House behind Wolf
Blitzer and John King, provided a full story on Blumenthal for Monday's
The World Today. (CNN earlier showcased Hitchens, interviewing him live
from 6:40pm when the Senate adjourned to almost the top of the hour.)
Black began by
explaining how Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair filed an affidavit
contradicting Sidney Blumenthal's insistence that he never passed on
Clinton's description of Lewinsky as a "stalker." After a
soundbite from Hitchens Black explained that Blumenthal's defenders
claim he only said he never attributed the "stalker" assessment
to Clinton, an assertion Hitchens corroborated.
"Blumenthal's lawyer, William McDaniel, calls the perjury charge
ludicrous and says that Hitchens has become a male Linda Tripp, betraying
his friend. Hitchens' allegation has also raised ethical questions in
Floyd Abrams, identified as a "First
Amendment attorney," intoned: "There's a general understanding
when people have lunch together, who are friends, almost Linda Tripp-like
with Monica, that they're not about to go and tell other people, at
least in the form of a legal affidavit or something."
Black: "Justice Department officials say
they have not received any formal request for an investigation but
officials are reviewing news accounts to determine whether any inquiry is
warranted. The Blumenthal flap is not expected to delay the end of the
impeachment trial. But a friendship has ended even though Hitchens told
CNN that he would risk jail rather than testify against his friend."
Abrams was doing last June and July before Black signed aboard CNN? He was
the lawyer CNN hired to investigate and write a report on the Tailwind
Of the broadcast networks, only ABC offered any live coverage Monday
afternoon. ABC came on at 1pm ET and showed about 20 minutes of
Republicans Sensenbrenner and Cannon. After some soap opera time, ABC News
returned to the air at 2:35pm ET and showed Charles Ruff until just before
conservatively-biased network news team would have opened coverage by
pointing out how a short-circuited trial, in which the House managers were
"denied a chance" to put on their case, was about to come to an
end. An analyst would ruminate about the embarrassing legacy the Senators
would have to defend when people in the future ask why they were afraid of
exposing all the evidence.
But in the real
world ABC opened the 1pm ET news special with Peter Jennings worrying that
the idea the Senate trial may continue could "terrify people,"
legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin assuring viewers "this national
nightmare is over" and Jennings highlighting a poll showing 81
percent of the people are "sick" of the trial.
A couple of
minutes past 1pm, before the managers began their presentations, ABC
viewers heard this exchange:
Jeffrey Toobin: "I don't think there are
going to be any surprises, any new information. But the interesting point
to keep in mind is that this may not be the final chapter. Kenneth Starr
is still investigating. He is weighing whether to indict President Clinton
on these facts so it is worth keeping in mind whether an actual jury, not
a Senate jury, may yet hear the same evidence."
Peter Jennings: "But just so that you
don't terrify people altogether Jeffrey, this is going to be the last of
the Senate impeachment trial this week as far as we know."
Toobin: "That's right. This national
nightmare is over. We'll see if there's another one."
Peter Jennings: "The latest ABC News poll
will come as absolutely no surprise to anybody. We find that 81 percent of
the people in the country are sick of it altogether, reflected a little
bit perhaps in that man who stood up in the public gallery of Senate the
other day and said 'oh for God's sake,' you know, 'vote for it and
get it over with.' And we've perhaps all become a little too cynical
about something that is of enormous magnitude. 18 percent of the people in
the country are still interested in it..."
cynically opened the February 4 World News Tonight by claiming the heckler
reflected "the voice of the people."
(A RealPlayer clip
of this exchange will be posted on the MRC home page Tuesday morning: http://www.mrc.org)
Ken Starr just as guilty as Bill Clinton. Charles Ruff defended Exxon in
the Valdez oil spill clean up case and he has worked for tobacco
companies, two ogres for liberals. But working for GM is even worse in the
eyes of 60 Minutes, at least if you're Ken Starr. Sunday night, February
7, the CBS show made Starr its hook for a piece on trial lawyers going
after GM for its supposedly explosion-vulnerable gas tanks. Correspondent
Steve Kroft asserted that Starr, just like Clinton, obstructed justice and
Lawyer Kendall Few uncovered a memo written by GM engineer Edward Ivey
that Few claims went to Ivey's superiors. The memo calculated the costs
of repairing the problem versus litigation costs for expected lawsuits. GM
failed to produce the document for trials and Ivey claimed he didn't
recall it and never circulated it, assertions Few considers false. Or
something like that, the case is complicated. Anyway, after the requisite
emotional recollections of parents who lost a son to a fire in a GM car,
Kroft got to Starr's complicity in this segment transcribed by MRC
analyst Brian Boyd:
Kroft: "And Few says one of the GM attorneys
who helped conceal the alleged perjury was none other than independent
counsel and former General Motors lawyer Kenneth Starr who argued
successfully before the United States Court of Appeals that the
conversations between Ed Ivey and GM lawyers were protected by the
attorney-client privilege and should remain secret. Few says Starr, a
former federal judge, knew that the documents he was arguing to keep out
of evidence showed that Edward Ivey had lied numerous times under oath and
that Starr had an ethical and a legal obligation to inform the
"I wrote him four letters, I asked him to please take the document in
his hand, look at it and tell me whether or not Mr. Ivey's complete and
total amnesia, had been acquired before or after that interview. I told
him some judge some day, is going to read this and I invite you and
General Motors to come clean about it now."
Kroft expanded on the attack on Starr, claiming
hypocrisy: "Few said it's obvious Starr has a much different view of
perjury and obstructing justice while defending General Motors, than he
does while prosecuting the President. Last March, Kendall Few asked the
United States Attorney for the district of South Carolina to convene a
federal grand jury to investigate Kenneth Starr's actions on behalf of
General Motors. The Justice Department concluded that there was
insufficient evidence for a criminal investigation, and referred the case
to its Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates alleged
ethical violations by federal officials."
60 Minutes arrived
on the story 11 months after CNN. As detailed in the March 9, 1998
CyberAlert, on the March 4 The World Today CNN's Ed Garsten asserted:
"In 1994, Kenneth Starr and his law firm, Kirkland and Ellis,
represented General Motors in a suit brought by victims of a fuel tank
fire. Now, a South Carolina lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in
another case against GM, charges Starr knew one of the key witnesses
perjured himself and helped hide the documents that could prove it. Now,
he's asked for a Justice Department investigation...."
Catching up on an old item, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught an
incredible question from Good Morning America/Sunday co-host Aaron Brown
about the controversy over the District of Columbia employee who used the
word "niggardly," which means stingy. He's since been re-hired
by the new Mayor for another position, but had resigned amidst the anger
generated by people who didn't know what the word meant, assumed the
worst and avoided learning the truth so took it as a racial insult.
Poussaint of the Harvard Medical School on January 31, Brown suggested:
"Should we just, are we at the point where the solution here, like it
or not, is we should just take the word and throw it out of the language
because it's just going to cause too much trouble?"
While we're at
it let's dump any word dumb people might confuse for a vulgarity or
slur, such as duck, puck, muck, hit, mike, bike, donkey and shell, to name
One term that will
soon be "thrown out," at least out of your television listings:
"Good Morning America/Sunday." ABC has canceled the low-rated
show as of February 28. -- Brent Baker
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