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CyberAlert -- 02/22/2001 -- Hillary: Hugh Rodham's Victim

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Hillary: Hugh Rodham's Victim; "Piling On" Bill Clinton? Harris Vs. Rich; West Wing: A Pardon "That Will Outrage a Nation"

1) Dan Rather portrayed Hillary as Hugh Rodham's victim as he relayed how someone told CBS that her "family has quote, 'always been very important to her' and that these revelations 'are absolutely devastating to her and she is furious about them.'" Rather focused on how drug dealer Vignali "was a first time offender and many political figures" lobbied on his behalf.

2) Former President Jimmy Carter denounced Clinton's pardon for Marc Rich: "I think that was, in my opinion, disgraceful." The CBS and NBC evening shows skipped Carter's remark as did CBS in the morning as well.

3) Tuesday morning NBC's Katie Couric worried about how "there is a bit of piling on" Bill Clinton when he's just done the same things as other ex-Presidents whose libraries "are filled with things that those Presidents got during their, their years at the White House."

4) Geraldo Rivera lashed out at FNC for not focusing on a Nixon pardon: "Why is it that on Fox television you never hear the mention of the Hoffa pardon?!"

5) ABC's Charles Gibson to Linda Tripp: "In many people's minds, and you know this, you're the poster child for faithless friend." Gibson waited until the end of the interview to inquire about her eyewitnessing how the Clintons appropriated for themselves gifts given to the White House.

6) FNC's Brit Hume picked up on the observation that unlike Katherine Harris, "the flashy and heavily made up Denise Rich" has not stirred derisive comments about her appearance.

7) FNC's Trace Gallagher confirmed that Tom Daschle is correct about how a $25,000 waitress would get no tax cut, "but that's because she's not paying any federal taxes -- not a nickel." The rich would receive a big cut, but "that's because they're being leaned on the most by the federal government."

8) Last year Bryant Gumbel reacted with disgust to the suggestion that historians rated President Reagan as the best President, so this week he naturally ignored a Gallup poll in which the public did identify Reagan as the "best" President.

9) "Next week, all new The West Wing....A presidential pardon sparks a firestorm of protest....A presidential pardon that will outrage a nation."


1

The broadcast networks all led Wednesday with the late-breaking news about how Hugh Rodham received $200,000 in payments for successfully lobbying Bill Clinton for a pardon and a commutation, but CBS's Dan Rather portrayed Hillary as a victim and tried to rationalize the commutation for convicted drug dealer Carlos Vignali. (The $200,000 figure became $400,000 a few hours later, after the ET/CT feeds of the evening shows.)

Rather relayed how someone told CBS News that "Hillary Clinton's family has, quote, 'always been very important to her and very close to her' and that 'these new revelations are absolutely devastating to her and she is furious about them.'" As for Vignali, instead of noting as did NBC's Lisa Myers that the prosecutor and judge were angry about the pardon, Rather focused on how "he was a first time offender and many political figures -- a sheriff and a Roman Catholic Cardinal -- lobbied the White House for his sentence to be commuted." CBS reporter Phil Jones noted how the man pardoned, Glenn Braswell, had donated to the GOP.

Of the broadcast network stories, only NBC's Myers credited the story to the National Enquirer and only she noted how the FBI had investigated charges that Roger Clinton had solicited fees to help people get pardons.

Here's how the first feeds of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on February 21 treated the news which broke at about 5:40pm ET on CNN and FNC and took MSNBC about another ten minutes to notice.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the show by tying the development into two others:
"Good evening everyone. We have learned new information today about three major issues which have dominated the news this week: The revelations about the U.S. submarine and the Japanese fishing boat, the FBI's case against the agent within their ranks accused of spying, and there's also been another embarrassment for the Clinton family. The former President confirmed today that his brother-in-law, Senator Clinton's brother Hugh Rodham, got a contingency fee in connection with one application for a presidential pardon and another for a commutation. Mr. Clinton says neither he nor his wife knew about this."

Jackie Judd proceeded to provide a brief story.

