Press Conference Softballs; CBS & NBC Ignored Broaddrick; Dreyfuss on Kazan
1) Of 21 questions put to
Clinton, only two challenged him about Lewinsky scandal-related matters. A
MSNBC reporter claimed Lewinsky questions dominated, but her name was
never voiced. Plus, he got softballs, such as whether he feels
"betrayal" by ex-aides.
2) Clinton's answer to Sam
Donaldson's question about Juanita Broaddrick generated mentions Friday
night on the cable networks as well as Donaldson's ABC, but not a word
on CBS or NBC.
3) The ABC News Web page
ignored Broaddrick but highlighted a question about "right-wing"
conspiracies against Clinton and how he's been treated worse than
4) Attacking Elia Kazan for
talking. Richard Dreyfuss: "Since 1989 it's been easy to say that
everyone should have known before the fall of communism that it was, it
Correction: A sentence in
the March 19 CyberAlert was missing a "to" and misspelled the
name of a staffer. It should have read: "Most of us at the MRC like
to watch, TV that is, but news analyst Mark Drake actually does some
reading of an old-fashioned medium: books."
After waiting over ten months for a regular solo press conference by
President Clinton, of over 20 questions posed, only two challenged him on
any aspect of the sex scandals of the past year -- and both came from
residents of the same house on Crest Lane in McLean, Virginia. That would
be Mr. and Mrs. Sam Donaldson, with the Mrs. better known as Jan Smith, a
reporter with the Fox-owned station in Washington, DC. Incredibly, the
name "Monica Lewinsky" was never uttered by any reporter in any
Despite that fact,
on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Friday night, reporter
Campbell Brown preposterously insisted:
"Brian, I think it surprised even some of
the veteran White House correspondents -- the number of questions relating
to the impeachment trial and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. There were a lot
of people here who felt he should have gotten beyond this, but there were
quite a number of questions, one in particular made for what may have been
the most uncomfortable moment of the news conference today. Sam Donaldson
asked the President about the allegation by Juanita Broaddrick, Jane Doe
No. 5." (Brown then played Clinton's answer in full.)
I'm a bit
baffled about how she thinks there were "quite a number of
questions" related to Lewinsky when her name wasn't even mentioned.
Given that Lewinsky, in her interview with Barbara Walters and in her
book, says Clinton gave her an orgasm first, thus directly contradicting
the premise of Clinton's still-maintained denial of "sexual
relations" because he did not "satisfy" her, you would
think a reporter might have raised Lewinsky's recollection. But no, the
charge that the basic premise behind Clinton's legalistic denial of
sexual relations was a lie didn't interest anyone.
By my review, not
counting two or three follow-ups, Clinton responded to 21 questions over
the hour. Of those:
-- 15 were about Kosovo (5), China (4), the
economy (2), Hillary's Senate bid (1), Al Gore's exaggerations (1),
Russia (1), racially-motivated police brutality (1).
-- Five related to the scandal of the past year,
but only two challenged him: Donaldson on Broaddrick and Jan Smith on what
Clinton thinks about the truth and children looking up to Presidents as
role models for honesty. The other three were softballs: asking whether he
felt "betrayal" by George Stephanopoulos, asking him to reflect
on the impeachment process and if he resents his opponents, and wondering
if his experience as the target of an independent counsel had soured him
on the statute.
-- One unclassifiable question from the always
wacky Sarah McClendon about how people are "mean" to Clinton and
have treated him worse than Abraham Lincoln.
Here, in order,
are brief descriptions of the questions posed at the late Friday, 4pm ET
event with those I think most relevant quoted in full. Each of the five
scandal questions are identified as LRS Q#1, LRS Q#2, etc with LRS
standing for "Lewinsky-Related Scandal."
military involvement in Kosovo is obviously a legitimate subject of
inquiry, and several reporters did press him on Chinese espionage, but
I'm providing this list to show how little interest the press crops
showed in pressing him about his Lewinsky lies and how they tossed several
1) Terence Hunt, AP: Kosovo.
2) Helen Thomas, UPI: China/Did administration suppress information?
3) David Bloom, NBC News: China/Why 17 month delay before Dept. of Energy
enacted FBI-recommended tightening of security?/No spying in 1990s?
4) Larry McQuillan, Reuters: Kosovo.
5) Wolf Blitzer, CNN: "Mr. President,
there's been a lot of people in New York state who have spoken with your
wife who seem to be pretty much convinced she wants to run for the Senate
seat next year. a) how do you feel about that? Do you think she would be a
good Senator? And, as part of a broader question involving what has
happened over the past year, how are the two of you doing in trying to
strengthen your relationship, given everything you and she have been
through over this past year?"
6) Sarah McClendon: "Sir, will you
tell us why you think people have been so mean to you? Is it a conspiracy?
