Jones; Next, Kenneth Starr
After the Jones Dismissal, Media Say "Put Up or
Judge Susan Webber Wright’s dismissal of the Paula
Jones case on April 1 caused media jubilation both on and off the air.
The next morning, New York Times White House reporter James
Bennet filed from Senegal: "Repairing to a French restaurant here for a
late dinner, some of the President’s senior advisers wondered over
champagne — ordered and paid for by journalists — whether this
development in the case might cause the news media to stop panting after
salacious details about public officials."
John McCaslin of The Washington Times later
fingered the bubbly-buyers: New York Times Washington reporter
R.W. "Johnny" Apple and columnist Maureen Dowd. (Dowd later denied
The networks took shots at the Jones case the night
the dismissal broke. ABC’s Peter Jennings suggested to Clinton spin
controller Mandy Grunwald the Jones case was little more than a tool of
Clinton-haters: "Mandy, who do you think is now going to carry the
water, briefly, for the anti-Clinton clique in the country or the
anti-Clinton people in the country?" On CBS, Dan Rather said "The
accuser in this case, Paula Jones has been variously described as a
victim, a woman wronged, and a political pawn of the Republican far
Many reports quickly turned the corner from the Jones
case to putting the pressure on Whitewater counsel Kenneth Starr. Dan
Rather asked reporter Scott Pelley: "Scott, is there any doubt there
that this increases the pressure on Ken Starr to put up or shut up, to
show whatever cards he has and do it fairly soon?"
Newsweek put Starr’s picture
on the April 13 cover with the words "Put Up or Shut Up." Evan Thomas
and Daniel Klaidman reported "public patience with Starr is running out.
Starr is increasingly regarded as an uncomfortable, politically biased
figure, an oddly jolly Captain Ahab ...By nearly two to one — 57 to 38
percent — voters think that it’s time for the Whitewater independent
counsel to give up his investigation into Monica Lewinsky, according to
the latest Newsweek poll."
Next to a cloying photo of the President holding
Hillary’s hand to his cheek, Time Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs
cheered the Wright decision as "an antidote to a poisonous winter of
scandal." Time put the Jones charges, along with Willey’s and
Lewinsky’s, into the second half of a summary titled "The Legal & The
Loony." That’s quite a change from Gibbs’ 1991 Time piece
comparing Anita Hill to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks.
Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett drew upon a former AP
reporter to help him draft soundbites to discredit Paula Jones. Amy
Sabrin, the Washington Post relayed February 23, "crafts the
briefs — long, detailed-laden analyses of case law and issues spiced
with soundbite quality lines suitable for a media-intense case." Sabrin
left the AP for Bennett’s firm in the early ‘80s after an assignment in
Washington. But Sabrin goes both ways. In the late 1980s she toiled on
Bennett’s team when he defended Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar
Weinberger against IC Lawrence Walsh.
Clinton Team Moves
Ginny Terzano, a researcher with the CBS News election
unit in 1988 and most recently Press Secretary to VP Al Gore, has taken
a Senior VP slot at Dewey Square Group, a political consulting firm. In
1987 she put in a stint as a press aide in Gary Hart’s campaign. Soon
after the election she left CBS and took over the DNC’s press office,
joining the White House in 1993 as Deputy Press Secretary....
Victor Zonana, a Los Angeles Times reporter
when he jumped to the Clinton team in 1993, has left to join the
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a UN and World Bank-funded
operation. Until April Zonana had served at HHS as Deputy Assistant
Secretary for public affairs.
Baer’s New CBS Bearings
CBS News has brought aboard a Clinton insider. The
Washington Post’s John Carmody reported in February: "Don
Baer, who left the White House in August after 3½ years, most
recently serving as Director of Communications, has signed on as a
consultant for CBS News. He’ll give his perspective on several regular
CBS News programs about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activity in the
administration...But network sources say ‘he won’t be shilling.’" Baer
held the title at U.S. News of Assistant Managing Editor when he
jumped to the White House.
