Broken Immunity; CNN Gives Credibility to Hillary's Attack; Dan Rather & Frogs
2) CNN lent credibility to the underlying theme of Hillary Clinton's conspiracy charge, insisting "there are connections that tie a loose web of conservative Clinton detractors to the crisis that threatens his presidency."
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Correction: The February 5 CyberAlert reported that "over a photo of him with President Clinton" NBC's Brian Williams commented on his days as an intern in the Carter White House. The photo showed a younger Williams with President Carter, not Clinton.
Monica is back. Even before today's New York Times report about Betty Currie being coached by the President about what to say, Thursday night the three broadcast network shows all aired at least one full story on Monicagate. That's up from just a few seconds Wednesday night on ABC and CBS.
Thursday night ABC led by emphasizing how Lewinsky would contradict the President and say the two did have sex. ABC also explored why the public is not reacting with more outrage. Though all three highlighted the charge from Lewinsky's team that Starr had reneged on an agreed upon immunity deal, CBS tagged its piece on the matter "exclusive." But CBS did not label as exclusive something that was: Scott Pelley's report that Clinton looked into trying to hide his calls to Lewinsky.
Charlie Trie's not guilty plea got a few seconds on ABC and CBS, but no time on NBC Thursday night.
Here are some highlights from the Thursday, February 5 shows:
-- Peter Jennings anchored ABC's World News Tonight from a Hay Adams hotel room overlooking the north side of the White House. Jennings opened by announcing:
"Good evening. Here in Washington tonight much like every night now it's about Monica Lewinsky and Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein and Monica Lewinsky. What will these challenges mean to Mr. Clinton's presidency? We're going to begin with Miss Lewinsky because today for the first time it is clear that she would contradict the President and say yes, yes they did have a sexual relationship."
Reporter Jackie Judd explained how Lewinsky would contradict Clinton, but he issued another denial publicly on Thursday. Judd also noted that the Lewinsky team says Starr reneged on a firm immunity deal, but Starr people say Lewinsky is holding back information on how Clinton told her to lie. Judd completed her story by raising the possibility that Deputy White House Chief-of-Staff Podesta may claim executive privilege if called again before the grand jury.
Later, ABC took "A Closer Look" at "the President and morality" as John Cochran explored why the public did not turn on the President. People in Washington, Cochran observed, thought Clinton was a goner, but people outside DC were nonchalant. "Washington insider were totally baffled," he noted before asking a conservative for an explanation: "Gary Bauer is a Washington insider and social conservative. Are you disturbed by the lack of moral outrage?" Bauer: "I'm troubled by it..."
Next, Jennings pointed out that while Clinton enjoys high approval from those who do not think he did anything with Lewinsky, among those who believe he did his approval falls to 49 percent. ABC then showed Jennings interviewing for about a minute and a half each Bill Bennett and "moral theologian" Lisa Cahill. He asked each about why the public has not reacted more negatively.
Finishing out the segment, ABC became the only broadcast network to pick up on the less than enthusiastic reception that greeted Clinton at a prayer breakfast. Jennings asserted:
"Here in Washington this morning the President spoke at a prayer breakfast -- here were many men and women concerned with the nation's moral compass. And several people who were there say
the air was thick with message: When the President was introduced the applause was restrained, even tepid, many stood but did not clap."
-- Two stories on stormy weather topped the CBS Evening News allowing Dan Rather to utter this transitional rhyme:
"Turning from the West under water, here's the latest now on the White House under fire. Special prosecutor Ken Starr went on defense today against talk that he is politically motivated. And President Clinton talked for the first time in days."
Scott Pelley showed Clinton's first answer in ten days in which he denied the "legal charges." Pelley added some news missed by ABC and NBC:
"CBS News has learned Lewinsky once worried that her co-workers were becoming suspicious, especially about phone calls she said she received from President Clinton in her office. White House telephones feature a screen that identifies callers. When Mr. Clinton calls the acronym POTUS appears, short for President of the United States. Lewinsky told friends that people in the office were beginning to notice. She told one friend that Mr. Clinton was checking into whether the ID system could be disabled."
Rather next announced: "CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has the exclusive, and there's no other word for it, bizarre details" on the immunity deal Lewinsky's lawyers say was made but broken by Starr. The only thing "bizarre" about the story was Rather calling it "exclusive" when ABC and NBC reported the same thing.
-- NBC Nightly News put Monica first. Claire Shipman ran through he day's events: another denial from Clinton during a press conference with Tony Blair, how Podesta may invoke executive privilege and how the FBI visited a Parcel Plus store where two weeks ago Lewinsky used the Internet and made phone calls.
