Indignation About Starr Clients; North's Wife & Jones' Mother Did It Too
Here's how the broadcast networks treated the scandal Friday night, February 27:
-- Peter Jennings opened ABC's World News Tonight by announcing:
"A reminder: the Monica Lewinsky case, as in did she have a sexual relationship with the President, was first taken up by the independent counsel to investigate whether the President or any of his associates had tried to influence her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against the President. Much of the public, whatever people's opinion about the President's and Mrs. Lewinsky's personal relationship, has been much less forgiving about possible the obstruction of justice. Today, ABC News has learned that a Democratic fundraiser with connections to the President is suspected of just that. Same Paula Jones case, but involving another woman."
Jackie Judd explained: "Sources have told ABC News that a key witness in the Paula Jones case has claimed that a top Democratic fundraiser tried to persuade her not to offer damaging information against the President. The witness is Kathleen Willey, a former White House aide, who according to sources, said in her deposition the President made an unwanted sexual advance during an Oval Office meeting in 1993. Sources, with knowledge of her account, say she claims prior to that deposition Nathan Landow encouraged her to say Mr. Clinton had nor made any sexual advance...."
After noting that Landow has contributed $247,000 to the DNC and pitched in another $600,000 for Democratic candidates, Judd reported that Willey stuck to her story. Judd concluded: "What's of interest to Starr is not the allegation of sexual misconduct, but whether someone tried to change Willey's testimony as part of a pattern of witness tampering to protect the President."
Over the weekend the other networks failed to pick up on ABC's story, not even CNN Friday or Saturday night.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's introduction to Scott Pelley's story didn't even mention what became the news of the weekend. Rather told viewers that Starr is zeroing in on Lewinsky as a target. Pelley's piece filled in the details and then ended by offering another item:
"CBS News has learned details of Mr. Clinton's evolving defense strategy. The White House story is that Mr. Clinton did have a physical relationship with Lewinsky, but it involved only kissing. The White House story says Lewinsky exaggerated when talking to friends. Well placed sources tell CBS News that the President has been shaken to the core by all of this and he is angry with himself because of the toll it has taken on his presidency and on his family."
-- NBC Nightly News did not utter a word about the scandal. But it was hardly a busy news day. The show had time for full stories on medication errors, which Tom Brokaw hyped as "the growing danger from prescription drugs," the future impact of El Nino, an Ohio town making a comeback, and the debate over making Lake Champlain the sixth Great Lake.
Saturday, February 28:
-- ABC's World News Tonight opened with a piece from Ann Compton on Clinton's Utah vacation: "Today more stories emerged from Washington that supporters of the President are testing out new explanations of his still unexplained relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Some reports suggesting a scenario in which the President was simply physically affectionate with Lewinsky..."
After noting White House denials, Compton moved on to a matter played on the front page of Saturday's Washington Post: "And in the case that started it all, there may be a conflict emerging between Paula Jones and her benefactors..." Compton explained how Bruce Eberly's direct mail firm sent a letter saying lawyers for Jones needed $250,000, but the Rutherford Institute has seen none of it. ABC included a soundbite from Rutherford chief John Whitehead complaining about Eberly's fundraising.
Total time Compton gave Clinton and Lewinsky: 32 seconds. Time for Paula Jones: 39 seconds.
-- CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley stood by his Friday story: "Two sources close to the President's defense tell CBS News the relationship with Lewinsky started as a platonic one, became physical, but stopped well short of sex. These sources say Mr. Clinton's defense suggests Lewinsky exaggerated when talking with friends about the relationship..."
Pelley added: "This account is a new wrinkle in an evolving White House defense..."
After showing Clinton denying sex "with that woman," Pelley continued: "Later spokesman Mike McCurry said the relationship could be 'very complicated.' If there was 'a simple explanation,' he said, 'we would have offered that up already.'"
That's the first broadcast network citation of McCurry's February 17 comment to the Chicago Tribune about how they would have offered up the simple explanation if there was one. As detailed in the February 18 CyberAlert, at the time only CNN mentioned that portion of his comments.
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams took 25 seconds to report that the White House was "forced to deny a broadcast report that some sort of new communications strategy is emerging at the White House whereby the President would admit to a physical but not sexual relationship with former intern Monica Lewinsky..."
Later, John Palmer contributed a story based upon Clinton's Saturday radio address about education. Palmer emphasized Clinton's leadership: "President Clinton launched a volunteer tutoring program for children a year and a half ago. Since then hundreds of volunteers -- parent, grandparents and students -- have joined the program which will ultimately give reading help to three million children at risk..."
Palmer concluded: "The administration's goal is to ensure that every child in America can read by the time he or she enters the third grade."
Sunday, March 1:
In the east, golf bumped the CBS Evening News and NBA basketball pushed aside the NBC Nightly News, leaving ABC's World News Tonight which opened with a preview piece on Vernon Jordan's expected Tuesday testimony. Reporter Mike von Fremd began:
"Vernon Jordan today refused to discuss reports that he may be given limited immunity when he appears before the grand jury on Tuesday. Which raises a question: Why would Jordan need immunity when he so adamantly denied the most serious accusation concerning Monica Lewinsky's relationship with the President..."
Next, anchor Carole Simpson turned to the misdeeds of Ken Starr: "You may not know it, but being the independent counsel is not Starr's only job."
