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CyberAlert -- 03/20/1999 -- Press Conference Softballs; CBS & NBC Ignored Broaddrick; Dreyfuss on Kazan

Press Conference Softballs; CBS & NBC Ignored Broaddrick; Dreyfuss on Kazan

1) Of 21 questions put to Clinton, only two challenged him about Lewinsky scandal-related matters. A MSNBC reporter claimed Lewinsky questions dominated, but her name was never voiced. Plus, he got softballs, such as whether he feels "betrayal" by ex-aides.

2) Clinton's answer to Sam Donaldson's question about Juanita Broaddrick generated mentions Friday night on the cable networks as well as Donaldson's ABC, but not a word on CBS or NBC.

3) The ABC News Web page ignored Broaddrick but highlighted a question about "right-wing" conspiracies against Clinton and how he's been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln.

4) Attacking Elia Kazan for talking. Richard Dreyfuss: "Since 1989 it's been easy to say that everyone should have known before the fall of communism that it was, it was wrong."


Correction: A sentence in the March 19 CyberAlert was missing a "to" and misspelled the name of a staffer. It should have read: "Most of us at the MRC like to watch, TV that is, but news analyst Mark Drake actually does some reading of an old-fashioned medium: books."

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cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) After waiting over ten months for a regular solo press conference by President Clinton, of over 20 questions posed, only two challenged him on any aspect of the sex scandals of the past year -- and both came from residents of the same house on Crest Lane in McLean, Virginia. That would be Mr. and Mrs. Sam Donaldson, with the Mrs. better known as Jan Smith, a reporter with the Fox-owned station in Washington, DC. Incredibly, the name "Monica Lewinsky" was never uttered by any reporter in any question.

Despite that fact, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Friday night, reporter Campbell Brown preposterously insisted:
"Brian, I think it surprised even some of the veteran White House correspondents -- the number of questions relating to the impeachment trial and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. There were a lot of people here who felt he should have gotten beyond this, but there were quite a number of questions, one in particular made for what may have been the most uncomfortable moment of the news conference today. Sam Donaldson asked the President about the allegation by Juanita Broaddrick, Jane Doe No. 5." (Brown then played Clinton's answer in full.)

I'm a bit baffled about how she thinks there were "quite a number of questions" related to Lewinsky when her name wasn't even mentioned. Given that Lewinsky, in her interview with Barbara Walters and in her book, says Clinton gave her an orgasm first, thus directly contradicting the premise of Clinton's still-maintained denial of "sexual relations" because he did not "satisfy" her, you would think a reporter might have raised Lewinsky's recollection. But no, the charge that the basic premise behind Clinton's legalistic denial of sexual relations was a lie didn't interest anyone.

By my review, not counting two or three follow-ups, Clinton responded to 21 questions over the hour. Of those:
-- 15 were about Kosovo (5), China (4), the economy (2), Hillary's Senate bid (1), Al Gore's exaggerations (1), Russia (1), racially-motivated police brutality (1).
-- Five related to the scandal of the past year, but only two challenged him: Donaldson on Broaddrick and Jan Smith on what Clinton thinks about the truth and children looking up to Presidents as role models for honesty. The other three were softballs: asking whether he felt "betrayal" by George Stephanopoulos, asking him to reflect on the impeachment process and if he resents his opponents, and wondering if his experience as the target of an independent counsel had soured him on the statute.
-- One unclassifiable question from the always wacky Sarah McClendon about how people are "mean" to Clinton and have treated him worse than Abraham Lincoln.

Here, in order, are brief descriptions of the questions posed at the late Friday, 4pm ET event with those I think most relevant quoted in full. Each of the five scandal questions are identified as LRS Q#1, LRS Q#2, etc with LRS standing for "Lewinsky-Related Scandal."

(Possible U.S. military involvement in Kosovo is obviously a legitimate subject of inquiry, and several reporters did press him on Chinese espionage, but I'm providing this list to show how little interest the press crops showed in pressing him about his Lewinsky lies and how they tossed several softballs.)

1) Terence Hunt, AP: Kosovo.
2) Helen Thomas, UPI: China/Did administration suppress information?
3) David Bloom, NBC News: China/Why 17 month delay before Dept. of Energy enacted FBI-recommended tightening of security?/No spying in 1990s?
4) Larry McQuillan, Reuters: Kosovo.

5) Wolf Blitzer, CNN: "Mr. President, there's been a lot of people in New York state who have spoken with your wife who seem to be pretty much convinced she wants to run for the Senate seat next year. a) how do you feel about that? Do you think she would be a good Senator? And, as part of a broader question involving what has happened over the past year, how are the two of you doing in trying to strengthen your relationship, given everything you and she have been through over this past year?"

