Nets Led with Depositions, But Where Were They When Willey First Arose?
1) The Jones court filing led Friday night, but only one network mentioned Dolly Kyle-Browning and just one cited Miss Arkansas. CNN's Joie Chen asked if it's all part of the right-wing conspiracy; NBC's David Bloom highlighted a personal hit on Linda Tripp.
Correction/Clarification/Update: The March 12 CyberAlert reported that "NBC's Today brought together Gary Bauer of the Family Research Counsel..." FRC is not a law firm, it's the Family Research Council. The March 10 CyberAlert quoted unbalanced labeling from a March 9 NBC story on the widows of former Congressmen Capps and Bono running in elections that day to replace them. On March 10 Democrat Lois Capps won, but Mary Bono will not face the voters until April 7.
Whenever breaking scandal news is handed to the networks they usually play it pretty straight and Friday night was no exception. If the past pattern holds, however, they will soon return to discrediting the investigator, denouncing the victims and disparaging the whistle blowers, but Friday they went with the fresh material and delivered a bad news day for the President, though there were some notable differences among the networks. (To recall how the networks dismissed Kathleen Willey when her case first arose last summer, see item #2 below.)
Looking at the broadcast networks and CNN, only ABC's Sam Donaldson clearly laid out the pattern of witness suppression orchestrated by Bruce Lindsey name by name and only Donaldson mentioned the name Dolly Kyle-Browning. CBS plugged its 60 Minutes interview with Kathleen Willey as Ed Bradley made clear Clinton is a grabber not a grazer. CBS and CNN, but not the others, graphically cited what Willey actually said Clinton did with her hand while CNN's Bob Franken was the sole reporter to cite Clinton's approach to a former Miss Arkansas.
Some coverage favorable to Clinton did slip in: CNN anchor Joie Chen asked if the release was all part of the vast right-wing conspiracy and NBC's David Bloom raised an upcoming New Yorker article that supposedly discredits Linda Tripp.
Here are the highlights of Friday, March 13 evening show coverage:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson delivered the toughest and most complete overview of the obstruction of justice shown by the court papers:
"Perhaps there were no smoking guns in today's material, but a lot of it does appear to be highly damaging to the President. It all began with Paula Corbin Jones' suit, but the real danger to the President revolves around allegations of cover-up in several cases of alleged sexual misconduct on Mr. Clinton's part. In the court filing released today, former Arkansas troopers Patterson, Perry and Brown all swear they observed 'numerous sexual encounters' involving then Governor Clinton. Patterson and Perry say Clinton dispatched an agent to 'threaten to destroy them' if they talked. Dolly Kyle-Browning says she had 'sexual relations' with Mr. Clinton from the mid-70s until 1992 and that several agents of his, including White House aide Bruce Lindsey, 'contacted her to keep quiet,' her own brother passing along the word they will 'destroy you' if you told the truth. Gennifer Flowers says she got her state job thanks to Mr' Clinton because of a long running sexual affair she had with him. And trooper Patterson says he overheard Mr. Clinton order a job be given her...."
Donaldson ran through the Willey story and how Vernon Jordan tried to get Lewinsky a job before letting Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett counterattack.
Next, Jackie Judd explored the contention of the Jones lawyers that there is a pattern of punishing those who reject Clinton's overtures and rewarding those who accept or keep quiet.
She named three of four names, reporting
"the four women they name are Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, a
woman identified as Jane Doe whom Mr. Clinton named a state judge when he
was Governor of Arkansas, and Monica Lewinsky..." Judd summarized how
the recollections of Willey and Clinton clash.
Anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Now in the President's deposition that was released today he seems to say he was trying to comfort her in some way. Did she take it as someone trying to comfort her?"
Bradley replied: "Not at all. I asked her if was just, when she said he touched her breasts, if this was just a grazing by mistake and she said no, he fondled her breasts and said I've wanted to do this I first laid eyes on you."
Phil Jones then suggested "the biggest potential problem for Mr. Clinton: the numerous allegations of obstruction of justice, of people allegedly being urged to lie or coverup for the President, according to Donovan Campbell, Jones's lawyer..."
