ABC and CBS Shut Out Secret Service Agent; Left Coast Admirers
Corrections. The February 11 CyberAlert stated that "Bob Schieffer highlighted bad news for Clinton: the judge in Arkansas turned down Bob Bennett's request to delay the Jones trial." Actually, as noted earlier in the edition, the judge turned down Bennett's request to move up the trial date. The last CyberAlert also misspelled the name of National Review magazine's new editor. It's Rich Lowry, not Lowery.
Wednesday's Washington Post reported that a retired Secret Service agent claimed he knew Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were once alone together in the Oval Office, the first agent to go on the record with such a recollection. But Wednesday night neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News mentioned the major development and latest bit of evidence that contradicts the Clinton line. Only NBC and CNN found it newsworthy. Attorney General Reno's decision to ask for an independent counsel to investigate Bruce Babbitt generated just a few seconds on the three broadcast networks.
"Clinton, Lewinsky Met Alone, Former Guard Says," declared the February 11 front page headline. Washington Post reporter Susan Schmidt revealed:
"Monica S. Lewinsky spent part of a weekend afternoon in late 1995 alone with President Clinton in the Oval Office, a retired Secret Service officer said yesterday.
"Clinton testified last month that he does not recall ever being alone with Lewinsky, either while she was employed at the White House or later at the Pentagon, except perhaps on very
brief occasions when she dropped off papers in his office, according to sources familiar with Clinton's testimony.
"Former uniformed Secret Service officer Lewis C. Fox said in an interview yesterday that Lewinsky, then a White House intern, spent at least 40 minutes alone with Clinton while Fox was posted outside the Oval Office door. She had arrived with papers for the President, he said, and Clinton instructed Fox to usher her into his office.
"Clinton was questioned in a closed-door deposition Jan. 17 in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case about whether he had sexual relationships with Lewinsky and other government employees.
"Fox is the first person to publicly say that he saw the president and Lewinsky alone together. As a result, his statement could be critical to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's attempt to determine whether Clinton did have a relationship with Lewinsky and then attempt to conceal it...."
Wednesday morning's Today led with the Lewis Fox news and Good Morning America at least included it in Ann Compton's reports from the White House on the Lewinsky case. On one of the news updates CBS's This Morning squeezes between Olympic highlights CBS reporter Bill Plante also relayed the Secret Service agent's disclosure.
But by Wednesday night network interest had fallen away with nothing on it on ABC or CBS. Not even FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report uttered a word about it, though FNC did carry a full report on how Tripp did indeed overhear Clinton calling Lewinsky. On CNN's The World Today, MRC analyst Eric Darbe found, Bob Franken's piece included the Fox assertion and the White House explanation that it would not have been normal for a uniformed officer to let someone into the Oval Office.
The broadcast networks allocated only a few seconds each to Attorney General Reno's decision to ask for an independent counsel to investigate the Interior Secretary. CNN and FNC ran full stories on Babbitt, though CNN's The World Today buried the piece from Pierre Thomas late in the hour.
Here's a rundown of February 11 broadcast network evening show coverage:
-- ABC's World News Tonight opened with two pieces on the showdown with Iraq. In the third spot, evidence that US jets have flown too low in Italy. Fourth, news that bomb residue was found on truck owned by man wanted for the abortion clinic bombing.
After the ad break, Jackie Judd reported that William Ginsburg said Lewinsky is reluctant to talk because she's trying to protect someone she loved, President Clinton that is. Noting that Lewinsky's mother was pale and shaken after her second day before he grand jury, Judd concluded by suggesting the relevance of Ginsburg's comment:
"The statement from her lawyer today that she was trying to protect someone she loved suggests there is a fuller story here that has yet to be heard."
Next, Peter Jennings took 20 seconds to report Reno's decision on Babbitt.
-- The CBS Evening News began with how the Republican Congress is out of sync with everyone else on the wonders of Clinton's Iraq policy. Dan Rather intoned:
"Good evening. Polls show the U.S. public is solidly behind President Clinton in his showdown with Saddam Hussein. Most U.S. allies have been giving at least limited support. And as more U.S. forces take up positions in the Persian Gulf the military said today it will be fully ready to launch an air assault against Iraq in about a week. The mission even has a name now: Operation Desert Thunder. But, tonight, support for the President in the Republican-led Congress is fading."
In the story Bob Schieffer did at least add that support among Democrats is "wavering too."
Following another Iraq story Rather went to Scott Pelley at the White House. He ignored the Secret Service agent and stuck with Monica's mother, explaining that the tapes show she knew of the affair and coverup. Pelley also reported that she was overcome emotionally in the session before explaining how investigators were grilling her about two mysteries: how Betty Currie got the gifts and who wrote the memo encouraging Tripp to lie. Pelley ended by relaying Hillary Clinton's assertion that the scandal will fade away by the weight of "its own insubstantiality."