Is he a shill? Check out this excerpt from a September
23, 1996 Weekly Standard profile by Christopher Caldwell: "One
New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner last year described him as ‘bland
beyond description, a fount of cliches. ‘Clinton was the moral leader of
the Universe,’ and all that.’"
Caputo Kaput at CBS
Just as Baer signed up with CBS his former White House
colleague Lisa Caputo stepped down as Vice President for
corporate relations. Caputo pushed Hillary Clinton’s agenda as Press
Secretary to the First Lady until late 1996. Since leaving CBS in March
Caputo has moved in front of the camera, filling the liberal chair for a
week on CNBC’s Equal Time.
ABC Compares Global Warming Skeptics to Tobacco Scientists
Peter Jennings: Al Gore is Our Savior
The year 2000 may seem distant, but
ABC News logged its first infomercial on behalf of Al Gore’s
presidential campaign on April 11. "The Apocalypse and Al Gore," a
one-hour Saturday Night program hosted by Peter Jennings,
declared Al Gore is trying to save us from a disaster we’re all
too short-sighted or selfish to realize. The plug on the
abcnews.com Web site reflected what aired:
"The ferocity of this year’s El
Nino, which spawned deadly tornadoes in Florida, devastating
storms in California, and brought the fury of Hurricane Pauline to
Acapulco, may be an omen of a more permanent climatic disaster —
global warming. In a new ABC News special, Peter Jennings reports
on one man’s 30-year crusade to put global warming on the national
The show assumed Gore’s fears are
correct and disparaged contrary views when they were mentioned.
The program had four parts. First, the evidence for how man causes
global warming and how Gore has been out front on the issue,
including the TV weathermen’s seminar last year. ABC gave
extensive time to Miami meteorologist Brian Norcross, who warned
of higher seas and deadlier hurricanes. Second, how
self-interested industry corrupts science, just like the tobacco
industry. Third, how recent weather in the Midwest proves global
warming has a disastrous impact. Fourth, how union members have
joined with industry to fight environmentalists because they are
scared more by the loss of jobs than by climatic change, a very
Explaining that what Gore "fears most is how unstable" the Earth
is becoming, Jennings cited the 1995 Chicago heat wave, the 1996
fires in the Southwest and floods in Eastern Europe and the 1997
typhoon in China. Jennings asserted: "Many scientists fear that
global warming will cause these record-breaking disasters to
become more frequent and even more extreme. However, scientists
cannot say yet with any certainty that any single weather disaster
is in fact caused by global warming....Vice President Gore’s
critics exploit this scientific uncertainty."
asked Candace Crandall of the Science and Environmental Policy
Project to provide the response ABC didn’t broadcast. On natural
disasters, she replied:
"1) A research paper presented in
December 1997 by U.S. Geological Survey researchers Harry Lins and
James Slack looked at flood patterns in the U.S. since 1914 and
saw no unusual patterns or increasing trends. It seems that floods
just happen. And they happen with some frequency. 2) The intensity
and frequency of hurricanes, however, have gone down over the last
50 years, according to the most recent report of the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."
Jennings didn’t bother presenting the case from critics. Instead
he discredited them by portraying them as self-interested, a
concern never raised with global warming believers. Jennings
intoned: "Bill O’Keefe is a lobbyist for a coalition of oil, coal,
and car companies. They call themselves the Global Climate
Coalition, but they are some of the largest producers of
Jennings asked O’Keefe: "Why do you
think it is that the industries most responsible for global
warming are the most skeptical about the science?" O’Keefe said
most CO2 comes from natural sources, to which Jennings shot back
while smirking: "Are you suggesting that the climate change is
affected by the plants rotting and us breathing?"
Jennings proceeded to ridicule the
scientists cited by the coalition: "University of Arizona
climatologist Robert Balling is the kind of scientist the fossil
fuel industry likes to fund and Balling concedes that some of his
financial backers have an agenda."