Is it a plan? They treat you worse than they treated Abe Lincoln?"
7) ***LRS Q#1*** Sam Donaldson, ABC News:
"Mr. President, when Juanita Broaddrick leveled her charges against
you of rape in a nationally televised interview, your attorney David
Kendall issued a statement denying them. But shouldn't you speak directly
on this matter and reassure the public? And if they are not true, can you
tell us what your relationship with Ms. Broaddrick was, if any?"
8) Scott Pelley, CBS News: Kosovo.
9) ***LRS Q#2*** Softball from John Harris
of the Washington Post: "Sir, George Stephanopoulos has written a
book that contained some fairly tough criticism of you. Earlier Dick
Morris had written somewhat similar book. How much pain do these judgments
by former aides cause you? And do you consider it a betrayal for people to
write books on the history of your administration while you're still in
10) ***LRS Q#3*** Softball from Ken Walsh
of U.S. News: "Mr. President, I understand that you don't want to
speculate about what your opponents might do now after the impeachment
struggle is over, but I wonder what your feelings are after some period of
reflection on the impeachment process, how you were treated, and if you
feel resentment, relief, and how you think people will deal with this and
see it ten to 20 years from now."
11) Jeannie Cummings, Wall Street Journal: economy too dependent on stock
12) ***LRS Q#4*** Mark Knoller, CBS Radio: soured on Independent Counsel
13) Mara Liasson, NPR: "Mr. President, your Vice President has
recently been ridiculed for claiming that he invented the Internet and
spent his boyhood plowing steep hillsides in Tennessee. I'm wondering what
you think of those claims and what advice you'd give him about how to brag
on himself without getting in so much trouble."
14) ***LRS Q#5*** Jan Smith, WTTG-TV:
"Mr. President, many young Americans learn the importance of telling
the truth based on an allegory about our very first President. George
Washington reportedly said, 'I cannot tell a lie.' What do you think
your legacy will be about lying, and how important do you think it is to
tell the truth, especially under oath?"
15) Unknown reporter: Kosovo.
16) April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network: advocate opening old police
17) John King, CNN: Support new IMF funding for Russia?
18) Carl Cannon, Baltimore Sun: China/Does U.S. human rights policy
reflect our values?
19) Wendell Goler, Fox News, on China:
"Mr. President, you said just a short while ago that no one has
reported to you they suspect Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear labs during
your administration, sir, but sources tell Fox News -- and we are
reporting this evening -- that China stole the technology for
electromagnetic pulse weapons from several nuclear labs during your first
term in office, sir, and that the Chinese have successfully tested these
weapons in China. And the sources also say that the administration at
least was aware of this. Can you tell us, sir, were you not personally
aware? Are you concerned about this? And what will be your
administration's response to the report?"
20) Reporter from Bloomberg News: Rubin
21) Reporter from Bosnia: Bosnia feels forgotten.
we'd be without the Donaldson family.
Sam Donaldson asked about Juanita Broaddrick, leading to World News
Tonight's first weekday mention of her name, but neither CBS or NBC
uttered a syllable about her Friday night. In addition to ABC, CNN, FNC
and MSNBC did highlight, at least briefly, Clinton's non-responsive
As noted by Rush
Limbaugh on Friday in citing an earlier MRC report, NBC Nightly News has
yet to mention Broaddrick's name despite the fact the exclusive
interview aired on its own network: The February 24 Dateline NBC. Clinton
has now twice provided on-camera comment, but twice NBC Nightly News has
passed. NBC refused to talk about Broaddrick, but Nightly News did pick up
Russian TV video of a politician standing next to a bed and paying two
The CBS Evening
News hasn't mentioned Broaddrick since its one and only story on
Saturday, February 20. Friday night, instead of broaching her charge,
anchor John Roberts highlighted how Clinton "said he and Mrs. Clinton
love each other very much" and that "she'd be a magnificent
For the record,
here's the full exchange between Donaldson and Clinton:
Sam Donaldson: "Mr. President, when Juanita
Broaddrick leveled her charges against you of rape in a nationally
televised interview, your attorney David Kendall issued a statement
denying them. But shouldn't you speak directly on this matter and reassure
the public? And if they are not true, can you tell us what your
relationship with Ms. Broaddrick was, if any?"
Clinton: "Well, five weeks ago today -- five
weeks ago today, I stood in the Rose Garden after the Senate voted and I
told you that I thought I owed it to the American people to give them 100
percent of my time and to focus on their business, and that I would leave
to others to decide whether they would follow that lead. And that is why I
have decided as soon as that vote was over that I would allow all future
questions to be answered by my attorneys, and I think I made the right
decision. I hope you can understand it. I think the American people do
understand it and support it. And I think it was the right decision."
Donaldson, drowned out until saying
"...simply deny it, sir?"
