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 Media Reality Check

For Immediate Release: Keith Appell (703) 683-5004 - Friday, February 12, 1999
Vol. Three, No. 6

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Hecklers Present Wisdom, House Managers are "Two-Year-Olds," and Al Gore Wins with Democrats

The News Magazines Look Past a Verdict

     Heckling's never been more popular. All three news magazines share their TV brethren's passion for Mr. Richard Douglas Llamas, otherwise known as the heckler who shouted in the Senate gallery, "Good God Almighty, take the vote and get it over with!" Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report made it their quote of the week, while Time made it number two.

     Time's Nation section began with a mish-mash titled "What's Next for Bill and Hillary?" Nancy Gibbs cheered the anti-climactic appearance of Monica Lewinsky [See box]. In "Waiting for the Bell," James Carney and John F. Dickerson noted "the hapless Ed Bryant" and other House managers got nowhere with the witnesses, and didn't fare well with Senate colleagues: "the House managers have become pariahs, 'two-year-olds,' as a GOP senator disdainfully described them in a private meeting with his colleagues. 'And everyone knows you shouldn't give two-year-olds everything they want.'"

     Michael Weisskopf devoted two-thirds of a page to "When Will Starr Pull the Plug?" Weisskopf touched on the "murky plotline" of Jared Stern, the private investigator hired to investigate Clinton accuser Kathleen Willey, but mostly pushed Starr toward the exit. A graphic with the story on "Ken's New Options" sold Starr hard on his choices: "Indict Clinton: Divert criticism from Congress back to Starr himself -- watch poll numbers reach all-time low. Close up shop: Turn over open cases to Justice, ride into the sunset and make pots of money." Speaking of Starr in their "Winners and Losers" feature, Time touched briefly on Newt Gingrich: "IRS says foundation that gave him money was clean; message to Ken Starr: quitters win."

     Newsweek ignored the IRS clearing of Gingrich, but "Conventional Wisdom Watch" gave a down arrow to House Minority Whip Tom DeLay: "House impeach zealot reportedly lied under oath. Fortunately, not about sex." Willey only came up in connection in a story about Starr titled "So You Think It's Over?" Indicted Willey ex-friend Julie Hiatt Steele's lawyers issued a subpoena for materials from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff.

     In "Beyond Monica's Story," Howard Fineman was less jubilant and more skeptical than Time about Lewinsky's appearance: she had gone "adult-severe: dark suit, a strand of pearls, hair combed straight. And she came armored in other ways: by the experience of 22 prior interviews with authorities, by the schooling of lawyers in the art of minimalist truth-telling." Lewinsky "finally appeared on camera just as the soap opera she helped write was cancelled. But the scandal she symbolizes will influence the politics that follow: a brewing civil war within the Republican Party, the 2000 presidential campaign now beginning."

     U.S. News & World Report ignored Gingrich and noted Willey only in connection with the Steele subpoena of Isikoff. On the trial, Major Garrett and Chitra Ragavan took a different tack: that with the failure of a "finding of fact" vote, "the laws of political physics took over and Clinton became not the Republicans' target, but the Democrats' headache."

     But Kenneth Walsh looked ahead to how "Clinton's impeachment woes may have actually helped Gore in some ways, because his loyalty has won him both the admiration of Democrats across the country and the overwhelming gratitude of his boss." Charles Petit added "Al Gore's inspired space jam," a sidebar on Gore's idea of a $35 million satellite which always keeps the Earth's sunny side in view for the Internet. -- Tim Graham


L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent Baker, Tim Graham, Editors; Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd, Geoffrey Dickens, Mark Drake, Paul Smith, Media Analysts; Kristina Sewell, Research Associate.  For the latest liberal media bias, read the CyberAlert at






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