6) Sarah McClendon: "Sir, will you tell us why you think people have been so mean to you? Is it a conspiracy? Is it a plan? They treat you worse than they treated Abe Lincoln?"

7) ***LRS Q#1*** Sam Donaldson, ABC News: "Mr. President, when Juanita Broaddrick leveled her charges against you of rape in a nationally televised interview, your attorney David Kendall issued a statement denying them. But shouldn't you speak directly on this matter and reassure the public? And if they are not true, can you tell us what your relationship with Ms. Broaddrick was, if any?"

8) Scott Pelley, CBS News: Kosovo.

9) ***LRS Q#2*** Softball from John Harris of the Washington Post: "Sir, George Stephanopoulos has written a book that contained some fairly tough criticism of you. Earlier Dick Morris had written somewhat similar book. How much pain do these judgments by former aides cause you? And do you consider it a betrayal for people to write books on the history of your administration while you're still in office?"

10) ***LRS Q#3*** Softball from Ken Walsh of U.S. News: "Mr. President, I understand that you don't want to speculate about what your opponents might do now after the impeachment struggle is over, but I wonder what your feelings are after some period of reflection on the impeachment process, how you were treated, and if you feel resentment, relief, and how you think people will deal with this and see it ten to 20 years from now."
11) Jeannie Cummings, Wall Street Journal: economy too dependent on stock market?
12) ***LRS Q#4*** Mark Knoller, CBS Radio: soured on Independent Counsel Act?
13) Mara Liasson, NPR: "Mr. President, your Vice President has recently been ridiculed for claiming that he invented the Internet and spent his boyhood plowing steep hillsides in Tennessee. I'm wondering what you think of those claims and what advice you'd give him about how to brag on himself without getting in so much trouble."

14) ***LRS Q#5*** Jan Smith, WTTG-TV: "Mr. President, many young Americans learn the importance of telling the truth based on an allegory about our very first President. George Washington reportedly said, 'I cannot tell a lie.' What do you think your legacy will be about lying, and how important do you think it is to tell the truth, especially under oath?"

15) Unknown reporter: Kosovo.
16) April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network: advocate opening old police brutality cases?
17) John King, CNN: Support new IMF funding for Russia?
18) Carl Cannon, Baltimore Sun: China/Does U.S. human rights policy reflect our values?

19) Wendell Goler, Fox News, on China: "Mr. President, you said just a short while ago that no one has reported to you they suspect Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear labs during your administration, sir, but sources tell Fox News -- and we are reporting this evening -- that China stole the technology for electromagnetic pulse weapons from several nuclear labs during your first term in office, sir, and that the Chinese have successfully tested these weapons in China. And the sources also say that the administration at least was aware of this. Can you tell us, sir, were you not personally aware? Are you concerned about this? And what will be your administration's response to the report?"

20) Reporter from Bloomberg News: Rubin going?/Greenspan staying?
21) Reporter from Bosnia: Bosnia feels forgotten.

Imagine where we'd be without the Donaldson family.

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cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Sam Donaldson asked about Juanita Broaddrick, leading to World News Tonight's first weekday mention of her name, but neither CBS or NBC uttered a syllable about her Friday night. In addition to ABC, CNN, FNC and MSNBC did highlight, at least briefly, Clinton's non-responsive reply.

As noted by Rush Limbaugh on Friday in citing an earlier MRC report, NBC Nightly News has yet to mention Broaddrick's name despite the fact the exclusive interview aired on its own network: The February 24 Dateline NBC. Clinton has now twice provided on-camera comment, but twice NBC Nightly News has passed. NBC refused to talk about Broaddrick, but Nightly News did pick up Russian TV video of a politician standing next to a bed and paying two prostitutes.

The CBS Evening News hasn't mentioned Broaddrick since its one and only story on Saturday, February 20. Friday night, instead of broaching her charge, anchor John Roberts highlighted how Clinton "said he and Mrs. Clinton love each other very much" and that "she'd be a magnificent U.S. Senator."

For the record, here's the full exchange between Donaldson and Clinton:
Sam Donaldson: "Mr. President, when Juanita Broaddrick leveled her charges against you of rape in a nationally televised interview, your attorney David Kendall issued a statement denying them. But shouldn't you speak directly on this matter and reassure the public? And if they are not true, can you tell us what your relationship with Ms. Broaddrick was, if any?"
Clinton: "Well, five weeks ago today -- five weeks ago today, I stood in the Rose Garden after the Senate voted and I told you that I thought I owed it to the American people to give them 100 percent of my time and to focus on their business, and that I would leave to others to decide whether they would follow that lead. And that is why I have decided as soon as that vote was over that I would allow all future questions to be answered by my attorneys, and I think I made the right decision. I hope you can understand it. I think the American people do understand it and support it. And I think it was the right decision."
Donaldson, drowned out until saying "...simply deny it, sir?"
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by my attorney. He speaks for me, and I think he spoke quite clearly."