Tom Brokaw segued into a report from David Bloom on the broken immunity deal charge: "And on the other hand in this high stakes game of legal and political poker, Monica Lewinsky's lawyers are saying, in effect, Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr's word cannot be trusted." Bloom also noted how Democrats are calling for an investigation of prosecutorial misconduct by Starr.
Later, in NBC's "In Depth" segment Lisa Myers looked at the next moves by Lewinsky and Starr as they maneuver. She reported that the FBI had subpoenaed TV news tape of Clinton when he injured his knee in Florida because it supposedly shows Lewinsky getting out of the car with Clinton, but DOD says she was at the Pentagon in Arlington at the time.
by linking all conservatives to the charges leveled by a few and by impugning the reputation of the key figures who have had the courage to come forward and bring evidence against Clinton. Instead of portraying Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp as heroes, the networks prefer to disparage them by suggesting their conservative views discredits their evidence.
If Nancy Reagan blamed a "vast left-wing conspiracy" for Iran-Contra, the media surely would have made fun of her, not detail the liberal views and connections among Reagan detractors. But by raising the activities of Clinton detractors reporters have given credibility to Mrs. Clinton's charges, as if some disreputable video put out once by Jerry Falwell but ignored by Republican leaders and the mainstream press, has had any impact or really matters.
To give you the whole story approach in full context, below is a nearly complete transcript of the February 1 CNN Impact story MRC analyst Eric Darbe considered important enough to transcribe after he determined that CNN failed to post this show on its transcripts Web page.
Bernard Shaw: "Is the President the target of a right-wing conspiracy as First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has charged? Has there been an organized effort to bring down this President? And if so is this alleged conspiracy at the root of the current crisis? Senior correspondent Kathy Slobogin examines the links between some of the key people in this crisis."
[Video of CPAC]
Kathy Slobogin: "This is ground zero for the war against the Clintons. At the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, held this week in Washington, D.C., Clinton bashing is a blood sport.
[soundbite of William Bennett]
Slobogin: "At this same gathering, just four years ago, Paula Jones first announced her charges against the President."
[clip of Paula Jones at 1994 CPAC]
Slobogin: "Jones' lawsuit was the springboard for the current crisis, it was three anonymous phone calls to her lawyers that first tipped them off to the name Monica Lewinsky. Now as the latest, most serious, crisis envelopes the President there is a party atmosphere here."
Floyd Brown: "But, my real question today is which one of you unzipped his pants. Now tell me..."
Slobogin: "It's gatherings like these that have the First Lady talking conspiracy. In fact, the Clinton's have weathered a punishing parade of investigations from the campaign trail to the White House. Gennifer Flowers, Troopergate, Travelgate, Whitewater, the alleged murder of White House counsel Vince Foster, whose death was ruled a suicide. And from the far right fringe even charges of drug running, and murder in a videotape produced by televangelist Jerry Falwell."
[Clinton Chronicles clip]
Slobogin: "The steady drumbeat of attack has come from a web of critics linked by their conservative politics and intense dislike of the President. Right wing radio hosts have fanned the flames."
[soundbite of Oliver North at CPAC]
Slobogin: "The allegations have ended up in the hands of conservative independent counsel Ken Starr. But despite convictions of a few Clinton associates, so far Starr has been unable to link the Clinton's to any criminal wrongdoing."
Don Baer, former White House Communications Director: "We have seen over and over again that a group of people who are related and interact with one another on some of these subjects have worked together, in concert, to put out some of the most salacious allegations about the personal lives of the Clintons with the intention of trying to bring them down."
Slobogin then dismissed Mrs. Clinton's overall claim, but lent credibility to her basic complaint, though Slobogin left open the possibility of a conspiracy because there's "still a lot we don't know." Slobogin announced:
"Is there a right wing conspiracy to bring down the President behind these new charges? So far, there is no evidence of that, although there is still a lot we don't know. The central questions are what the President did and whether he told the truth? But there are connections that tie a loose web of conservative Clinton detractors to the crisis that threatens his presidency. First, there is Linda Tripp a civil servant and former secretary under both Bush and Clinton who was transferred to the Pentagon by the Clinton White House and who befriended the young intern who allegedly had a sexual liaison with the President. Tripp had embarrassed the Clinton White House before, charging West wing incompetence during hearings into the death of the Vince Foster."