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced: "Good evening. There was a stunning development late today in the investigation of presidential pardons issued in the final hours of te Clinton administration. It turns out President Clinton's brother-in-law, Hillary Clinton's brother, was paid, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby the White House to pardon or commute the sentence of convicted criminals and the convicts got what they wanted. This is a late-breaking story. Our coverage begins with Phil Jones in Washington."

Jones outlined how the disclosure is considered "disastrous" by Clinton friends. He briefly identified the two recipients, Glenn Braswell who was convicted of fraud and drug dealer Carlos Vignali, before quoting from the Bill Clinton denial of knowledge statement. Jones then tried to spread the sleaze around: "Glenn Braswell has also been a problem for Republicans. The Florida Republican Party and the Bush campaign returned contributions from Braswell last fall after learning that he was a convicted felon."

Like there's no difference between returning a guy's money and giving him a pardon.

Jones concluded by painting Hillary as a victim: "There is no comment tonight from Mrs. Clinton's Senate office. However, a source very close to Mrs. Clinton has told CBS News that the former First Lady is furious about this and she claims her brother Hugh Rodham never spoke to her about it or the President."

Rather then elaborated on the Hillary as caring sister and victim angle: "Two separate friends of Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBS News tonight that Hugh Rodham, quote, 'spent considerable time in the White House during the last month of the Clinton presidency.' Senator Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, was also there for a good deal of time according to these sources. One friend said Hillary Clinton's family has, quote, 'always been very important to her and very close to her.' Continuing to quote, 'She always has tried to have her brother and mother around as much as possible.' Also continuing to quote, 'these new revelations are absolutely devastating to her and she is furious about them,' unquote."

Rather turned to Gloria Borger for comment and she worried about the impact on Hillary: "This is terrible for her."

Finally, wrapping up the topic, Rather gave a couple of sentences each to Braswell and Vignali to identify them. Here's his full take on Vignali: "Carlos Vignali was convicted of shipping 800 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, but he was a first time offender and many political figures -- a sheriff and a Roman Catholic Cardinal -- lobbied the White House for his sentence to be commuted."

Rather didn't mention how Cardinal Roger Mahoney has since apologized for his letter, calling it "a serious mistake."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the program: "Good evening. Tonight President Clinton was forced to issue another explanation in what has become an unending controversy over his presidential pardons, only this one had nothing to do with Marc Rich. This one involved money paid Clinton's brother-in-law, Hillary's brother Hugh Rodham, to help with another pardon and a commutation."

Lisa Myers relayed Clinton's statement seeming to deny any knowledge of the contingency fee before explaining how Glenn Braswell had been convicted and served time for a scam involving the selling of diet pills to cure baldness and how he is the subject of an ongoing tax evasion investigation. Myers uniquely gave credit to the National Enquirer: "Tomorrow's edition of the National Enquirer reports that two days after the pardon was granted, on January 22nd, Braswell wired $200,000 to the law firm of Hugh Rodham."

After noting how the pardon for cocaine dealer Vignali enraged the judge and prosecutor, Myers added: "There have also been reports that the FBI was looking into allegations that the President's brother, Roger Clinton, had solicited fees to help people get pardons. Now sources say that investigation was dropped after it was determined that would not have been illegal."

After the piece from Myers, Brokaw got reaction from Tim Russert who picked up on how the Clinton statement did not deny he was lobbied by Hugh Rodham.

2

Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday night declared of Clinton's pardon for Marc Rich: "I think that was, in my opinion, disgraceful." But Wednesday night, of the broadcast network evening shows, only ABC's World News Tonight noted the blast by a fellow Democratic President made during a speech at a college in Georgia, but did not show any video of it. CNN highlighted the remark on Inside Politics as did FNC on Special Report with Brit Hume.

Wednesday morning, both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today gave it a brief mention in one news update, but CBS's The Early Show skipped it. February 21 Today viewers heard Ann Curry note: "Former President Carter is lashing out at former President Clinton for his pardon of Marc Rich. Tuesday, Mr. Carter called the Rich pardon disgraceful, saying he has no doubt large gifts played a role in the pardon. Former President Clinton has said there was no quid pro quo."