Now, a review of how each network covered on Friday night, March 19, the 4pm ET press conference:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson opened: "Talk about pent up demand. The questions ranged from the dead serious to the near frivolous. The lead was Kosovo..."
After clip about Kosovo Donaldson highlighted another answer:
"How are the Clintons doing in repairing their relationship."
Then he got to Broaddrick for ten seconds, showing himself asking: "Can you tell us what your relationship with Ms. Broaddrick was." Donaldson didn't play Clinton's reply, instead he told viewers: "The President showed one flash of anger when asked to deny the rape charges leveled against him by Juanita Broaddrick, replying his lawyer had denied them in his name."

He next went to his wife's question and showed Clinton claiming that in a box score he'll have "one negative" but hundreds upon hundreds of credits for truthfulness. Donaldson ended with McClendon: "The legendary Sarah McClendon asked why he thought people were so mean to him. The President joked he felt like the guy who falls off the Grand Canyon, grabs hold of a twig only to see it come loose."


-- CBS Evening News: The show led with Scott Pelley reviewing Clinton's comments and plans for airstrikes against the Serbs, including playing Pelley's tough question about what threshold would trigger action and why past massacres have not. Next, Tom Fenton checked in from Kosovo and David Martin looked at Pentagon plans.

Anchor John Roberts then devoted 51 seconds to the rest of the press conference: "On much more personal notes at his news conference today the President said he and Mrs. Clinton love each other very much, are working hard on their relationship and he thinks she'd be a magnificent U.S. Senator. On another matter Mr. Clinton had this to say when asked about the importance of telling the truth."
After showing Clinton's one versus hundreds "box score" answer, Roberts concluded: "All told the President didn't seem eager to dwell on the past year of impeachment proceedings, saying it was time to move on to the nation's business."

Most of the Washington press corps, as item #1 outlined, already have.

Later in the show Roberts introduced a China story by noting: "At his news conference today, President Clinton denied reacting too slowly to revelations that China may have obtained stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets. Mr. Clinton did acknowledge security at U.S. nuclear labs was too weak for too long."
Sharyl Attkisson's subsequent story relayed how Paul Redmond, the former CIA spy hunter, said in reference to the miniature multiple warhead, "losing the secrets of such a vital weapon was more devastating to national security than the secrets sold by Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, Redmond's most famous catch."


-- CNN's The World Today opened with Wolf Blitzer on Clinton's Kosovo policy, followed by a report from Kosovo and Jamie McIntyre on the U.S. military buildup.
About 20 minutes into the show anchor Joie Chen narrated clips of Clinton denying any improper action on Chinese espionage. John King handled the rest of the press conference and raised the Broaddrick matter for 13 seconds: "There were some things the President was in no mood to talk about: An Arkansas woman's allegation of a sexual assault more than 20 years ago."
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by my attorney. He speaks for me and I think he spoke quite clearly."

King later referred to Clinton's questionable assertion, that a year ago Hillary suggested moving to New York when his term is over, as an "intriguing confession."

(Up next, Bruce Morton delivered an amazing review of Gore's gaffes. Amazing because in one story he featured not only his most recent Internet creation and clear hillsides with a mule claims, but also played his denouncing of tobacco in 1996 because of his sister's death, followed by video of Gore after her death boasting of how he personally has grown and harvested tobacco. Details in a future CyberAlert.)


-- FNC's Fox Report: Wendell Goler went through Clinton's answers on Kosovo and then showed his answer to Jan Smith before getting to Broaddrick for 12 seconds: "Mr. Clinton's answers varied little. There was no change in his response to Juanita Broaddrick's allegation that he sexually assaulted her more than two decades ago."
Clinton: "There's been a statement made by my attorney. He speaks for me and I think he spoke quite clearly."

Later, Carl Cameron delivered the Fox exclusive cited at the press conference by Goler, reporting that sources have told Fox News that contrary to Clinton claims that all the espionage took place in the 1980s, during Clinton's term the Chinese acquired Electro-Magnetic Pulse warhead technology.


-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams replayed the same David Bloom piece, which skipped Broaddrick, that had aired on NBC Nightly News. Interviewing Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Brian Williams posed this as his last question: "Is it unbecoming of a President to, when he's asked are you are rapist, to defer those questions to his personal attorney and not just answer them?"

Later in the show Campbell Brown, as quoted in item #1 above, included Clinton's reply to Donaldson in her review of press conference highlights.


