House Managers Get Less Time, Compliments
In Love With the White House Lawyers
the Senate impeachment trial was interrupted by the State of the Union
address, the mediaís determination to damage it intensified. Among the
- Adding ABC, CBS, and NBC
together, the House managers drew less total evening soundbite time (2
minutes, 25 seconds) than the Clinton team (3 minutes, 6 seconds).
- Adding the February 1
editions of the three news magazines together, the White House lawyers
drew 297 words of direct quotation, while the week before, the House
managers were given 141 words.
- When the Senators asked
questions to both sets of lawyers on January 22 and 23, CBS and NBC
aired none of it and ABC aired just ten seconds to illustrate
"softballs" thrown to the managers. But all three seized on comments
from Pat Robertson and Robert Byrd that the trial should end.
THE FACE TIME GAP. While
all three broadcast networks gave White House Counsel Charles Ruff an
hour more live coverage on the afternoon of January 19 than the House
managers received, the length of soundbites granted to White House
arguments on the Senate floor varied from network to network.
During White House arguments
from January 19 to 21, CBS showed the most favor for the White House by
more than doubling the 35-second average it gave the House managers to
80 seconds a night. NBC increased its soundbites for the Clinton team to
53 seconds a night, about 25 percent more than the 40-second average for
the managers. ABC dropped from the 70 seconds a night it offered the GOP
to 53 seconds for Clintonís crew.
CNN, which showed both sidesí
presentations live, gave the White House much less soundbite time in its
8pm ET hour: from an average of six minutes and 36 seconds for the House
prosecutors to two minutes and 57 seconds for the Presidentís lawyers.
HAIL THE LIARíS LAWYERS. Clintonís counsels also drew the lionís
share of TV praise. Just after Ruff wrapped up on the 19th, CBSís Bob
Schieffer was impressed: "I thought that Mr. Ruff was quite eloquent in
the way he wound that up. Just prior to that, a very clever pre-emptive
strike." Schiefferís January 14 verdict on the GOPís Hyde and
Sensenbrenner: "Thus far, Dan, we have not heard either Clarence Darrow
or William Jennings Bryan, this has been fairly tedious."
Another contrast was evident on
Nightline. On January 14, Koppel assessed the House case: "It
was, as Nightline correspondent Chris Bury reports, pretty
straightforward, pretty dry, bordering at times on dull." On the 19th,
Koppel noted "a terrific day for Mr. Ruff and a terrific speech for him,
one which got extraordinary reaction."
While the January 20 arguments
of Greg Craig and Cheryl Mills attracted fewer quotes, Mills enjoyed
puffy profiles. On Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer
cooed: "Cheryl Mills of the gentle gestures and velvet voice....Her
friends say theyíve never seen her like that before, that the lawyer
behind the politeness and pearls is in fact a fast-talking, fiercely
combative, fight-to-the-finish opponent, and thatís why both Clintons
want Mills on the team....The portrait she keeps on her office wall is
Michael Jordan. At the age of 33, sheís in the starting lineup of the
On the night of January 21, ex-Sen.
Dale Bumpers drew unanimous raves. ABCís Linda Douglass called him "at
ease and confident." On CBS, Dan Rather touted how the Clinton defense
"had a homespun wind-up and wallop today." CNNís Jeanne Meserve asserted
Bumpers "used folksy humor, his renowned rhetorical skills and his
knowledge of the Constitution." NBCís Gwen Ifill found "a folksy and
pointed defense of an old friend."
While Greg Craigís daily
criticism of the GOP case drew quotes or an entire story as the managers
presented their case, none made time for reaction from a Republican as
the Democrats closed their arguments on the 21st. ABC avoided any GOP
reaction, while CBS and NBC ran the same clip of Hyde simply opposing a
short-circuit of the process.
THE END-IT-NOW CHORUS. The question and answer sessions on January
22 and 23 drew just ten seconds of Big Three air time. Even CNN provided
only 97 seconds of soundbites on those two evenings (52 seconds for the
House, 45 for the White House). But calls to end the trial energized the
networks, especially when Pat Robertson declared, "They might as well
dismiss this impeachment hearing and get on with something else because
itís over as far as Iím concerned."
ABCís and NBCís morning shows
ran stories the next day, and all three networks told the story that
night. On CBS, Eric Engberg concluded, "Republican insiders say
Robertson was simply stating the obvious, that the party should not
prolong the trial." NBC reporter David Bloom relayed Robertson and
George Bushís complaint that there is now "excessive intrusion into
The same emphasis greeted Sen.
Robert Byrdís surprise call on the 22nd for a hasty end to the trial.
All the networks led with Byrd. Peter Jennings opened: "Senator Byrd is
a constitutional scholar, sometimes called the conscience of the Senate
on such matters, and if he says itís okay to dismiss the case other
politicians in both parties may decide itís okay to follow." CBSís Bob
Schieffer claimed that "Byrdís announcement is not so significant just
because heís so revered here, but also because many Democrats thought he
was ready to convict the President." NBCís Tom Brokaw asserted: "Robert
Byrd, one of the senior statesmen of the Senate, caught everyone by
surprise when he announced late this afternoon he would move to have the
trial dismissed....This will put a lot of pressure on the Republicans."
RELATIVESí REBUTTAL. While the networks gave few chances for
Republicans to rebut White House arguments, on the 25th NBCís Fred
Francis focused on how one manager was opposed within his own family:
"Most of the citizens strongly support their Congressman, a House
prosecutor, Lindsey Graham. Grahamís slice of the Southís Bible Belt is
in stunned disbelief that the President may be acquitted... But even
within this religious community, at Lindsey Grahamís own church, some
say the Congressman has gone too far. Grahamís Aunt Verna and Uncle
Hollis, who helped raise him, say heís wrong."
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