Babbitt then got 28 seconds from Rather.
-- Only NBC Nightly News bothered with the Secret Service agent. After reviewing the appearance by Monica's mother, Bloom summarized the Post story on Lewis Fox and aired a soundbite from Fox confirming his recollection. Bloom gave time to the White House spin, but also countered it:
"Mr. Clinton's aides said plain clothed Secret Service agents, not a uniformed officer like Fox, guard the President in the White House, that it would be implausible for Fox to have escorted Lewinsky into the Oval Office. Not so claims an author who studied the workings of the White House."
Ronald Kessler: "Actually, it's perfectly normal for a Secret Service agent, whether uniformed or not uniformed, to bring someone into the Oval Office, especially on the weekend."
Bloom moved on to First Lady Hillary Clinton's comments about the scandal fading away and then ran battling clips from Capitol Hill -- Senator Torricelli attacking Starr and Senator Nickles attacking the effort to divert attention from Clinton by smearing Starr.
Next, Brokaw took 38 seconds to tell viewers about an independent counsel for Babbitt.
Later, NBC portrayed Clinton as a victim of an insidious new trend: people secretly taping each other. Here's how Brokaw introduced the piece from Pete Williams:
"NBC News In Depth tonight. The tale of the secret tapes and a big question of privacy. If Linda Tripp could tape hours of conversation with Monica Lewinsky, what does that mean for everyone else in this country? Who is taping whom? In Maryland, where Linda Tripp lives, it is illegal to tape someone without his or her consent. Prosecutors there will have to decide whether to bring charges against Tripp. But secret taping is perfectly legal in most states, and as NBC's Pete Williams tells us In Depth tonight, watch out because more and more people are doing it."
Williams ran through the status of the Trip case in Maryland, aired a clip from a lawyer saying that taping is essential for whistle blower cases, explained that parents often secretly tape their nannies and cited the case of a college student caught taping his sexual exploits. Too much taping is eroding trust, Williams let an expert say.
One case of illegal secret taping not mentioned by NBC: the Floridians who taped the cellular transmission of a conference call among Republican House leaders.
Hollywood remains almost solidly in Clinton's corner. Picking up where we left off in the February 3 CyberAlert, here are some more examples collected by MRC entertainment analyst Melissa Caldwell with one contrary quote at the end from an actor who doesn't accept the rationalization's offered by the President's defenders.
-- Dustin Hoffman on the February 3 Entertainment Tonight: "If each of us had Ken Star and his staff on us, we could interest the world...Thankfully, it's wonderful that the country is able to separate while due process is being done."
-- Several Hollywood stars flew east last Thursday for the State Dinner in honor of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The February 6 New York Times, MRC analyst Tom Johnson noticed, relayed a couple of comments from two of Clinton's biggest admirers and donors: Barbra Streisand and film mogul Steven Spielberg:
"Spielberg, who said he had already called Mr. Clinton to bolster him during his personal travails said: 'We've already sent our message of support to him, and now is a night to have fun.' Ms. Streisand said she, too, backed the President and was pleased that 'the American people have shown great support and good judgment.'
"'We elected him President, not Pope,' she said."
-- Musician Coolio offered this unique analysis on the February 3 Politically Incorrect: "We have to look at it like this, I think. The President grew up in this country just like everybody else did. He's been under the same social pressure, he had to go through the same mental pressure that all of us did growing up. And you know, I had a lot of uncles, and my uncles, they took pride in having more than one woman, and for a while in my life, I went through the same thing...I'm just saying the President is human just like everybody else, and I'll bet you this. I bet he won't do it again, and if he does, I bet he won't get caught...First balanced budget in 30 years..."
-- Actress Joely Fisher, star of ABC's Ellen, delivered this insightful gem on the same show: "Wouldn't we rather have a President who gives in to his nature and is relaxed and happy and can lead, as opposed to someone who is frustrated and frigid."
-- No, thinks actor Tom Selleck who on the February 2 Entertainment Tonight offered this bit more reasoned take:
"I'm getting a little sick of hearing him acquit himself of wrong doing by convicting himself of incompetence -- a la 'Oh, it's just a bureaucratic snafu,' and worst of all, what I think most of the public is sick of in general in politics, and from him in particular, is invoking the doctrine of relative filth, which is 'I'm not so bad, as long as I can find somebody else who's doing the same thing or worse...I've met this President, I've worked with this President, and he's a very talented man who cares deeply about what he believes in, but I do think that he has an obligation, and I wish he'd remember, to do more than just lawyer the truth."
At least one person in Hollywood has a little common sense and expects a minimum level of moral leadership from the President. -- Brent Baker
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