-- NBC Nightly News, anchored by Brian Williams with Tom Brokaw in Moscow. The David Bloom piece cited above began with Kosovo and reticence expressed by Republican Senators before Bloom pointed out a contradiction on China missed by the other networks:
"On the issue of Chinese nuclear spying the President appeared to contradict his national security adviser, who earlier this week said there's no question the Chinese benefitted from stolen American nuclear designs. Today, the President sounded less sure."
After a clip of Clinton's comment, NBC showed video of him with his arm around Hillary as Bloom announced: "Asked about his wife's possible run for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Clinton made sure that trial balloon stayed afloat, saying she'd be terrific, magnificent."

No Broaddrick on the show, but after the first ad break Tom Brokaw checked in from Moscow and showed a brief clip of a video shown by Russian TV of a bed with two prostitutes beside it being paid by a partially-clothed investigator who has antagonized Yeltsin. The TV network which showed it, Brokaw explained, is controlled by Yeltsin.

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cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Incomprehensible Abraham Lincoln conspiracy question highlighted by abcnews.com while Broaddrick ignored.

ABC's World News Tonight reported the Donaldson/Clinton exchange about Juanita Broaddrick, but the ABC News Web page skipped that exchange in its recitation of the most worthwhile highlights. The abcnews.com feature article on the press conference listed transcripts and video of questions and answers on these topics: "Kosovo," "Economic Boom," "Hillary," "Russia," "Impeachment," "The 'Conspiracy'," "China Espionage" and "Gore."

Jump to "The 'Conspiracy'" and under the heading of "Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories" you see this question followed by Clinton's answer: "Sir, will you tell us why you think people have been so mean to you? Is it a conspiracy? Is it a plan? They treat you worse than they treated Abe Lincoln?"

As noted in item #1, that was the question yelled by "independent reporter" Sarah McClendon. Lincoln was shot in the head, but she thinks Clinton is being treated worse!

To read the ABC News Web page report on the press conference, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/PoliticalNation/pn_clintonpress_990319.html

In a 1996 Notable Quotable item, the MRC's Tim Graham reminded me, a former Newsweek reporter called McClendon a "treasure for journalism" as she ranted about the role of "French intelligence" in another conspiracy. From a January 24, 1996 Washington Post story by reporter Richard Leiby on gatherings held by McClendon:
"'She's [Sarah McClendon] a real treasure for journalism in this city,' says investigative reporter Robert Parry, a former staffer with the Associated Press and Newsweek, now freelance. 'There was a time in journalism when journalists took pride in being individuals instead of being members of the pack.' A disgruntled loner, Parry is a perfect speaker for tonight's meeting. His topic is the 'October Surprise,' a much probed but never proved tangle of allegations involving top CIA officials and monied Republicans who supposedly schemed to sabotage an October 1980 release of the 52 U.S. hostages in Iran, thereby putting the kibosh on President Carter's re-election. Parry talks spellbindingly for two hours about a House committee's classified 'X-files,' which he stumbled upon in 'a converted ladies' room, with the tampon dispenser still on the wall': the Hashemi brothers...BCCI links...a $20 million deposit...David Rockefeller...the Shah's twin sister...a Marcos bagman. McClendon appears to doze off during parts of the presentation, then pipes up with such on-point questions as: 'Was there any sort of French intelligence input in those [classified] papers?'"

I can't stop laughing every time I read that quote.

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cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Unreasonable to expect actors and directors to realize communism was wrong.

Closing Friday's show Rush Limbaugh read a March 19 CyberAlert item on what writer-director Abraham Polonsky said of director Elia Kazan, who answered truthfully in the 1950s about who was a communist, and is scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars on Sunday. Polonsky spewed, as quoted in a March 16 Reuters dispatch: "I'll be watching, hoping someone shoots him. It would no doubt be a thrill in an otherwise dull evening."

In reading the item Limbaugh included my hope to distribute in a Saturday CyberAlert more examples of anti-Kazan invective from Hollywood. Well, space precludes that today, but I will squeeze in one gem from Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN. Actor Richard Dreyfuss asserted:
"Right now, since 1989 it's been easy to say that everyone should have known before the fall of communism that it was, it was wrong. And that's to a great extent true. But it can't, it can't make up for individual sins."

Let's analyze this analysis.
a) By "sins" he means those who told the truth in the 1950s and were concerned about approving of those advocating the system of a nation constructing nuclear missiles to aim at the U.S.
b) "That's to a great extent true." To what extent is communism not wrong?
c) So, Dreyfuss figured out in 1989 that communism was wrong? It was fine in 1988? If the Cold War were still on and the Soviet Union still together then it would be unreasonable to expect actors to realize communism was wrong?
d) Is communism only wrong because it fell? Before then you could not apply a moral analysis to it and condemn it?

Imagine someone excusing Nazi supporters of the 1930s by arguing in the 1950s that "since 1945 it's been easy to say that everyone should have known before Hitler's defeat that Nazism was wrong." -- Brent Baker

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