By raising the alleged payoffs to Hale
from Richard Scaife NBC Nightly News caught up with all the other
networks which had previously highlighted the charges involving Scaife,
whom ABC Thursday night dubbed "the conservative millionaire and
Clinton basher." NBC's Lisa Myers found him a bit wealthier,
describing him as "billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, financial
godfather of the alleged right-wing conspiracy against the
Here are some highlights from how the
networks handled Jones and Starr on the April 16 evening shows:
ABC's World News Tonight. Dean Reynolds
checked in from Dallas, opening with a soundbite/crybite from Jones and
noting that her lawyers said they are confident of winning the case the
costs of which a "conservative foundation" pledged to cover.
Next, Jackie Judd looked at Ken Starr's
press conference announcements, beginning:
"Starr tried to repair his damaged
reputation by announcing that even when his investigation ends he will
not go to Pepperdine University to fill a position funded partially by
a conservative philanthropist."
Following a Starr soundbite Judd
continued by running through the grand conspiracy theory:
"Starr attempted to leave for
Pepperdine in Malibu California last year, but was so ridiculed he
agreed to see the investigation through to the finish. Still critics
continued linking Starr to Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative
millionaire and Clinton basher who helped finance the Pepperdine post.
Recently, even the Deputy Attorney General wrote Starr that he may
have a conflict of interest in determining whether one of his key
witnesses, David Hale, took money from a foundation funded by Scaife.
Starr claimed he has no connection to Scaife."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather once
again tagged Starr with a partisan label: "Republican special
prosecutor Kenneth Starr said his investigation of the Clinton camp is
far from over..."
But before CBS got to Starr, Phil Jones
examined Paula Jones, starting his story with her tears:
"For nearly 30 seconds it appeared
Paula Jones may not be emotionally up to continuing her legal battle
with the President. Finally, with tears in her eyes and her husband at
her side she explained why she is appealing."
Like ABC's Reynolds, Phil Jones ended
by relaying Bob Bennett's comments about abusing the legal system to
harm the President.
CBS then gave less than a minute to Scott
Pelley to report on Starr. Pelley covered only the time line, noting
Starr said the investigation is far from over which, Pelley suggested,
means a May report is unlikely.
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Bob
Franken handled the Jones story and was the only network reporter
Thursday night to point out how the Jones lawyers insisted that Susan
Carpenter McMillan would have a diminished role in this round of the
Pierre Thomas covered the Starr story,
running through the Pepperdine and Hale ties to Scaife. From Chile Wolf
Blitzer checked in with Clinton's non-comment reaction. Blitzer
emphasized that the appeal will mean the case will remain with Clinton
for the rest of his presidency, but his aides are more concerned about
how Starr's probe is far from over.
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET allocated
the most time to the Jones and Starr stories. From Dallas, Fox reporter
Mike Emanuel (sp?) was the only reporter to specify that Jones said
Clinton "asked her for oral sex." Brian Wilson filed from
Chile with Clinton. Then co-anchor Jon Scott interviewed John Whitehead
of the Rutherford Institute. One of Scott's questions:
"Hillary Clinton, of course,
blamed many of her husband's problems on this vast right-wing
conspiracy, her words. The fact that yours is a conservative
institute, do you ever feel that you are in danger of in some way
playing into their hands by supporting Paula Jones in this
Up next, an interview with Fox legal
analyst Stan Goldman. Scott asked Goldman to react to this assessment:
"What this decision said to a lot
of people is that you get one free shot. You can drop your trousers
one time, if this behavior on the part of the President, the
allegations are to be believed, and you're not hurting anybody,
Finally, David Shuster delivered a piece
-- NBC Nightly News did not air a full
story on Jones, instead Tom Brokaw just introduced a clip from her
statement. Brokaw asserted: "Today, Jones made an emotional
Lisa Myers handled the Starr
"In cutting ties to Pepperdine Starr
also bowed to critics who claimed the job was a serious conflict of
interest because the school is funded, in part, by billionaire Richard
Mellon Scaife, financial godfather of the alleged right-wing conspiracy
against the President. Starr insists he has absolutely no ties to Scaife
who is alleged to have given indirect financial aid to a key Whitewater
witness against the President."