Wednesday night, after the story about Hugh Rodham, ABC's Peter Jennings added: "By the way, former President Clinton was criticized by former President Jimmy Carter today for his pardon of the fugitive businessman Marc Rich. Mr. Carter said, actually it was last night, that it was 'disgraceful.'"

3

Barely 36 hours before the disclosure of the fees for Hugh Rodham, Today co-host Katie Couric worried about how "there is a bit of piling on" Bill Clinton when he's just done the same thing as other past Presidents whose presidential libraries "are filled with things that those Presidents got during their, their years at the White House. And yet somehow it's become a high crime for Bill Clinton to take some of these things with him to put in his presidential library."

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed Couric's defense of Clinton during a February 20 interview segment with MSNBC show hosts Chris Matthews and Mike Barnicle.

Couric set up the segment: "It's one month today since Bill Clinton walked out of the White House but the spotlight won't let him go. This week he's on the cover of both Newsweek and Time as controversy continues to swirl around his last minute pardons and several of his moves since leaving office. Some are saying he's overshadowing President Bush. Chris Matthews is host of MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle is host of MSNBC's 'First Hundred Days.' Good morning to both of you. Alright why won't this story go away Chris?"

Couric followed up: "In fact you're echoing what Frank Rich wrote in his column in The New York Times on Saturday. He basically said that Bill Clinton has turned us all into junkies for the entertainer in chief, that we like the drama that Bill Clinton supplied over eight years and we're having are hard time getting used to life without him. Would you agree with that Chris?"

Couric then came to Clinton defense and argued he's no worse than any other past President: "With the exception of the pardon of Marc Rich and some other moves that probably were somewhat questionable, would you concede this morning that it's gotten to the point where there is a bit of piling on, going on here. I mean it seems to me that he has done some things that other Presidents have done in the past. I mean you look at other presidential libraries they are filled with things that those Presidents got during their, their years at the White House. And yet somehow it's become a high crime for Bill Clinton to take some of these things with him to put in his presidential library."

4

Are better ratings for his head-to-head competition on FNC, Hannity & Colmes, getting to Geraldo Rivera? Tuesday night, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Rivera lashed out at Fox for not focusing on a Nixon pardon: "Why is it that on Fox television you never hear the mention of the Hoffa pardon?!"

Rivera's rant on the February 20 Rivera Live on CNBC:
"I just want one more time for our viewing audience and maybe some of the journalists who from time to time drop in on this program to recall what John Dean just said. Now the Teamsters, one million strong endorsed Richard Nixon after Jimmy Hoffa was pardoned by Richard Nixon. Now that to me smacks of a quid [pro quo] far more logical than Bill Clinton taking money for his library for God sakes, not himself, but for his library or for the Democratic National Committee. Money that he could have easily raised by picking up the telephone receiver and dialing any one of maybe a hundred big cats that he had over the years gone to for, for funding. And why is it we don't hear about Hoffa when you have Dan Burton on every television talk show, every Sunday program, this smacks to me of a kind of malignant unfairness. Why is it that on Fox television you never hear the mention of the Hoffa pardon?!"

Gee, maybe it has something to do with how that happened about 30 years ago. It's the Fox NEWS Channel, not the Fox POLITICAL HISTORY Channel.

I have no knowledge about the cable news channel ratings at 9pm ET, but recall that last week, while filling in for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity reported that FNC's Hannity & Colmes had pulled well ahead of CNBC's Rivera Live. That would help explain Rivera's outburst.

5

Network stars continue to view Linda Tripp as a "faithless friend" instead of as a heroic whistleblower who provided fair warning about Bill Clinton's sleaze. On Wednesday's Good Morning America Charles Gibson matched the pattern and waited to the end of the segment to raise the timely issue of how Tripp was an eyewitness to how the Clintons appropriated gifts to the White House for themselves.

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson picked up on how Gibson charged: "This is a difficult question to ask, but one of the problems is, in many people's minds, and you know this, you're the poster child for faithless friend."