Following a summary of the Willey/Tripp/Lewinsky story, Jones asserted: "In the documents there are ten specific instances of alleged attempts to suppress evidence of the alleged sexual affairs," adding, without naming any names, "Court papers mention five other women."
Third up: Scott Pelley at the White House: "Sources familiar with Kathleen Willey's grand jury testimony tell CBS News quote, 'If you believe Kathleen Willey then the President is lying. That would be perjury, a high crime and probably impeachable,' end quote..."
Pelley recalled the January Clinton deposition, reciting some of the most relevant portions of what Clinton said about Willey, including:
"Question: 'And you're aware that she testified that you took her hand and put it on your penis?'
"Answer: 'I am aware of that.'
"Question: 'You deny that testimony?'
"Answer: 'I emphatically deny it. It did not happen.'"
Noting that Clinton left for Camp David,
Pelley let Bennett insist "there is no proof" of any of the
After noting the charge that Jordan helped keep Lewinsky quiet, Franken moved on to Willey and how "the President denies any sexual contact." He then recited the same deposition passage as had Pelley, adding: "The Jones lawyers also released part of Willey's sworn statement in which she says a prominent Democratic fundraiser, Nate Landow, talked to her about her deposition...."
Following a Bob Bennett soundbite, Franken raised a name skipped by the other networks: "One new name, Elizabeth Ward, a former Miss Arkansas and Miss America. A friend of Ward's testified in the 1980s Ward told her Clinton had made unwanted sexual advances..."
John King provided the spin from the White House as annunciated by Bennett in four soundbites, before concluding that "White House officials are nervously bracing" for Willey's 60 Minute interview.
Anchor Joie Chen inquired: "John, certainly there have been in the past some implications that there may be some sort of organized conspiracy against the President in all this. Did Mr. Bennett get to that point?"
King responded: "Mr. Bennett made the
case that Paula Jones is being funded financially in her legal case and
for some personal expenses of what he says is a conspiracy of Clinton
haters, to use his term....Bennett did raise that allegation. But mostly
what he tried to do here is to say that this is an effort to smear the
President. He does blame a conspiracy, but they've been unable over the
months, as they have made that accusation, a point to any conspiracy
involving Ms. Jones. So Mr. Bennett today was trying to say that she's out
to smear the President personally and embarrass him."
"The President of the United States has been hit by another round of allegations, a staggering collection of evidence, hundreds of pages, the stories of several women who all claim to have certain encounters with Mr. Clinton in common. It is all part of the case Paula Jones is pursuing against the President and while the President's lawyer is trying hard to put down this new information, the accusations are explosive from a number of women, including a former Miss America."
But NBC left viewers hanging, as the subsequent reports failed to mention the Miss Arkansas/America.
Lisa Myers explained that the Jones lawyers "accuse the President and his aides of a vast enterprise to suppress evidence," but only vaguely referred to how Willey accuses the President of "accosting her." Myers added a detail not mentioned by the other networks: "Flowers says Clinton specifically told her to lie to an Arkansas board investigating whether she got a state job because of a sexual relationship with Clinton..."
From the White House David Bloom observed that Bennett "came out swinging" and in a soundbite Clinton's lawyer denounced it all as "a pack of lies." Bloom also let Bennett charge that a few years ago Jones said she would go away for $25,000 and job in Hollywood. Bloom concluded with a hit on whistle blower Linda Tripp:
"She says that Lewinsky told her she was going to deny everything and that President Clinton would deny everything. But Tripp's credibility is likely to be called into account by a new article out this weekend in the New Yorker which questions her veracity. Brian."
According to a story in Saturday's
Washington Post, the New Yorker article will claim that Tripp "failed
to disclose a 1969 arrest at a New York resort community on her department
security-clearance forms." Apparently, a 19-year-old Tripp, then
Linda Carotenuto, was charged with larceny in Greenwood Lake, but the
charge was soon dropped.