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by
my attorney. He speaks for me, and I think he spoke quite clearly."
Now, a review of
how each network covered on Friday night, March 19, the 4pm ET press
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Sam Donaldson opened: "Talk about pent up demand. The
questions ranged from the dead serious to the near frivolous. The lead was
After clip about Kosovo Donaldson highlighted
"How are the Clintons doing in repairing
Then he got to Broaddrick for ten seconds,
showing himself asking: "Can you tell us what your relationship with
Ms. Broaddrick was." Donaldson didn't play Clinton's reply,
instead he told viewers: "The President showed one flash of anger
when asked to deny the rape charges leveled against him by Juanita
Broaddrick, replying his lawyer had denied them in his name."
He next went to
his wife's question and showed Clinton claiming that in a box score
he'll have "one negative" but hundreds upon hundreds of
credits for truthfulness. Donaldson ended with McClendon: "The
legendary Sarah McClendon asked why he thought people were so mean to him.
The President joked he felt like the guy who falls off the Grand Canyon,
grabs hold of a twig only to see it come loose."
-- CBS Evening News: The show led with Scott
Pelley reviewing Clinton's comments and plans for airstrikes against the
Serbs, including playing Pelley's tough question about what threshold
would trigger action and why past massacres have not. Next, Tom Fenton
checked in from Kosovo and David Martin looked at Pentagon plans.
Roberts then devoted 51 seconds to the rest of the press conference:
"On much more personal notes at his news conference today the
President said he and Mrs. Clinton love each other very much, are working
hard on their relationship and he thinks she'd be a magnificent U.S.
Senator. On another matter Mr. Clinton had this to say when asked about
the importance of telling the truth."
After showing Clinton's one versus hundreds
"box score" answer, Roberts concluded: "All told the
President didn't seem eager to dwell on the past year of impeachment
proceedings, saying it was time to move on to the nation's
Most of the
Washington press corps, as item #1 outlined, already have.
Later in the show
Roberts introduced a China story by noting: "At his news conference
today, President Clinton denied reacting too slowly to revelations that
China may have obtained stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets. Mr. Clinton
did acknowledge security at U.S. nuclear labs was too weak for too
Sharyl Attkisson's subsequent story relayed how
Paul Redmond, the former CIA spy hunter, said in reference to the
miniature multiple warhead, "losing the secrets of such a vital
weapon was more devastating to national security than the secrets sold by
Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, Redmond's most famous catch."
-- CNN's The World Today opened with Wolf
Blitzer on Clinton's Kosovo policy, followed by a report from Kosovo and
Jamie McIntyre on the U.S. military buildup.
About 20 minutes into the show anchor Joie Chen
narrated clips of Clinton denying any improper action on Chinese
espionage. John King handled the rest of the press conference and raised
the Broaddrick matter for 13 seconds: "There were some things the
President was in no mood to talk about: An Arkansas woman's allegation
of a sexual assault more than 20 years ago."
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by
my attorney. He speaks for me and I think he spoke quite clearly."
referred to Clinton's questionable assertion, that a year ago Hillary
suggested moving to New York when his term is over, as an "intriguing
(Up next, Bruce
Morton delivered an amazing review of Gore's gaffes. Amazing because in
one story he featured not only his most recent Internet creation and clear
hillsides with a mule claims, but also played his denouncing of tobacco in
1996 because of his sister's death, followed by video of Gore after her
death boasting of how he personally has grown and harvested tobacco.
Details in a future CyberAlert.)
-- FNC's Fox Report: Wendell Goler went through
Clinton's answers on Kosovo and then showed his answer to Jan Smith
before getting to Broaddrick for 12 seconds: "Mr. Clinton's answers
varied little. There was no change in his response to Juanita
Broaddrick's allegation that he sexually assaulted her more than two
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by
my attorney. He speaks for me and I think he spoke quite clearly."
Cameron delivered the Fox exclusive cited at the press conference by Goler,
reporting that sources have told Fox News that contrary to Clinton claims
that all the espionage took place in the 1980s, during Clinton's term
the Chinese acquired Electro-Magnetic Pulse warhead technology.
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams
replayed the same David Bloom piece, which skipped Broaddrick, that had
aired on NBC Nightly News. Interviewing Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Brian
Williams posed this as his last question: "Is it unbecoming of a
President to, when he's asked are you are rapist, to defer those
questions to his personal attorney and not just answer them?"
Later in the show
Campbell Brown, as quoted in item #1 above, included Clinton's reply to
Donaldson in her review of press conference highlights.