Starr explained he never met and has no
connection to Starr before Myers highlighted signs he's not ending but
expanding his probe: he's hired more lawyers, hired a spokesman and
plans regular press conferences to explain his side.
Tim Russert came on next to answer
Brokaw's questions about Jones. Russert declared of the 8th Circuit:
"It is conservative court." But, he noted, it is reluctant to
overturn rulings though it did previously overturn Judge Wright by
saying the Jones suit could proceed while Clinton was still in office.
As usual, in linking Starr to Scaife or
Scaife to Starr, none of the networks pointed out that Scaife ceased
funding the American Spectator after it ran a story defending Starr's
conclusion that Vince Foster committed suicide.
the Fox News Channel last week noted the criminal and fortune-teller
background of those involved in accusing David Hale of taking money from
conservatives, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC have yet to add that context to
their reports on the Hale matter. (See the April 13 and April 15
CyberAlerts) But the networks weren't so reluctant about raising
disparaging information about a witness against Clinton. When the New
Yorker's Jane Mayer in mid-March wrote a story reporting a 1969 arrest
of Linda Tripp, the networks jumped. NBC and CNN ran stories in the
evening and Bryant Gumbel invited Mayer onto his Public Eye show on CBS
to cast doubt on Tripp's credibility.
Mayer herself is far from a dispassionate
journalist, as the former Wall Street Journal reporter made clear in how
she recently denounced the idea that there was anything wrong with her
checking Tripp's private personnel file to see if she reported the
arrest Tripp's lawyer says was expunged. Responding to a Nat Hentoff
op-ed piece in the Washington Post criticizing her for invading
Tripp's privacy, Mayer let loose on Tripp in a letter that reads more
like a prosecutor's summation than a detached journalist defending her
ethics. Here's her letter to the editor which appeared in the April 10
"You know you are living in an age
of 'spin' when Linda Tripp, the woman who surreptitiously taped 20
hours of a friend's private phone conversations and then turned the
tapes over to federal prosecutors, is portrayed as a victim whose
privacy has been cruelly invaded.
"Nat Hentoff ['Linda Tripp's
Privacy,' op-ed, March 28] seems to think that it's okay for Ms. Tripp
to accuse her erstwhile friend Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton of
criminal behavior, but that it is not okay for anyone to know that she
herself was arrested on a felony charge of grand larceny and, after
posting bail and being held in custody, pleaded guilty to a reduced
charge of loitering.
"Nor apparently should the public
learn that Ms. Tripp, who has said her sole motive for blowing the
whistle is an abhorrence of lying, withheld the truth about her arrest
record in the course of obtaining a top-secret security clearance that
enabled her to work for a classified project in the military and later
in the most sensitive office in the White House. Asked in 1987 under
penalty of law if she had ever been "arrested, charged, cited
orheld by" any law enforcement authority "regardless of
whether the citation was dropped or dismissed," she answered no.
"Ms. Tripp had several days to
respond to questions about her arrest record, but declined to do so.
Instead, her lawyer belatedly protested to others less familiar with the
case that she had believed that her record would be expunged and that
she need never mention it again. The judge who allegedly told her this
is dead. Meanwhile her arrest record never has been sealed, nor marked
in any way suggesting any intention that it be expunged. It is available
to anyone willing to fill out a Freedom of Information Act form, part of
what this country considers the public record.