He soon quizzed her on why she didn't leave the Clinton administration after the Lewinsky story broke: "Linda, if you felt that way about the Clintons, why'd you stay working for them?"
Tripp: "What do you mean?"
Gibson: "Why did you stay in the White House, when you were there? Why'd you continue to work for the Clinton administration at the Pentagon?"

Finally, he arrived at what you'd think he would have considered most relevant given the current headlines: "Let me ask you about the new problems that plague the Clintons -- put the pardon problems aside for the moment. There is this question of gifts and whether they took hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts that should have stayed at the White House. You were there early on. Does this surprise you?"

After she explained what she had said on CNN's Larry King Live more than a week earlier about what she saw during her time working in an office in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, Gibson repeated her charge: "In the first months they were taking gifts that were intended for the White House?"
Tripp: "Correct."
Gibson: "Aren't there rules against that? Aren't there waivers that have to be signed if you take something out of the White House?"

Tripp confirmed how rules were violated, prompting Gibson to inquire: "Did you raise a hand and say, 'Aren't you supposed to sign a waiver or do something?'"

6

Katherine Harris a skank but Denise Rich a woman of society with impeccable taste. Wednesday night on his FNC show Brit Hume picked up on an interesting observation about the contrast in media treatment of the physical appearances of two women in the news, one a Republican and the other a Democrat:

Hume observed during the "Grapevine" segment on the February 21 Special Report with Brit Hume:
"Remember the mauling Florida Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris took in the media for her appearance. Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan said her skin, quote, 'had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls in need of a skin coat.' Maureen Dowd of the New York Times compared Harris to the villainess Cruella De Vil of the movie '101 Dalmations.' But the flashy and heavily made up Denise Rich, a Democrat, has stirred no such reaction. As National Journal's Howard Mortman notes, the Post's Givhan has said nothing about her while others have gushed, including the Times's Dowd who called Rich, quote, 'blonde, glittering, an East Side princess.'"

7

From FNC, a refreshing spin on the tax cut debate. FNC's Trace Gallagher set out to determine who is correct about counter claims about the impact of Bush's tax cut plan on a waitress earning $25,000 who has two kids. In a presentation of facts not yet heard on the broadcast networks, Gallagher reported how such a waitress pays no income tax now and so can't get a further cut while the rich would receive a big cut, but "that's because they're being leaned on the most by the federal government."

Gallagher began his piece on Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Amid the debate over who gets what in the Bush tax plan, both sides are using a $25,000 a year waitress as an example. Republicans say the plan would benefit her. Democrats say it wouldn't."

After a clip of Tom Daschle holding up a goose egg to represent what a $25,00o earner would receive, Gallagher confirmed his point, but added a twist: "Senator Daschle is right. The $25,000 a year waitress with two kids would get no tax cut under the Bush plan, but that's because she's not paying any federal taxes -- not a nickel. Critics say the Democrats are confusing the tax cut with a spending program."
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform: "We are letting people keep the money they earn. We are going to take less money in Washington, D.C., from the American people, and if you're not paying into it now, you don't get a tax cut."

Gallagher elaborated: "Which is not to say the waitress wouldn't get money back. Because of the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, she's exempt from paying federal taxes and gets about $2,000 back. In most states, she could also receive lower cost child care and reduced price for school lunches."

Gallagher concluded by noting how much more than their fair share the rich already pay: "As for the rich getting most of the tax benefit, a person who makes $300,000 a year would get a $12,000 tax cut, true, but would still pay more than $80,000. The fact is the wealthiest two percent of Americans pay 80 percent of the income tax, so the Bush plan does lean toward them. That's because they're being leaned on the most by the federal government."

This is just the kind of story liberal FNC critics will point to as proof of FNC's right wing tilt. But I'd contend it illustrates the left wing tilt of all the other networks which haven't explored this angle.

