Perjurers Pay, Unless They’re President?
Hearing Forces Networks
to Dwell (Briefly) on Clinton Parallels
Veterans Administration psychiatrist Barbara Battalino and former
college basketball coach Pam Parsons stood before the House Judiciary
Committee December 1, telling their stories of how lying about sex in
federal civil suits cost them their livelihoods and their freedom.
Battalino’s case carries striking
similarities to President Clinton’s. Battalino lied about having oral
sex with one of her male patients, who had filed a malpractice suit
against her. Although the civil case was later dismissed, Battalino
still faced the perjury charges because the patient produced secret
phone tapes of conversations with her. This year, Janet Reno’s Justice
Department prosecuted her and she was sentenced to six months of home
detention and a $3,500 fine.
Even with so many parallels to the
Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, reporters have been slow to cover Battalino’s
case. After first being uncovered by David Tell in his June 22 Weekly
Standard editorial, Battalino’s story aired on Dateline, Today,
20/20 and NBC Nightly News — all of them four months later,
after the election.
The networks and news magazines could
have jumped at the chance to examine Battalino’s case, and others like
her, when she testifed before Congress. The networks all included at
least one clip of their testimony in the news shows that evening, but
ABC’s and CBS’s evening shows have yet to air full stories about people
like Battalino and Parsons who have faced punishment for lying under
oath about sex in a civil case.
On the CBS Evening News, Bob
Schieffer referred to Battalino this way: "A woman under house arrest
for lying under oath said if she had to be punished, so should the
President." No mention of any of the parallels between Battalino and the
President, not even that she lied about sex. On ABC’s World News
Tonight, Linda Douglass also quickly passed over the hearing as a
partisan demonstration: "Republicans charge there is evidence Mr.
Clinton lied under oath, a crime for which ordinary citizens can be
convicted. To make that point, they showcased two women, convicted for
lying in court about sex." By contrast, NBC’s Pete Williams led off his
story with the women’s testimony.
Some national media outlets continue to
ignore the 115 people now serving time for committing perjury in federal
court proceedings. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World
Report ignored the Battalino-Parsons testimony the following week,
as they’ve ignored all these perjury precedents for the past ten months.
For months the networks have relentlessly polled the American people on
the Lewinsky matter and then proclaimed the public’s continuing approval
of Clinton’s job performance. CBS has added how the people want Ken
Starr to wrap up his investigation. So it came as a surprise when Dan
Rather went agnostic on the justice-by-opinion-polling strategy.
On the November 25 CBS Evening News,
Rather ended a story on Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s push to challenge
euthanasia laws with a new poll: "A CBS News poll out tonight suggests
that by more than two to one Americans do not consider what Kevorkian
did, injecting a terminally ill patient with legal drugs at the
patient’s request, to be the same as murder." Then Rather warned that
bowing to poll results is not the equivalent of justice: "You may want
to note that laws are not supposed to be enforced on the basis of public
Back on August 7, when a federal appeals court ruled against Ken Starr’s
office and allowed Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to proceed with an
investigation of whether the independent counsel’s office illegally
leaked information, every network ran a story that evening. Fast forward
to Friday, December 4. A New York Times headline announced:
"Judge Finds Starr’s Aides Did Not Abuse Lewinsky." A complete
vindication for the Starr team? Yes, but the networks were mum.
None of the Big Three networks mentioned
the Holloway decision. Not even CNN’s Inside Politics noted the
revelation, which invalidated a favorite Clintonista talking point. The
Fox News Channel was the only television network to do a story, on
Special Report with Brit Hume. In the December 4th New York Times,
Don Van Natta Jr. reported what other papers picked up on Saturday. Not
even that widespread print coverage generated a syllable on the weekend
broadcast network shows.
Van Natta detailed the Holloway finding:
"Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors did not forbid Monica Lewinsky to call her
lawyer when they first confronted her at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Jan.
16, and in fact they gave her several opportunities to call anyone she
chose, a federal district judge ruled in a finding unsealed this week."
The decision, issued on April 28, said Starr’s staff "acted within the
ethical rules in questioning Ms. Lewinsky without her attorney present."