"Ms. Tripp and her lawyers have
managed to make the issue of her failure to disclose the full truth
about her past into a question of her privacy rights. Was it unfair of
the Pentagon to have confirmed to me that as far as it knew, Ms. Tripp
had no arrest record? Clearly, such an answer was seen as harmless, even
exculpatory. Was it unfair for me to write accurately about Ms. Tripp's
clouded legal past? I'd argue that when an unknown individual steps
forward to accuse the highest elected official in the country of
criminal behavior, the public has every right to know as much as it can,
not just about the charge, but also about who the accuser is and what
sort of credibility she might have.
"No one can claim to look inside
Linda Tripp's soul, but it is the press's obligation to let the public
see whatever facts are available. Among those facts are an indisputable
and previously undisclosed arrest record, which the Pentagon recently
told Ms. Tripp she must forthrightly acknowledge from now on."
I think it's pretty clear that
Mayer's soul is one of a committed liberal willing to use her
professional opportunities to discredit anyone who might damage Clinton.
Today actually focused Thursday morning on the Gore's paltry
charitable giving, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed. Katie Couric
introduced a story:
"As we've been telling you it's
the day after tax day. And a single line in Vice President Al Gore's
1997 income tax return is raising a few questions. Here's NBC's
Gregory began by emphasizing how much the
Gores give of themselves, but also highlighted how little they gave
"Charity, it's said, comes from
the heart. But it also comes from the wallet. Vice President Al Gore and
his wife Tipper are no grinches when it comes to giving of themselves.
Touring tornado damage, building homes for the poor, feeding the
homeless. But when it comes to giving their money 1997 was a down year.
A single line in the Vice President's 1997 income tax return says the
Gores gave $353 to charity. $353 out of an income of nearly $200,000.
That's less than they spent for example on pest control, $389, and
it's raising some eyebrows...."
it to CBS. They can't even keep their anti-Reagan bias out of a
retrospective series marking the 50th anniversary of the CBS Evening
News. All this week the show is devoting eight-minute-long pieces to the
history of the show. Thursday night: the transition from Walter Cronkite
to Dan Rather and the 1980s.
Here's what the Reagan years meant to
Lesley Stahl, from a 1980s story:
"How does Ronald Reagan use television. Brilliantly."
Stahl currently, recalling the Reagan
years: "They just, in a Hollywood way, put together tableaus,
pictures, that were so imprinted on the public's brains that they
overrode what people were saying because they were so powerful."
Stahl in old story over Reagan on stage
with balloons and flags all around and in crowd: "Americans want to
feel proud of their country again and of their President and the TV
pictures say you can."
Stahl, currently, over video of Ronald
and Nancy Reagan walking to and getting onto helicopter: "You would
have Ronnie and Nancy Reagan go off to Camp David every Friday on the
helicopter from the South Lawn of the White House. And out they would
go. She'd give him the gaze. These are all visual images that said,
extremely powerfully, what a happy family they are. Well we knew that he
never saw his kids and he didn't even know his grandchildren. We knew
that, but the picture was more powerful. I think we began to change the
way we covered the President after that. I think everybody realized, as
I did, that they were using pictures to drown us out."
Without getting into the accuracy or
inaccuracy of Stahl's assessment of Reagan family life, how exactly
does a husband and wife showing they love each other imply they visit
their grandchildren weekly? With Stahl's kind of objective attitude
toward them I can't imagine why the Reagan team wanted to "drown
out" the media.
But speaking of Presidents creating
family images that contradict reality, recall the video every network
broadcast, from a week and a half after the Lewinsky story broke, of
Bill Clinton with his arm around Chelsea as they walked to the
helicopter for a Friday night ride to Camp David. But the March American
Spectator noted in its "On the Prowl" column:
"As for the 'family' weekend at
Camp David, Mom flew off to Switzerland while Dad logged more than six
hours Saturday on the golf course, and then two more holed up with
personal attorney David Kendall after dinner. Chelsea left early Sunday
to be back at Stanford in time for Monday morning classes."
CBS never reported the reality over the
image. Neither did he other networks. Maybe CBS will get to it in 2048
on the 100th anniversary of the CBS Evening News. Don't bet on it.
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