[soundbite of Linda Tripp before congressional hearing]
Slobogin: "Tripp also accused President Clinton of personal misconduct. In 1996 she told Newsweek that a women in the White House was groped and kissed by the President. The President's lawyer said she was not to be believed. A year before she secretly taped Lewinsky, Tripp was trying to peddle a book about misconduct in the Clinton White House. Next, there is Lucianne Goldberg the literary agent Tripp went to with her book proposal, and a key player in the emerging crisis. Goldberg says she is the one who convinced Linda Tripp to tape Monica Lewinsky, and urged Tripp to approach independent counsel Ken Starr. Goldberg denies she is right wing.
[Lucianne Goldberg: "You know there are no black helicopters on the roof here."]
Slobogin: "But Goldberg does have a conservative track record. She was a volunteer in former President Nixon's dirty tricks campaign, traveling as a spy on the McGovern press plane in 1972. She has admitted she detests President Clinton and agreed to represent one of his alleged former paramours. But she also represented a lobbyist, turned Playboy bunny, who reportedly 'entertained' prominent Republicans. Conspirator? More likely a book agent looking for scandal that sells. She is also an agent who knew where to take the goods. Goldberg shopped Linda Tripp's book outline to the conservative Regnery publishing house known for its Clinton bashing best sellers. Regnery's all time best seller: A book claiming to expose scandalous behavior in the White House. Those allegations, many of them dismissed by the mainstream press, were made by former FBI agent Gary Aldrich, another Clinton critic who figures in the story. Aldrich was a friend of Linda Tripp's at the White House. Did she share any of your perceptions about the Clinton White House?"
[Gary Aldrich: "Yes She did...]
Slobogin: "....Tripp herself says she's a registered independent, and calls White House tactics 'McCarthyistic'. She says she came forward with the tapes 'to report potential rimes.' Bill Kristol a conservative activist and magazine editor also bristles at the word conspiracy."
[soundbite of Bill Kristol]
Slobogin: "But Tripp may have had another motive for making the tapes. Impact has learned, from two sources close to Tripp, that in recent months she was considering houses in the half million dollar plus range in Virginia's Horse country. Telling one of the sources that she was talking to Realtors about buying a new home. Was Tripp whose Pentagon salary was $88,000 a year, expecting a financial windfall? Whatever Tripp's motives, how did her taped conversations find their way to independent counsel Ken Starr? Another conservative connection. Lawyer James Moody who represents her for free. A libertarian, he has also done pro bono work for conservative foundations which have attacked Clinton."
[Bill Kristol: "The charge against James Moody is that he is a lawyer who is a conservative, that's it..."]
Slobogin: "Finally there is the Clinton's arch nemesis Ken Starr. His links to Clinton detractors? He agreed to write a brief in the Paula Jones case. Once appointed independent counsel his law firm dropped the case. A year ago he almost took an academic job funded by millionaire Richard Mellon Sciaffe, a relentless Clinton opponent. And Starr is a friend of Alfred Regnery, publisher of many Clinton attack books. But Starr's conservative connections aren't the only thing that bothers Clinton supporters. The Lewinsky tapes have breathed new life into what they see as his endless investigation.
[soundbite of Don Baer]
Slobogin: "Have the Clintons been investigated, and attacked by a web of individuals with right wing connections? Yes. But do those connections add up to a conspiracy? Not so far with the evidence now available."
[soundbite of Thomas Patterson from Harvard University]
Slobogin: "There's no evidence that Clinton's detractors have orchestrated this scandal, but clearly they have the network in place to make the most of it. Nonetheless, what matters most for the survival of the Clinton presidency now is not his detractors, but whether Clinton is telling the truth."
Yes, but by giving time to highlighting the allegation Hillary Clinton tossed out the media took her bait, distracting attention from the deeds of her husband to the coincidence of disdain for Bill Clinton shared by his detractors. No wonder ABC News could report last Saturday that their poll found "a remarkable 45 percent of the public agreed that there is a conspiracy of right-wing conservatives trying to make he President look bad."
Rather odd. Asked Thursday night on the Late Show with David Letterman whether if without Paula Jones there would be no perjury or obstruction of justice, Rather replied:
"Ken Starr and his people have been working for three to four years, spent more than $30 million dollars, they've used dozens if not a hundred or so FBI agents. They may have turned this up, whether you had the Paula Jones case or not. But again maybe not, but again that's like if a frog had side pockets he'd probably wear a handgun. It didn't happen that way."
If Dan Rather weren't so wacky, frogs would..... (fill in your line here). -- Brent Baker
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