Liberal CNN commentator turned ABC News reporter Farai Chideya began: "In 1995 Wisconsin tried to give poor children public money to attend religious schools. Challenged in court, the school choice plan is controversial. So is its defender."
Following soundbites of Starr and a spokesman for the Governor, an indignant Chideya continued: "The decision three years ago to hire the Whitewater independent counsel surprised many in Wisconsin. Even more surprising, the fact that Starr's bills are being paid for by the conservative Bradley Foundation, which funds critics of President Clinton."
Wisconsin's Attorney General impugned Starr as a "highly political counsel," but Bradley President Michael Joyce reassuringly noted: "Defending a voucher program for poor families in Milwaukee is not an anti-Clinton project."
Nonetheless, Chideya elaborated on Starr's tainted behavior: "Starr is too busy to argue the next phase of the case. But questions about his outside obligations persist. The Wisconsin school voucher isn't the only example of Starr's outside legal work. In fact, the Whitewater independent prosecutor continues to represent a wide variety of private clients. While investigating the President, Starr has earned over $3 million from companies including Meineke Mufflers and Hughes Aircraft. And he represented big tobacco companies, often criticized by the Clinton administration."
Viewers heard a law professor denounce Starr before Chideya concluded: "Starr's involvement in outside cases is perfectly legal under federal law, but even the appearance of conflict of interest could create another problem for independent counsel Kenneth Starr."
Especially if network reporters create a controversy out of a legal activity. And, as the March 2 Weekly Standard noted, there's one group skipped by Chideya that the Bradley Foundation funds which is not populated by "critics of President Clinton" -- the Democratic Leadership Council.
If you believe all the outrage in the media about Starr calling Monica Lewinsky's mother you'd think it's something never done by previous independent counsels. But you'd be wrong, as explained by Washington Times reporter John McCaslin in his "Inside the Beltway" column on Friday, February 28:
"While we're at it, let's blame independent counsel Kenneth
W. Starr for El Nino, too. He's been denounced for everything
else, including 'abusive behavior' in the handling of Monica
Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis....
"Mrs. Lewis might be comforted to know that she isn't the
first mother forced to answer difficult questions dealing with a
daughter's relationship with Bill Clinton. Albeit with little
fanfare, Delmer Lee Corbin, the mother of Paula Corbin Jones,
was ordered by President Clinton's attorneys to give a similar
deposition under oath, which also lasted several hours.
"She was summoned several months ago to the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings, where Mr. Clinton's legal team pressed her about everything her daughter might have told her concerning that infamous night in 1991, when Mrs. Jones said she had a close encounter with then-Gov. Clinton in a Little Rock hotel room.
"The grilling by the attorneys wasn't easy for Mrs. Corbin,
either. During one break in her testimony, she hid her face from
cameras and declined to answer questions.
"Come to think of it, Miss Lewinsky is lucky she doesn't have a sister. Mrs. Jones does, her name is Lydia Cathey, and she too was ordered by the president's attorneys to testify under oath.
Where is William Ginsburg when you need him?"
Where were those now bashing Starr when Lawrence Walsh was even more aggressive during Iran-Contra? He made Oliver North's wife testify, never mind spousal privilege, and violated the law by publicly quoting from grand jury testimony. A New York Post editorial last week laid out the case. Here's an excerpt from the February 24 editorial highlighted last week by Rush Limbaugh and Washington Times "Inside Politics" reporter Greg Pierce:
"Former Iran-Contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh has embarked on a second career assailing Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation. Last week, he blasted Starr's decision to bring Marcia Lewis, mother of alleged presidential paramour Monica
Lewinsky, before a grand jury.
"Much of the press agrees with Walsh that forcing a mother to testify 'against' her daughter is an unbelievably cruel and virtually unprecedented act....
"Let's take a look at Walsh's own record. Consider: During the
Iran-Contra investigation, Walsh subpoenaed Betsy North, the wife of Lt. Col. Oliver North, North lawyer Brendan Sullivan -- even North's pastor. In one go, Walsh flung down and danced upon spousal, attorney-client, and even pastoral privilege.
"To the best of our knowledge, none of those who currently profess shock -- shock! -- at Starr's efforts even said boo about Walsh's far more serious attacks on privacy and privilege. Also, as the Landmark Legal Foundation's Mark Levin has pointed out, Walsh publicly cited supposedly secret grand-jury testimony more than 600 times in his final report. Starr, by contrast, has merely been accused of leaking such testimony, without a shred of evidence.
"Unlike Starr, Walsh abused his office and made a mockery out of fairness and justice. To denounce this self-righteous Savonarola as a hypocrite would do an injustice to hypocrites everywhere."
The Clinton White House is not like the Nixon White House, except when they act like the Nixon White House. So reasoned the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt in a comment caught by MRC analyst Eric Darbe. On the February 21 edition of CNN's Capital Gang, Hunt declared:
"The White House last year assembled a negative report on Washington Post Whitewater reporter Sue Schmidt with the intention of complaining to her editor. This inane idea was nixed by press secretary Mike McCurry. Sue Schmidt is a tough reporter. She's also good. I wish she worked for us. The analogies to the genuine evil perpetrated by the Nixon White House are far fetched, except when the Clintonites do stupid things like that."
Another way to look at it: Nixon really wasn't so bad, except when he acted like a Clintonite.
-- Brent Baker
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