AM Wrap: CBS Puts 'Libby Pardon' On Screen, ABC: 'Above the Law?' --7/3/2007
2. Flashback: In 2001 Nets Not So Fast to Jump on Rich Pardon
3. On Wednesday, C-SPAN2 Will Air MRC's Gala with DisHonors and Rush
On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Clinton bypassed standard procedures to pardon Rich, a fugitive from justice over fraud and tax evasion, hiding overseas, and whose ex-wife was a big Democratic contributor. Yet of the three morning shows, only ABC's Good Morning America mentioned his name.
[The transcripts in this CyberAlert were provided by MRC analysts Scott Whitlock (ABC), Justin McCarthy (CBS) and Geoffrey Dickens (NBC).]
In that July 3 Early Show story with the inaccurate "Libby Pardon" on screen throughout, Bill Plante asserted: "Congressional Democrats also lined up to condemn the President's decision." Viewers then heard from Senator Hillary Clinton on the stump in Iowa: "What we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law." Instead of bringing up the Rich case, Plante moved on: "Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who tried Libby was also not very happy. He put out a press release taking issue with the President's statement that the sentence was excessive and he vowed to work to preserve Libby's conviction through the appeals process."
Over on NBC's Today show, Kelly O'Donnell set up the same Clinton soundbite: "A blast of reaction, quickly, from the campaign trail. Democrat Hillary Clinton, Monday night in Iowa." NBC viewers were then treated to Senator Clinton: "And what we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law." Unlike Plante, however, O'Donnell managed a vague reference to the Rich case as she relayed how "the head of the Republican National Committee said that Hillary Clinton had shown that her head had been in the sand during her husband's administration."
On Good Morning America, the MRC's Scott Whitlock noted in a NewsBusters posting, David Kerley showcased Clinton's "cronyism" shot, but didn't raise Rich's name. However, towards the end of the second 7am half hour segment on the Libby commutation, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos from East Hampton, he acknowledged the oddity of 2008 candidate Hillary Clinton slamming Bush's actions: "But this could become an issue in the general election because it was such an unpopular decision with the general public, although candidates like Hillary Clinton are subject to a counterattack. Remember, President Clinton had a very controversial pardon of Marc Rich and, of course, President Clinton himself, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was impeached for lying to Congress."
Then, during the 8am news update, David Wright's piece noted that "as Hillary lashed out at President Bush for commuting Scooter Libby's sentence" (video of Hillary Clinton saying "elevating cronyism over the rule of law"), Wright continued by pointing out how Bill Clinton, who was campaigning with her, "looked a bit uncomfortable, perhaps mindful that back in the day he did the same for his cronies."
With "Above the Law?" on screen over video of President Bush and then video of Scooter Libby, fill-in GMA co-host David Muir teased: "This morning, above the law? The President decides convicted White House official Scooter Libby should not go directly to jail. He's not going to jail at all. Was justice served?"
For Scott Whitlock's rundown of Tuesday's GMA coverage: newsbusters.org
When Today show guest Bill Kristol, Editor of the Weekly Standard, described comments from former Ambassador Joe Wilson as "ridiculous," Meredith Vieira demanded: "Why do you say those are ridiculous sir? There are many people who feel that this was a travesty of justice. So those who believe that are ridiculous?"
In the previous segment, Wilson had asserted: "I believe the President has utterly subverted the rule of law and the system of justice that has under-girded this country of ours for the past 220 years." He maintained that the commutation "guarantees that there is a cloud of suspicion put over the Office of the President, and makes him, potentially, a suspect in an ongoing obstruction of justice case." He also quipped: "Al Capone was convicted of, of tax evasion, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a mobster."
The relevant Vieira/Kristol exchange:
VIEIRA: But Bill did he go far enough with conservatives? I want to read a portion of a Wall Street Journal editorial from this morning. This is a quote now. "Mr. Libby deserved better from the President whose policies he tried to defend when others were running for cover." Is it possible that this decision to commute and not pardon will backfire with the President's conservative base, whose patience with him is already tried?
Flashback: Back in 2001, the broadcast network evening shows weren't quite so fast to jump on President Bill Clinton's Inauguration Day morning pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive from justice over fraud and tax evasion, who was hiding overseas and whose ex-wife was a big Democratic contributor. ABC's World News got to it a day later, but it took the NBC Nightly News another day and the CBS Evening News didn't bother reporting it until the Thursday after Clinton's Saturday morning action.
The Tuesday, January 23, 2001 CyberAlert recounted:
On Sunday's This Week, George Stephanopoulos praised Clinton's pardon of Susan McDougall: "She spent 18 months in prison because of what President Clinton did. It was the decent thing to do."
But then he complained: "There's at least one outrage from what I can tell. He pardoned a man named Marc Rich. You may not remember Marc Rich but he was a banker, a commodities trader who was trading with Iran while they were holding terrorists [actually the U.S. hostages of 1979-80] and trading with South Africa under the apartheid regime. Indicted by Rudy Giuliani. Instead of facing trial he went on the lam. He's lived in Switzerland for 17 years. His ex-wife has given $600,000 almost, over $500,000, to the Democratic Party over the last two years. This is outrageous."
Sunday night ABC's World News Tonight featured a whole story from Josh Gerstein on those upset by the Rich decision.
On Monday night, the NBC Nightly News caught up with a piece by Pete Williams on how Clinton's decision is "sparking outrage from people familiar with the case." Both ABC and NBC pointed out how his ex-wife is a large donor to Democrats and that Rich's lawyer, who appealed to Clinton, is former White House counsel Jack Quinn.
Sunday and Monday nights the CBS Evening News ignored the story.
END of Excerpt
For the CyberAlert in full: www.mediaresearch.org
Bill Clinton does wrong and on whom does CBS News put the burden? His critics! Four days after ABC's World News Tonight and three days later than NBC Nightly News, on Thursday night [January 25,. 2001 the CBS Evening News finally ran its first story about the pardon for Marc Rich. But check out how Dan Rather introduced it by portraying those concerned about it as the ones who are doing something unseemly:
"Critics of former President Clinton are going beyond the very end. They're raising new questions about one of the end of term pardons President Clinton granted. CBS's Jim Axelrod is looking into the case of fugitive financier Marc Rich and the circumstances that led to his pardon."
END of Excerpt
For more details, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
On Wednesday, July 4 at 3:20pm EDT (2:20pm CDT, 1:20pm MDT, 12:20pm PDT), C-SPAN2 is scheduled to carry the MRC's March 29 "2007 DisHonors Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2006" -- the showcase of the MRC's 20th Anniversary Gala -- which was followed by Rush Limbaugh accepting the MRC's first annual "William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence."
For a rundown of the evening's winners and a lot of pictures, as well as Real and Windows Media clips: www.mrc.org
The C-SPAN schedule page for Wednesday lists the exact start time at 3:21pm EDT, but it may be updated. Check it for any time change: inside.c-spanarchives.org:8080
The program should run for just under three hours.
-- Brent Baker