After a soundbite of Balling saying
a coal company can’t control his science, Jennings insisted: "But
the work of some industry-funded scientists is sometimes used to
create what amounts to propaganda. Listen to this coal industry
video which claimed that a doubling of carbon dioxide is a good
The video claimed: "Crop plants
will continue to grow more productively, forests will extend their
ranges, grasses will grow where none grow now and great tracks of
barren land will be reclaimed." Jennings countered: "Al Gore calls
this junk science, reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s efforts
to persuade Americans that cigarette smoking didn’t cause lung
Refusing to Believe.
To illustrate the impact of global warming and how the public just
isn’t smart enough to realize how Gore is trying to save them,
Jennings looked at Smith Island in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay: "On
Smith Island we find two of the most certain effects of global
warming. One, the sea level is rising, in this case causing Smith
Island to drown. And two, the residents here, like most Americans,
refuse to believe that global warming is the problem."
After clips of two locals saying
they don’t believe global warming is shrinking the island,
Jennings scolded: "This kind of indifference drives Gore crazy and
is why many people think the United States will never solve the
problem of global warming. Influenced by industry, or perhaps just
resistant to change, Americans are reluctant to confront an
environmental problem where no one can tell them precisely how or
when disaster will strike."
Concluding a segment that included
some rare criticism of Gore (from the left for compromising too
much at the UN climate summit in Kyoto), Jennings declared: "Which
is not bad news for the fossil fuel industry. More debate, more
opportunity to delay action. 1997 was the hottest year on record."
Jennings concluded the show with
this dire warning: "We leave you with one additional thought. More
greenhouse gases are being spewed into the atmosphere than ever
before, particularly from the developing world and it takes the
Earth more than 100 years to recycle every pound of carbon dioxide
that man puts up there. So if the world puts off doing something
until all the scientists agree, it may be too late to fix the
With every individual report highlighted with an Al Gore quote,
the abcnews.com Web site continued the hype: "There is mounting
evidence that we have begun changing Earth’s climate," including
"the spread of tropical diseases like malaria." Crandall told
MediaWatch: "The spread of malaria, dengue fever, and
other tropical diseases has more to do with poor sanitation and
breakdowns in public health measures than with increases in
temperature. In 1995, for example, dengue fever rolled up through
Mexico and stopped dead at the U.S. border. The reason for that
should be obvious."
Crandall noted that network
staffers called, not for their arguments — just for their funding
sources. "Peter Jennings Reporting producer Sara Silver
contacted us (and the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other
groups) last summer about our funding sources. I sent her a ton of
documentation about Gore’s efforts to smear Fred Singer and this
Project [including a 1994 edition of ABC’s Nightline]...and
said we’d be happy to show her our Form 990 funding statements, as
we are required by law as a non-profit, and that we would welcome
her and her camera crew into our offices. Come on down, I said! I
never heard from her again."
Clinton Communion Condoned
Catholics may have been upset by President Clinton
taking communion at a Catholic church in South Africa, but no network
ran a full story on it and NBC contended Clinton did nothing wrong. In
the week after the March 29 incident, 30 seconds on the CBS Evening
News was all the network time the controversy earned.
On Palm Sunday, April 5, New York’s Cardinal O’Connor
condemned Clinton’s action, but ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN all skipped the
dispute. By April 7 ABC’s Good Morning America caught up, but
couldn’t have given it lower priority: 22 seconds at 8:30 am.
On April 8 Today showed Father Andrew Greeley a
clip of O’Connor calling Clinton’s action "legally and doctrinally
wrong." Greeley argued that "a lot of priests in this country and in
other countries too push the envelope. They say at weddings and funerals
they invite people to receive communion so that those in mixed
marriages, the families of the non-Catholic spouse won’t be offended or
feel excluded. This happens... everywhere."