8

A new Gallup poll this week ranked former President Reagan as America's "best" President, but you didn't hear a word about it from CBS's Bryant Gumbel. As the New York Post's "MediaWatch" column on Tuesday reminded me, a year ago when colleague Jane Clayson incorrectly guessed that a C-SPAN poll of historians had rated Reagan as number one, Gumbel burst out with a "No!" as he dropped his pen in disgust at the notion.

This year's Gallup poll was picked up in brief mentions on Monday's Today and Good Morning America. CNN mentioned it on Inside Politics and CNN Tonight, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, which makes sense since it was a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Monday night ABC ran a short item and NBC Nightly News put the numbers on screen in a bumper before an ad break. But CBS refused to touch the poll in the morning or the evening.

On the February 19 GMA, Antonio Mora stressed the small percent favoring Reagan: "Finally, on this President's Day, who was our greatest President? According to a new Gallup survey, more Americans think that honor belongs to Ronald Reagan, although he was chosen by just 18 percent. John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were a close second and third."

CNN's Judy Woodruff emphasized on Inside Politics how recent attention to Reagan's birthday may have skewed the results: "On this President's Day, a new Gallup poll shows Ronald Reagan the top choice in a ranking of American leaders. Eighteen percent picked Reagan as the greatest President, followed by John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton. Reagan's support in previous polls registered in the 12 percent range. He has received increased media attention of late because of health concerns and the celebration of his 90th birthday. When respondents were asked if they would rather see Washington or Lincoln in the White House today, Lincoln won by a wide margin."

Indeed, Woodruff's explanation, if accurate, just demonstrates the influence of the media.

On ABC's World News Tonight Peter Jennings juxtaposed the new rating with last year's C-SPAN survey: "A Gallup poll released this President's Day asked Americans who they believe were the greatest Presidents. Ronald Reagan came first, followed by John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton was fourth. A survey of 58 leading historians last year put Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Washington and Theodore Roosevelt in the top four. Mr. Reagan was eleventh and Mr. Clinton, 21st."

Last year Bryant Gumbel was displeased with the suggestion that Reagan might have won that poll. Here's a reprint of the item about it from the February 22, 2000 CyberAlert:

Bryant Gumbel was none too pleased when his co-host uttered the idea that historians might have rated Ronald Reagan the best President and he was no more happy that Bill Clinton came in 21st place.

Monday morning [February 21] CBS's The Early Show brought aboard historian Richard Norman Smith to discuss C-SPAN's survey in which about 80 historians were asked to rank all the Presidents in ten areas of performance. Plugging the upcoming interview at 7:21am, Gumbel announced: "Well later on this morning we're going to be talking on this President's Day about this presidential survey. Who would you think finished first?"

Co-host Jane Clayson deferred: "Hmmm. Good question."
Gumbel: "Of all the Presidents when they did first to worst. Oh c'mon, you would know."
Clayson: "Ronald Reagan."
Gumbel, appalled, exclaimed as he dropped his pen: "First?!?!"
Clayson: "Who was it?"
Gumbel chastised her: "No! Reagan wasn't even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've heard of him."

Reagan, for the record, finished in 11th place.

END reprint of CyberAlert item.

To view a RealPlayer clip of the above exchange from last year, go to:|
http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2000/cyb20000222.html#8

To read the full results and description of the new Gallup poll released February 19 which "asked Americans to name the one man they consider to have been America's greatest President," go to: http://www.gallup.com/Poll/releases/pr010219.asp

9

Ripped from today's headlines or just very prescient? The baritone voice of the NBC announcer Wednesday night plugging next week's The West Wing, with a series of one and two word clips from the upcoming show interjected where I've placed ellipses:
"Next week, all new The West Wing....A presidential pardon sparks a firestorm of protest....A presidential pardon that will outrage a nation....All new West Wing next Wednesday."

So, one wonders if The West Wing is on such a tight writing and shooting schedule that it is following headlines or was this just a coincidence of good timing? Or, with Democratic operatives like Lawrence O'Donnell working as a producer on the show and with Dee Dee Myers serving as a consultant, maybe one of them long ago suggested the plot line from what they witnessed at the Clinton White House. -- Brent Baker


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