ABC News jumped all over Larry Flynt's hit on Bob Barr, though they
have no independent knowledge of its accuracy, while every other network
managed to show some restraint.
After a year of
much media consternation about how the "new media"
irresponsibly lack editors and gatekeepers to properly assess what's
really news and factual, the networks could have taken the high road and
ignored Larry Flynt's attack on Congressman Bob Barr. Actually, one
did: NBC News, ironically part of the same company which gave Flynt a
platform on CNBC's Rivera Live on Monday night. But Tuesday morning,
Today avoided Flynt while he appeared on both ABC's Good Morning
America and CBS's This Morning. On CBS at least the interviewer noted
the difference between adultery and the charges against Clinton of
perjury and obstruction of justice.
neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Flynt while
CNN's The World Today and FNC's Fox Report held their pieces to
brief updates. But not ABC which alone featured a full story on Flynt,
complete with this line from John Cochran: "Democrats sympathize
but say the sexual McCarthyism started when wealthy opponents of
President Clinton financed investigations into his relations with women
night Flynt got solo time on CNN's Larry King Live after Bob Barr. As
Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, reminded me, Flynt
is benefitting from a much more receptive media than did Gary Aldrich.
As noted in the July 1996 MediaWatch, after the former FBI agent wrote a
book on shenanigans at the White House where he had been assigned to
handle security clearances, he was invited onto ABC's This Week. But
after his appearance "reporters denounced Aldrich, and ABC's Nightline,
Dateline NBC, and CNN's Larry King Live canceled
interviews with him, echoing the White House line that guests meet a
'bare threshold of credibility.'"
-- Morning Shows, January 12. "A bare
threshold of credibility"? Good Morning America, now America's
third-rated morning show, brought aboard Flynt with Arianna Huffington
to talk about Flynt's charges that Barr lied in a deposition about an
affair and paid for his wife to have an abortion. But in a question to
Huffington co-host Elizabeth Vargas simultaneously conceded she didn't
know whether the abortion charge was true as she contended it
demonstrated Barr's hypocrisy:
"Well, in fact the information that Mr.
Flynt released last night, if it's true, and certainly Representative
Barr vehemently denies it, but it would sort of indicate a disconnect
between what he has said publicly on abortion and perhaps what might
have occurred privately?"
As MRC news
analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, earlier in the interview a question
from Vargas to Flynt implied that the Starr and GOP impeachment efforts
against Clinton demonstrated "sexual McCarthyism" which Flynt
is just complementing:
"Many believe, though, with this news
conference last night, that you have brought the politics of sexual
McCarthyism to a new, distressing low. What are you trying to accomplish
by doing this?"
Over on what is
now America's number two-rated morning show, CBS's This Morning,
Thalia Assuras narrated a piece on Flynt and then interviewed him alone
during the 8am half hour. Assuras at least challenged his premise that
Barr and Clinton are guilty of the same thing:
"But Mr. Flynt adultery is one thing, the
allegations of course against the President are that he lied under oath
and that he obstructed justice. Are you equating the two?"
But, fresh from
that good question, she then posed this inquiry hitting on Starr's
report: "Your Flynt Report, as it's being called, is it going to
be as salacious as some called the Starr report?"
-- Evening Shows, Tuesday January 12. CBS, CNN,
FNC and NBC opened with NBA player Michael Jordan's impending
retirement while ABC went first with the controversy over the Salt Lake
Olympics, followed by Jordan. Every network noted how Clinton sent an
$850,000 check to Paula Jones with about half coming from an insurance
policy, but none explored how an insurance policy would properly cover
All but ABC also
aired pieces on the latest White House attack on the House case, but in
a refreshing and unusual spin NBC actual made the Clinton team out to be
the "harsh" bad guys. On NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw
announced: "In Washington tonight, with just one day left before
opening arguments in the President's impeachment trial, the White
House again had some harsh words for the Republican's case, while the
trial managers held their fire and the Senate tried to savor the calm
before the storm."
On the Flynt
front, as noted above, CBS and NBC rose above it and CNN aired a short
clip of Wolf Blitzer talking about it with Barr. Fox Report anchor Todd
Connor delivered a brief item which uniquely highlighted Larry Flynt's
hypocrisy: "Porn king Larry Flynt says he's too sick to go on
trial, but he's not too sick to hold news conferences. The Hustler
publisher is supposed to go on trial next week for selling obscene
videotapes to a 14 year-old in his Cincinnati store. But he was well
enough to try to fling more dirt at Republicans in Congress last night.
Flynt accused conservative Congressman Bob Barr of lying under oath
about having an affair and paying for an abortion for his ex-wife."
After a clip of Flynt blaming Starr for starting the process, Connor
noted Barr's denial.
And now to ABC's World News Tonight which alone gave Flynt full
billing. After noting the White House attack on the House managers,
anchor Peter Jennings announced:
"One of those House managers is getting
roasted today by the publisher of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt. Mr.
Flynt says that Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia is a hypocrite because
he refused to answer questions under oath about an alleged affair and
that Mr. Barr, a very public opponent of abortion, paid for his former
to wife to have one. Mr. Barr is not happy to be in Mr. Flynt's
sights. In fact throughout Washington Mr. Flynt makes a lot of people
John Cochran began: "Whatever you think of
Larry Flynt or his pornographic magazine, he has shown that if you've
got enough money you can put an ad in the paper offering up to one
million dollars for dirt on Congressmen. And then mainstream journalists
will report your allegations about the personal life of, well Bob Barr
At least ABC
soundbite from Barr, Cochran continued: "But Flynt has others
scared by saying he's moving on to new targets, more Republicans who
he feels are persecuting Bill Clinton."
