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.
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."
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:
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:
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.
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."
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.
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
Imagine where we'd be without the Donaldson family.
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:
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
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."
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."
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
I can't stop laughing every time I read that quote.
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:
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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