-- NBC Nightly News, anchored by Brian Williams
with Tom Brokaw in Moscow. The David Bloom piece cited above began with
Kosovo and reticence expressed by Republican Senators before Bloom pointed
out a contradiction on China missed by the other networks:
"On the issue of Chinese nuclear spying the
President appeared to contradict his national security adviser, who
earlier this week said there's no question the Chinese benefitted from
stolen American nuclear designs. Today, the President sounded less
After a clip of Clinton's comment, NBC showed
video of him with his arm around Hillary as Bloom announced: "Asked
about his wife's possible run for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Clinton made sure
that trial balloon stayed afloat, saying she'd be terrific,
No Broaddrick on
the show, but after the first ad break Tom Brokaw checked in from Moscow
and showed a brief clip of a video shown by Russian TV of a bed with two
prostitutes beside it being paid by a partially-clothed investigator who
has antagonized Yeltsin. The TV network which showed it, Brokaw explained,
is controlled by Yeltsin.
Incomprehensible Abraham Lincoln conspiracy question highlighted by
abcnews.com while Broaddrick ignored.
ABC's World News
Tonight reported the Donaldson/Clinton exchange about Juanita Broaddrick,
but the ABC News Web page skipped that exchange in its recitation of the
most worthwhile highlights. The abcnews.com feature article on the press
conference listed transcripts and video of questions and answers on these
topics: "Kosovo," "Economic Boom,"
"Hillary," "Russia," "Impeachment,"
"The 'Conspiracy'," "China Espionage" and
Jump to "The
'Conspiracy'" and under the heading of "Right-Wing
Conspiracy Theories" you see this question followed by Clinton's
answer: "Sir, will you tell us why you think people have been so mean
to you? Is it a conspiracy? Is it a plan? They treat you worse than they
treated Abe Lincoln?"
As noted in item
#1, that was the question yelled by "independent reporter" Sarah
McClendon. Lincoln was shot in the head, but she thinks Clinton is being
To read the ABC
News Web page report on the press conference, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/PoliticalNation/pn_clintonpress_990319.html
In a 1996 Notable
Quotable item, the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, a former Newsweek
reporter called McClendon a "treasure for journalism" as she
ranted about the role of "French intelligence" in another
conspiracy. From a January 24, 1996 Washington Post story by reporter
Richard Leiby on gatherings held by McClendon:
"'She's [Sarah McClendon] a real
treasure for journalism in this city,' says investigative reporter
Robert Parry, a former staffer with the Associated Press and Newsweek, now
freelance. 'There was a time in journalism when journalists took pride
in being individuals instead of being members of the pack.' A
disgruntled loner, Parry is a perfect speaker for tonight's meeting. His
topic is the 'October Surprise,' a much probed but never proved tangle
of allegations involving top CIA officials and monied Republicans who
supposedly schemed to sabotage an October 1980 release of the 52 U.S.
hostages in Iran, thereby putting the kibosh on President Carter's
re-election. Parry talks spellbindingly for two hours about a House
committee's classified 'X-files,' which he stumbled upon in 'a
converted ladies' room, with the tampon dispenser still on the wall':
the Hashemi brothers...BCCI links...a $20 million deposit...David
Rockefeller...the Shah's twin sister...a Marcos bagman. McClendon
appears to doze off during parts of the presentation, then pipes up with
such on-point questions as: 'Was there any sort of French intelligence
input in those [classified] papers?'"
I can't stop
laughing every time I read that quote.
Unreasonable to expect actors and directors to realize communism was
show Rush Limbaugh read a March 19 CyberAlert item on what writer-director
Abraham Polonsky said of director Elia Kazan, who answered truthfully in
the 1950s about who was a communist, and is scheduled to receive a
lifetime achievement award at the Oscars on Sunday. Polonsky spewed, as
quoted in a March 16 Reuters dispatch: "I'll be watching, hoping
someone shoots him. It would no doubt be a thrill in an otherwise dull
In reading the
item Limbaugh included my hope to distribute in a Saturday CyberAlert more
examples of anti-Kazan invective from Hollywood. Well, space precludes
that today, but I will squeeze in one gem from Wednesday's Larry King
Live on CNN. Actor Richard Dreyfuss asserted:
"Right now, since 1989 it's been easy to
say that everyone should have known before the fall of communism that it
was, it was wrong. And that's to a great extent true. But it can't, it
can't make up for individual sins."
a) By "sins" he means those who told
the truth in the 1950s and were concerned about approving of those
advocating the system of a nation constructing nuclear missiles to aim at
b) "That's to a great extent true."
To what extent is communism not wrong?
c) So, Dreyfuss figured out in 1989 that
communism was wrong? It was fine in 1988? If the Cold War were still on
and the Soviet Union still together then it would be unreasonable to
expect actors to realize communism was wrong?
d) Is communism only wrong because it fell?
Before then you could not apply a moral analysis to it and condemn it?
excusing Nazi supporters of the 1930s by arguing in the 1950s that
"since 1945 it's been easy to say that everyone should have known
before Hitler's defeat that Nazism was wrong." --
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