CyberAlert -- 01/27/1998 -- CBS Suggests Tripp Out for $
Published: 1/27/1998 1:00 AM ET
CBS Suggests Tripp Out for $; More Clift; Letterman's Top Ten1) CBS finds public opinion matches their reporting: people blame Clinton's enemies and consider Starr partisan. The CBS Evening News maligns the motives of Linda Tripp, and Dan Rather hits Lucianne Goldberg as a "Nixon campaign dirty trickster."
Blaming the investigator and the whistle-blower. Monday night CBS again questioned how Ken Starr traveled from Whitewater to sex and scrutinized Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp, questioning their motives, as if that should matter.
Dan Rather informed viewers of the January 26 CBS Evening News:
"The President may be helped by a public feeling that his troubles may be due more to others than himself. A CBS News/New York Times poll indicates a majority, 51 percent of Americans, feel the President's political enemies are more to blame than he is for creating the current situation. As for special prosecutor Republican Ken Starr, by nearly five to three people say he is conducting a partisan rather than an impartial investigation."
Gee, I wonder where they could get that idea. Could it be because a news anchor keeps calling him "Republican Ken Starr"?
With Clinton under media fire, after an ad break, Rather promised something new at CBS: accuracy and fairness.
"With facts, accuracy and fairness always as our guideposts, we're trying to dig deep as part of our coverage of the White House under fire. As part of that, we've taken a closer look for you at the link between the two people who ignited this story: Linda Tripp, the former Bush and then Clinton White House aide, who betrayed, by secretly taping, her friend Monica Lewinsky. And Lucianne Goldberg, the one-time Nixon campaign dirty trickster who got Tripp to do the taping. As CBS's Wyatt Andrews reports, the motive, at least some of it, may have been financial."
As pointed out in the January 25 CyberAlert, Goldberg also worked for Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy, but mentioning that would have ruined a perfectly good portrayal of Goldberg has a Clinton hater.
In the subsequent story Andrews reported that before taping Lewinsky, Tripp tried to sell a gossipy book about the White House. Agent Goldberg was looking for an expose of Clinton, but found Tripp's material too tame. Andrews asked: "So could it be that Linda Tripp was taping Monica Lewinsky to get the raw material for a salacious book? Goldberg admits she encouraged the taping to enhance Tripp's credibility."
But, Andrews did mention, Goldberg denied Tripp made the tapes in order to make money since there was no book proposal. "Still," Andrews concluded, "the public portrait of Linda Tripp is that of a woman who chanced upon a story of presidential sex and lies. Now it's clear, at a minimum, she was weighing what that story was worth."
This from a network enjoying a news rating boom from its "White House Under Fire" coverage.
Following another ad break Rather got to Starr, but managed to not tag him as a Republican in this loaded introduction to a "Reality Check" from Eric Engberg:
"From the beginning, critics of Whitewater special prosecutor Ken Starr have charged he is ideologically and politically motivated in his investigation of the Clintons, that he is, quote 'out to get the Clintons.' Now, the question now becomes how did Starr's investigation go from a 20 year old failed real estate deal in Arkansas to the sex life of a 24 year old former White House intern."
Another history lesson on how the media greeted and dismissed as unnewsworthy Flowers and Jones. Here's the front page article for the January MediaWatch, written Monday by Associate Editor Tim Graham:
Media Jolted by Lewinsky Story After Years of Saying Truth Wasn't Relevant
Dismissing Monica's Predecessors
As the allegations erupted that President Clinton told White House intern Monica Lewinsky to lie about their sexual relationship, the combination of sex and perjury charges jolted the media into action. But when questions of Clinton lying about his sex life arose in the past, the media suggested that whether Clinton was telling the truth was beside the point.
When the Gennifer Flowers story arrived in Time in 1992, writer Lance Morrow scolded: "If the public is going to behave like an idiot on the subject of sex, the candidate will naturally do almost anything to avoid telling the truth about any behavior less than impeccable." Morrow added: "Given the size of the job that needs to be done, it is time for America to get serious. At the very least, turn off the television set. And grow up about sex."