All ABC News shows ignored Holloway’s
clearing of Starr, even though Diane Sawyer railed about it in her
20/20 interview with him on November 25. She demanded at one point:
"Which brings us to the question of the team’s highly criticized
tactics. Did they cross the line? First with Monica Lewinsky, when nine
federal officers took her to a room at the Ritz-Carlton and put pressure
on her to turn on the President?" Will 20/20 add an update or
compound the interview’s imbalance?
CNN Would Hire Monica?
Wall Street Journal editorial writer John Fund came across a
nugget on page 4,293 of Linda Tripp’s grand jury testimony. Tripp
recalled how Bill Clinton told Lewinsky that CNN President Rick Kaplan
would jump at the chance to help him out by hiring Lewinsky. Kaplan is a
long-time Clinton friend who stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom and while
with ABC News in 1992 advised Clinton on how to spin the media in order
to overcome the Gennifer Flowers revelation.
In the grand jury room a prosecutor asked
Tripp: "Did Monica Lewinsky and the President discuss the possibility of
other jobs, particularly in the media?"
Tripp replied: "Yes. The President
suggested when he wanted a list of — a wish list of where she wanted to
go — and she had vague ideas, but nothing specific enough to allow him
to have a specific clear idea, they talked about networks. And he
instantly said that someone who would do anything he asked was someone
named — I think his first name is Richard, but Kaplan at CNN, who had
recently, I believe, gone from ABC to CNN who he said was a very, very
close friend and was heading up CNN in Atlanta. He could make that
happen with a snap of his fingers." Monica could have brought Kaplan
Is Henry Hyde a Hypocrite?
CNN, MSNBC Ignore Gore
The December 4 Los Angeles Times
article "Hyde’s View on Lying is Back Haunting Him" was lapped up by CNN
and MSNBC, which painted Henry Hyde as a hypocrite for condemning lying
now but defending it in Oliver North’s Iran-Contra case. CNN at least
let North try to explain how the two cases were fundamentally different,
but the stories all focused exclusively on Hyde while ignoring the fact
that the same point could clearly be made about scores of Democrats who
denounced lying then and seem unfazed by it now.
The same day the Los Angeles Times
hit on Hyde appeared, a fax from the Republican National Committee
arrived in media offices around Washington. It highlighted a June 30,
1987 story in the very same newspaper about Al Gore announcing his
presidential candidacy. The Times quoted Gore as vowing to
"restore the rule of law and respect for the truth and common sense to
the White House." But the all-news networks ignored that.
CNN anchor Joie Chen noted Hyde’s words
from the Iran-Contra days were "coming back to haunt him." Following two
soundbites from Hyde from the Iran-Contra hearings, Frank Sesno posed
this question: "Oliver North and Bill Clinton. Are the cases that
different? Have the rules changed? Or is Henry Hyde a hypocrite?"
Sesno then let North respond to the
charges and provided some context to the events, leaving the viewer with
some sense that the cases were possibly different. North argued there
was a major distinction between lying to protect the country’s national
security interests and lying before a grand jury simply to protect
Meanwhile over on MSNBC, Gwen Ifill
skipped over Hyde’s side of the story and offered none of the background
Sesno presented, although she did acknowledge that Clinton aides "made
sure reporters knew about the story." She added: "When Hyde was a member
of the 1987 Iran-Contra committee he said lies should be judged quote
‘in the murkier grayness of the real world’ and he quoted Thomas
Jefferson." In his coda performance on MSNBC’s The Big Show,
Keith Olbermann gleefully ridiculed Hyde, at one point musing that
"politics makes strange bedfellows. The Henry Hyde of 1998 must sleep
with the Henry Hyde of 1987 — if he can."
ABC Boasts of Diane
Sawyer's Attack Interview
Ken Starr, Demented Puritan Porn Pusher?
months of saying nothing but a few pleasantries getting into his car
outside his house, independent counsel Kenneth Starr consented to an
interview with ABC’s 20/20 airing November 25. But Starr must not
have made a long list of demands for ABC to land the interview, since
ABC promoted it as an opportunity to use Starr as a punching bag. The TV
promos hyped Diane Sawyer’s harsh questions: "Do I have a right to ask
you about your sex life?...Is this a witch hunt?...When are you going to
wrap this up?"