Let's go back and re-live those days as recounted at the time in CyberAlerts which detailed how CBS delivered a short report on the charge, NBC gave a few seconds to how Willey was "outraged about being pulled into this case," and ABC never mentioned Willey, not even after Newsweek's story appeared. But as a new book reveals, that's just how Mike McCurry wanted it as he played a compliant media which refused, other than Isikoff, to do their jobs and pursue the story.
-- From the Thursday, July 31, 1997 CyberAlert:
Wednesday's CBS Evening News surprisingly allocated time for a brief story on a charge from lawyers for Paula Jones that Bill Clinton harassed a White House employee. Bill Plante reported the CBS exclusive:
"CBS News has learned that Paula Corbin Jones's lawyer has subpoenaed, issued this subpoena, to a woman who once worked here in the White House, asking her to testify in just two weeks. Sources say that Jones's lawyers believe that the woman was approached in a sexual way by President Clinton, who made overtures to her, here in the White House, back in 1993. Paula Jones's attorney Joseph Cammarata would not discuss this subpoena with CBS News, but he has said in the past that he would try to establish a pattern of behavior upon the part of the President.
Robert Bennett, the President's attorney, called the subpoena an effort to embarrass the President behind the scenes, and he notes that the woman in question knows nothing about the Paula Corbin Jones case. Other lawyers see this as an attempt to pressure Mr. Clinton to settle. But unless and until this case is settled, this is only the beginning of attempts by attorneys on both sides to damage the reputations and credibility of everyone involved. Dan."
CNN picked up on the charge and brought James Carville and Susan Carpenter-McMillan onto Larry King Live to argue about the charge and the Paula Jones case.
-- From the Friday, August 1 CyberAlert:
"It got rather testy in the White House Thursday when reporters asked about the latest potential bombshell in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton."
Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary: "You're not going to use me at this podium to further stories that your news organizations have to decide on their own whether or not they want to pursue."
ABC met McCurry's hopes. World News Tonight ignored the development on Thursday night of a story first broken by a network on Wednesday's CBS Evening News. None of the morning shows on Thursday uttered a word about the step. The July 31 NBC Nightly News did include a brief item emphasizing the non-cooperation by the woman. Tom Brokaw intoned: "Lawyers for Paula Jones served a subpoena on a former White House aide, who they believe may have been the target of an improper sexual advance by the President. But lawyers for Kathleen Willey, who worked in the White House counsel's office, say their client is outraged about being pulled into this case and said she has no knowledge or information of any relevance to the Paula Jones case."
-- From the Friday, August 8 CyberAlert
item about Clinton's August 7 press conference:
So far, a one minute story on the July 30 CBS Evening News followed by brief items the next day on CBS and the NBC Nightly News noting Willey's intention to challenge the subpoena, is the totality of broadcast network coverage.
Last Sunday, March 8, the Washington Post Magazine excerpted the portion of Howard Kurtz's new book recounting how McCurry convinced the media to not pursue the Willey incident. In Spin Cycle: Inside the Clinton Propaganda Machine, Kurtz discovered that after Drudge broke the story "McCurry told Clinton he planned to stiff the press," denouncing reporters who approached the topic for lowering themselves by, as Kurtz described McCurry's view, "feasting on rumor and innuendo, no matter how personally demeaning to the President."
By the time the Newsweek story appeared newspapers had run a story or two and the networks, as shown above, had largely ignored it and none used Newsweek's details of the encounter as a hook for another story. The story, Kurtz reported, "was at a dead end, and the reporters, vaguely embarrassed and lacking further ammunition, quietly let it drop."
Kurtz relayed this illuminating anecdote: "Later that week, Clinton pulled McCurry aside for a rare word of thanks. 'I think you handled that correctly and I appreciate it,' he said. 'I know it's not easy.'"
Actually, with the media so compliant it wasn't that hard. Reporters should have been less embarrassed by the subject than by how easily they were played by McCurry and how it took a secretary, an intern and a couple of lawyers to do their job for them.
Finally, want to get on the Sunday talk shows? Just denounce conservatives for lacking integrity. David Brock is scheduled to appear on the March 15 Meet the Press and Face the Nation. -- Brent Baker
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