Cochran showed a clip of Flynt from GMA saying
he has eight other ongoing investigations of "right-wing
Cochran proceeded: "So under the Capitol
dome many now wonder and worry about whose private lives and sexual
preferences may be put on public view next. Republicans have sent
letters to broadcast organizations asking them not to put Flynt on
Pat Harrison, Co-Chair of the RNC, complained
about how the media have given legitimacy to Flynt as "all of a
sudden it's Mr. Larry Flynt." (Indeed, check the intro from
concluded by relaying the Clinton defender's spin that it's all
really the fault of conservatives:
"Democrats sympathize but say the sexual
McCarthyism started when wealthy opponents of President Clinton financed
investigations into his relations with women in Arkansas, including
Paula Jones. Larry Flynt says he's just evening the score, making
Clinton's enemies pay and making others wonder, will this ever
Geraldo Rivera rejoiced in the afterglow of his Monday night exclusive
on Rivera Live with Larry Flynt, scolding conservatives for daring to
hold Clinton legally accountable and saying "amen" to a 1992
Clinton prediction that the public will know he tries to do what's
best for them even if he's not perfect.
Upfront Tonight on CNBC Rivera lectured:
"If you live by the politics of personal
attack, you may end up slitting your own throat. Remember Dan Burton,
the Indiana Congressman who called the President a 'scumbag' only to
have his own checkered life exposed? And Idaho's Helen Chenoweth, who
savaged the President for his immorality, only to be exposed herself as
a philanderer? And the Speaker-elect, Bob Livingston, who put a
bull's-eye over the President's privates only to be revealed himself
as a Romeo? Say what you will about Larry Flynt, but he has made it open
season on hypocrites."
After a soundbite from Democratic Senator Frank
Lautenberg, Rivera led into a bite from Republican Senator Wayne Allard
by noting Republicans say it's about perjury not sex, but Rivera
"There is no doubt that most Americans
believe lying about sex is not the same as lying about say state
secrets. And before a politician rushes to expose the moral failures of
a rival, perhaps they should heed the advice of a former Southern
Clinton on Meet the Press, March 22, 1992:
"I believe they're sick of the politics of personal destruction.
I believe that as time goes on that more and more of those people will
say, 'well this guy told us all along he wasn't a perfect person but
he was a person who fought to improve his life, to improve his state and
he's fighting to improve this country.'"
Out making appearances to promote her new book on her journalism career,
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes who covered the Reagan White House for CBS
News, praised Hillary Clinton, claimed she saw signs of Reagan's
Alzheimer's in 1986 and, in standard liberal fashion, revealed that
she ended up admiring Nancy Reagan "greatly" because "she
grew enormously in the presidency" as "she moderated the
-- ABC's 20/20
on January 6. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this exchange leading
into a discussion of depression suffered by Stahl's husband:
Diane Sawyer: "What do you wonder about
Lesley Stahl: "What's going on behind
those eyes. I heard her give a talk the other day in New York. And she
was brilliant. She was so articulate. She was so intelligent. She's
almost poetic and, again, a mask on her face."
Sawyer: "A mask to conceal suffering.
Stahl has some experience with that..."
-- NBC's Today, January 12. MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens noticed and transcribed the part of the interview about
Reagan and Alzheimer's and how Nancy Reagan got Stahl's approval
when she pushed her husband to the left:
"As I mentioned, you've covered a number of Presidents and you give
your honest impressions of them. Ronald Reagan. You have an interesting
and somewhat sad impression of him as a President."
Lesley Stahl: "I try in the book to work
through whether he may have had Alzheimer's or the seeds of it at the
beginning of Alzheimer's when he was President. And of course no one can
diagnose Alzheimer's really until the very late stages. So I'm not
trying to diagnose but I'm trying to figure it out and I went into the
Oval Office one day in 1986 and he seemed to be, I don't want to rosy,
make this any rosier than it was, he seemed to be out of it. And I
thought I was going to have to report this but my husband was with me
and the minute the word Hollywood came up he took my husband off to the
side and he was completely engaged and totally alive and I didn't know
what to make of it."
Couric: "You suspected that some of his
close staff people suspected that this was happening as well but they
loved him so much they wanted to protect him."
Stahl: "Exactly. They loved him. Well I
mean they also had their own jobs to think about and their own
investment in his administration which they all believed in deeply as
you know but they also protected him as an individual because they
adored him. Everybody loved Ronald Reagan. And Nancy Reagan protected
him and I think..."
Couric, jumping in: "You give her a lot of
credit for keeping everything together."
Stahl: "Right. She started out a woman
whose values I questioned. I think a lot of the country..."
Couric, cutting her off again: "Well you
broke the story, right, about her designer gowns?"
Stahl: "Right that she was taking them
free without even reporting that they were gifts to her she was supposed
to report. And I believe that she grew enormously in the presidency and
that she changed and that she moderated the administration and I ended
up, I ended up admiring her greatly and thinking that she held things
together much more than we ever knew and we may never know because she
will continue to protect him forever I think."
Stahl is the scheduled guest for Wednesday's
Larry King Live on CNN. So, tune in and maybe you'll hear more of her
liberal politics and, I'm confident, her often told story about how
upset she was that flags, balloons and other patriotic images around
Reagan overwhelmed the text of her derogatory CBS stories.
-- Brent Baker
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