After the election, Morrow crowed in Time that Clinton "served to rehabilitate and restore the legitimacy of American politics" and that a Bush victory would have rewarded the use of "irrelevant or inflammatory issues...or dirty tricks and innuendo."
In December of 1993, The American Spectator broke the story of then-Governor Clinton using state troopers to secure sexual conquests. National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg noted: "When the American people hired Bill Clinton for this job, they knew he was no saint. He virtually told them he was a sinner." Newsweek's Joe Klein argued: "As long as the peccadilloes remain within reason, the American people will have great tolerance" for Clinton.
Paula Jones' 1994 allegation of earlier sexual harassment by Clinton got 16 seconds on ABC's World News Tonight; zilch on CBS and NBC. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift complained on C-SPAN: "It seems to me that the discussions about Bill Clinton's sexual life came up during the campaign."
When Jones filed suit in May of 1994, Tom Brokaw defended NBC's three-month smothering of the story by echoing Eleanor Clift, insisting on CNBC's Tim Russert: "It didn't seem to most people, entirely relevant to what was going on at the time. These are the kind of charges raised about the President before. They had been played out in the Gennifer Flowers episode." Had the American voters clairvoyantly known that Clinton would be accused of sexual harassment?
It shouldn't have been surprising that the media's most desperate Clinton defenders stuck to the same voters-don't-care mantra in the Lewinsky case. On January 21, Clift defended Clinton in live coverage on MSNBC: "Well, he's been elected twice with people knowing that he has had affairs. Now is the fact that this woman is 21, I mean she's still of age I suppose." Besides, Clift argued, "libido and leadership is often linked."
Yesterday's CyberAlert cited one comment from Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group. Here are a couple of more examples, caught by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, of Clift impugning Starr and Lewinsky:
-- "What's going on now are negotiations between Ken Starr and her lawyer, where Ken Starr is going to try to find out what she can offer up in testimony and he's playing hardball. And Mr. Ginsburg has already complained on television that Ken Starr is squeezing his client and that the FBI already interviewed her for six hours without her having benefit of attorney. And it does bring Mr. Starr's tactics into question in this whole episode."
-- "There's no way, based on what we know now that this stuff holds up in court. These tapes initially were made in, under questionable circumstances, state where there's a felony. We've got hearsay....This would not hold up in court which is why Kenneth Starr is putting it out into the public. His notion is, his notion is to turn public opinion and to get as much of the lurid details that are in these tapes, whether they are true or not and that is the one aspect we don't know. There may be a delusional quality here involved."
You never know, Bill Clinton could be another Richard Jewell. So warned a very cautious Bernard Shaw at the end of CNN's Impact on Sunday night in a quote picked up by MRC news analyst Eric Darbe:
"A final thought on what you have seen and heard in this edition of Impact. A breaking news story is never the full picture. Remember speculation that middle eastern terrorists bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building. In fact, Americans did it. Remember first reports that Princess Diana was hounded to death by the paparazzi. In fact, we learned that the man driving her speeding limousine was drunk. And that investigation is not over. Remember Richard Jewell highly suspected in the Olympic park bombing. In fact, the FBI apologized for targeting the wrong man. And now we are in the middle of another breaking story; the president and his accusers. All the facts are not in."
From the January 26 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten White House Jobs That Sound Dirty." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Polishing the presidential podium
9. Unwrapping the Big Mac
8. Taking Buddy for a walk
7. Handling the Hotline
6. Vacuuming under the Oval Office desk
5. Waxing Air Force One
4. Shaking hands with the French ambassador
3. Giving the President an oral briefing
2. Taking dictation
> Finally, Tuesday's Investor's Business Daily features a very informative front page story recounting how the media have given Clinton a pass in previous scandals. "A 6-Year Conspiracy of Silence" includes several quotes provided by the MRC illustrating journalistic disdain for Jones, Flowers, Troopergate and Gary Aldrich.
-- Brent Baker
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