ABC also touted its hostility in
newspaper ads placed around the country: "Prosecutor? Or persecutor?
Wednesday night, you’re the judge. Tomorrow night, in an exclusive
interview, Diane Sawyer asks Ken Starr the tough questions: Is this a
witch hunt? Was all the salacious detail necessary? What do you really
think of the Clintons? When will it all end? No matter which side you’re
on, the answers will surprise you." Sawyer’s queries could be placed in
PRUDE. Sawyer suggested Starr’s
moral beliefs somehow disqualified him from investigating. "Tonight, an
exclusive interview with independent counsel Kenneth Starr, a man
accused of trying to impose his personal beliefs on everyone else."
Sawyer then proclaimed we knew little about Starr: "We only knew that
his investigation has polarized a nation and that most everybody says
it’s time for him to stop. And something else — a question about him.
Has he really been pursuing the President to enforce the law, or because
of his private view of personal morality?"
She pressed strongly on Starr’s
prudishness: "Someone said, who had worked for you, ‘He would just die
if you told a dirty joke in front of him.’ True?...Do you hate R-rated
movies?... You almost went in the ministry?" She asked of his upbringing
in the Church of Christ, "No dancing, no movies?....So did you think it
[dancing] was wicked?" Sawyer implied Starr is too religious to be
trusted: "I think one of the things that makes people uneasy is the
concern that your religious principles are an engine fueling your legal
work. And they read that you jog and sing hymns and pray. And I think
they wonder. Do you think God is on your side?...Because, again, people
wonder if you understand human frailty.... in this area, this strange
continent of marriages ....Can you separate the way you feel from the
extent to which you think it’s important?" To underline how odd he was,
Sawyer asked: "I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, ‘Ask
him.’ Do I have a right to ask about your sex life?" Starr declared he
could answer he has been faithful to his wife.
Sawyer implied all this proved he was too
uptight for America: "So what happens when this man becomes independent
counsel and begins investigating a President charged with covering up,
lying under oath about a sexual relationship?" She asked Starr: "Do you
think in that sense, you were out of touch with the political judgment
of the American people, who say everyone was covering up sex. There was
gambling in the casino in Casablanca and you are the only one who is
shocked. We are not shocked." Sawyer didn’t ask if Starr’s job is to
uphold the law, regardless of public opinion, or to be "in touch with
PORNOGRAPHER. Then Sawyer’s logic
completely collapsed upon itself. She suggested the American people are
not shocked about the President’s Oval Office behavior, but were shocked
that Starr included explicit details in his referral to Congress. Sawyer
called the Starr report "a document denounced for its advocacy and, even
more, its voyeuristic detail." Sawyer argued: "I’m trying to imagine you
deciding to include in those footnotes, footnotes you will not hear on
TV, that cannot be denied that they are there to outrage and they are
there to shock." Starr disagreed, but she pressed on: "I think there
were 62 mentions of the word ‘breast,’ 23 of ‘cigar,’ 19 of ‘semen.’
This has been called demented pornography, pornography for Puritans.
Were there mistakes made in including some of this?"
Sawyer added: "I still don’t understand
what a cigar has to do with whether the President should be impeached."
Sawyer noted that the Starr team felt that to prove the perjury, they
had to provide the intimate details. But she did not explain the
President specifically and repeatedly denied a definition of sex which
included contact with breasts or genitals. Part of Starr’s argument,
made here more indelicately, is this: would the average adulterer have
trouble recalling Monica’s creative tribute to the tobacco industry?
OPPRESSOR. Sawyer promoted the
interview by calling Starr "The man who has held a country captive
finally speaks." She did not bring up how Clinton’s aggressive court
fights litigating "protective function privilege" and government
attorney-client privilege held up Starr’s probe. Despite her later gibe
that Starr lacked "fairness," she casually noted: "You’ve been compared
to Saddam Hussein, Nero, to Torquemada, who was the head of The
Sawyer saw a persecutor when Lewinsky was
confronted with her attempts to get Linda Tripp to lie under oath at the
Pentagon City mall: "People see a young girl who was in tears, who was
threatened with 27 years in prison possibly, who was told that her
mother might be prosecuted based on things she had said about her
mother, who was to wire herself or tape the President or Vernon Jordan.