Co-host Katie Couric put the burden on O’Connor:
"President Clinton has been really severely criticized in this whole
thing. Do you think some of that criticism is fair or what do you think
is motivating Cardinal O’Connor?" Greeley attacked another President: "I
wouldn’t try to guess the Cardinal’s motivations. I do know that when
Ronald Reagan who was technically a fallen away Catholic in a marriage
the church wouldn’t recognize, when he received communion back in the
early 1980s nobody protested. So maybe there’s special rules for
Clinton offends millions of people of religious faith,
yet NBC managed to turn that into an opportunity to denounce Ronald
Harsh Truth. When House
Majority Leader Dick Armey called the President "shameless" and
suggested he should resign, the media dropped its mantra that the GOP
wants nothing to do with impeaching a popular President, and uniformly
labeled Armey’s remarks "harsh."
On NBC’s Today show April 7, anchor Ann Curry
declared: "House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he stands by his harsh
comments about Bill Clinton." On ABC, Good Morning America’s
Kevin Newman put harshness on both sides: "House Majority Leader Dick
Armey and the White House are trading some harsh words." But Newman
didn’t cite any White House quotes.
On CNN, The World Today’s Jim Moret began a
report on the story: "House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he stands by
his harsh comments about Bill Clinton."
Four days earlier on The World Today, CNN’s Bob
Franken broadcast comments from William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky’s
attorney, noting "Ginsburg is pressing hard on Starr to end his probe
altogether." Ginsburg said Starr was shameless: "How ‘bout the will of
the American people, Mr. Starr? Have you no shame sir?" Franken never
used the word "harsh."
Sympathetic Little Crooks?
During Watergate, reporters hardly complained that prosecutors were
putting minor participants on trial to build a case against bigger fish.
Not so with Bill Clinton. On the April 4 CBS Evening News, Sharyl
Attkisson took up the cause of crooks with Clinton Cabinet ties: "Patsy
Wooten was prosecuted after an Independent Counsel caught her and her
husband lying on a house loan application for her sister, Linda Medlar,
who had an affair with former housing secretary Henry Cisneros. The
counsel was investigating Cisneros, but when he came upon the Wootens,
he prosecuted them....When former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy became
the target of an Independent Counsel, so did everyone else in Espy’s
life. Last month, his chief of staff, Ron Blackley, got a prison
sentence for lying about his income." (Actually, Blackley received
$22,000 from Mississippi friends with business before the Agriculture
Although prosecutors commonly press tangential actors
to gain cooperation against high-level officials, Attkisson suggested
new indictments by Whitewater counsel Ken Starr would be regrettable:
"All that power, time and money has netted little in the way of major
charges against top officials. That has people wondering whether Kenneth
Starr will end up with serious findings against President Clinton, or
merely bring charges of lying against associates like Monica Lewinsky."
Bill’s Big Guns. Gun rights
groups protested that Bill Clinton blatantly bypassed Congressional
authority when he issued an executive order banning importation of
assault weapons. CBS actually attacked him for it — but from the left.
On the April 6 Evening News, Scott Pelley worried the ban didn’t
do go far enough. "Dan, the assault gun ban bans the importation of 58
kinds of military style weapons. Now that sounds impressive but the ban
actually has a loophole in it that is big enough to drive a tank
through." Pelley dutifully aired Clinton’s announcement capitalizing on
the recent Jonesboro shooting, but ignored gun-rights advocates.
Right after Pelley’s report, Jim Stewart blamed guns
not criminals for recent tragedies: "Pick almost any scene from a
slaughter in recent U.S. history and at the core of it you will find a
madman and his assault weapon." Stewart went on to recount infamous
shootings at a Stockton schoolyard, a Texas McDonalds and a Hollywood
bank robbery. Stewart ended by warning that large-capacity magazines
"turn your average semi-automatic assault gun into its full blown
military cousin. And in the blink of an eye turn an otherwise ordinary
crime scene into a virtual war zone."
The National Rifle Association’s Tanya Metaksa noted
the guns Clinton banned "conform in every way to the law he himself
wrote, signed, and pledged would rid the streets of violence in 1994."
But CBS didn’t bother pointing out how the already existing law failed
to prevent the violence Stewart cited.
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