And they say this isn’t John Gotti. This isn’t Timothy McVeigh."
She even suggested that prosecutors are
unfair if they act to insure that existing sexual harassment law is
enforced: "But people believe that if Bill Clinton misled in that
deposition, it was because he was being asked about something he
shouldn’t have been asked about in the first place.... It doesn’t matter
that it was legally correct....But fairness. Fairness to be asked about
all of the people that you slept with?"
Ambiguity and humanity were synonyms to
Sawyer, in contrast to Starr’s scandalous certitude: "You know, you have
been cast in the role of a moral crusader in an ambiguous world, that
you are self-righteous, sanctimonious, that you have moral certainty
into areas where other people have doubt and humanity. What do you think
about extramarital sex?" Later, when Starr defended the explicit nature
of his referral, Sawyer suggested: "It seems to me, listening to you,
that you have no doubt that what you did in the referral was the right
thing. You have no doubt that proceeding against the President in the
way you have proceeded is the right thing. There is something about
certainty that scares a lot of people."
RIGHT-WING CONSPIRATOR. ABC had to
ask: "Are you part of a right-wing conspiracy?" Sawyer explained that
Linda Tripp "is now a recognized soldier in the army of Clinton haters"
and also mentioned "millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who hired people
to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton and funded a chair at Pepperdine
University for Ken Starr." It didn’t matter that Starr’s never talked to
Scaife. Sawyer asked: "This one degree of separation, lawyers in your
firm to the Paula Jones attorneys, Richard Mellon Scaife and Pepperdine
University, and these are the President’s enemies. And they’re just
outside your door, some people think inside. Do you at least see what
that looks like?"
Sawyer didn’t feel the need to provide
any evidence behind these suspicions — for example, to prove Scaife is
lying when he said for the record that neither he nor his staff has met
with Starr or had anything to do with his Pepperdine appointment. Just
like the President’s team, merely raising the charge is the point. But
for Sawyer or other TV stars to rail against Starr’s lack of objectivity
is bizarre. Starr could have answered with a question: "And since you,
Ms. Sawyer, have been listed as a ‘major individual contributor’ to the
National Organization for Women — do you at least see what that looks
like?" Sawyer looked as partisan as one of the Democratic members of the
House Judiciary Committee in her attacks on Starr. Humane ambiguity was
not on her agenda.
the Bright Side
Beginning in early April and
cresting in May and June, The New York Times and other newspapers
developed the story that Chinese companies were gaining access to
sensitive missile technology through the weakening of export controls by
the Clinton administration, which in turn took large contributions from
software and satellite companies. Since April, ABC has aired only three
stories, but the December 2 20/20 offered the best television
story yet on how China is exploiting American business contacts in its
quest for military modernization.
Reporter Chris Wallace
explained: "Tonight, you’ll hear a story you’ve never heard before: how
U.S. aerospace companies may have helped China build better rockets at
the expense of America’s national security." Wallace asked Al Coates, a
recently retired monitor of overseas launches: "As a routine matter, are
American companies giving sensitive information to the Chinese?" Coates
replied: "I believe they are." Wallace inquired: "What has the effect of
all this been on U.S. national security?" Coates answered: "They have a
better capability at striking us." Wallace replied: "You mean we’re less
safe?" Coates: "We’re less safe."
Wallace explained: "Coates
has been warning the government for years about what American companies
have been doing in China. Last month, frustrated by the lack of
response, Lieutenant Colonel Coates quit after 29 years in the Air
Force. Tonight, he’s going public about the aerospace industry for the
Coates told of constant
problems with security lapses with Hughes Electronics, from being able
to break into their Chinese plant to literally stopping meetings because
too much technical information was being given away. ABC couldn’t get
comment from Hughes, but did use footage of congressional hearings this
summer where Hughes Chairman Michael Armstrong and Vice Chairman Steven
Dorfman testified. Wallace explained that while candidate Clinton
supported cutting back on Chinese satellite deals, "Over time, the White
House made it easier than ever for satellite companies to do business in
China. And guess who the President put in charge of his export advisory
council? Hughes’ Michael Armstrong."
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