Starr Asked Small Fish to Lie; Brunt Burton Before Hurting Hillary
1) 60 Minutes castigated Starr
Sunday night for destroying the lives of "small fish." When he
went after one woman "God stepped in" to stop him; "Most
others say they are too frightened of Starr to even talk about it."
Andy Rooney argued Starr smiles too much.
2) The networks grew more
interested in tainting Dan Burton than exploring the Hubbell tapes:
"Now those words are also haunting the people who released
them." Only FNC touched the smear against Tripp; Gingrich is silent
but ABC still branded him "nasty."
3) Al Hunt: "What Dan
Burton did," releasing the Hubbell tapes, "would have made Joe
4) TV reviewer Tom Shales
praised NBC's Sunday night movie for giving "the NRA fits.
CBS News paid back President Clinton Sunday night for the faux pas by 60
Minutes of airing the interview with Kathleen Willey a few weeks ago. The
lead segment on the May 3 edition of 60 Minutes: "Starr Wars,"
an examination of how Ken Starr has persecuted innocent Arkansans in his
quest to get Clinton at any cost.
Though former US Attorney Henry Hudson was
allowed to make a few comments on Starr's behalf and defend his tactics as
standard, he was badly outnumbered in soundbites and in time by those
supposedly hurt by Starr and their lawyers.
Morley Safer opened by asserting that
though Starr had netted Jim Guy Tucker and Webster Hubbell, "in his
effort to net the biggest fish of all -- the President and the First Lady
-- the independent counsel went after some very small fish indeed. And he
used some pretty tough tactics on, among others, a woman named Sara
Safer explained that Starr's office
implicated Hawkins in a scheme to illegal back date loan appraisals when
she worked at Madison Savings & Loan. She was accused by a co-worker
who made a deal. Safer recalled of Hawkins: "Adamant that she was
innocent, she met with Starr and his deputies who she says threatened if
she didn't cooperate, name some names, accept a plea bargain and admit to
a felony they would really throw the book at her."
In a soundbite Hawkins complained that
Starr's team threatened her with 400 years in prison, but she refused to
make a deal. She owned a small business, Safer explained, but when
targeted her work went away. Safer recited the damage: "Hawkins, the
sole support of her two daughters and two granddaughters says her income
fell from about $100,000 a year to less than $25,000. Her oldest daughter
had to leave college. They went on food stamps."
Hawkins found support at her church, a
point that allowed 60 Minutes to play this soundbite from the minister:
"They came after her, but then God stepped in. And then they had to
back up and leave her alone."
After a year, Safer sighed, she got a
letter from Starr "admitting" insufficient evidence for an
Safer let Hudson point out that often the
only way to get to top officials is to push underlings to testify against
those top people, which is what Starr did with Herbie Branscom and Rob
Hill, two other Madison staffers. Both refused to cooperate and, in the
end, neither was convicted. Safer picked up their tale of woe:
"Neither will talk about their bitter experience, but Branscom's
lawyer, Dan Guthrie (sp?), says Starr's tactics were crude and
abusive." Guthrie complained that federal agents served Branscom's
son with a subpoena at high school.
Safer proceeded to a fourth victim,
University of Arkansas professor Steve Smith, a former business partner
with Jim McDougal and aide to Governor Clinton 20 years ago. Safer
declared: "He levels an even more serious charge at Starr's
operation." Smith contended: "They asked me to lie about other
people and they've lied about what they've done."
In 1995 Smith pled guilty to a
misdemeanor for loan misuse and agreed to testify against others. Starr's
team, Smith insisted, had a script they wanted read to the grand jury
"and in there were things they were asking me to say that were untrue
and things that I had repeatedly told them were not true, things that I
told them I had no knowledge about. Yet there it was typed up as my
When he refused to read it those parts were
taken out. Starr, Safer noted, denies there was a script. Smith challenged
Starr's team to a lie detector test, proclaiming: "They're not
interested in the truth, they're interested in getting something on the
Hudson then got a few seconds to maintain
that Starr is reasonable, objective and not partisan. Safer countered:
"A good part of the population of
Little Rock believes otherwise. They point to the hundreds of subpoenas
Starr's office issued and the number of people they believe were
threatened the way Sara Hawkins and Steve Smith were. But Hawkins and
Smith went public with their ordeal, most others say they are too
frightened of Starr to even talk about it."
During his last clause viewers saw video of
a car featuring this bumper sticker: "Ken Starr: Go Home."
But 60 Minutes was not done. They opened
with Starr and Andy Rooney closed the show with some more Starr-bashing.
Three clips from Rooney's commentary:
"Starr is the kind of a person who, when the photographer says smile,
he smiles even though he has so little to smile about. No one trusts a man
who smiles in adversity."
-- "It says something about Kenneth
Starr's character that he always sits in the back seat of a car. I've
never trusted a man who sits in the back seat. It's a recessive male
-- "This concludes my investigation of
Kenneth Starr, who has spent $40 million trying to prove something that
most of us thought was already true anyway."
tapes providing evidence that's fresh to the public of how Web Hubbell
knows more than he's told, including information about improprieties
involving the First Lady and payments to him, were released late last
week. But the networks over the weekend grew more interested hour by hour
in tainting the Congressman who released them than in exploring their
On Friday, CNN and NBC summarized the
content of the excerpts of the Hubbell prison tapes released by the House
Government Reform and Oversight Committee, chaired by Dan Burton. But ABC
and CBS emphasized questions about the context of the conversations and
how only "selective" portions were made public. Friday night
only FNC raised the disclosure that a Defense Department official revealed
that a political appointee wanted Linda Tripp's personnel file shared with
Jan Mayer. None of the broadcast networks pursued the Hubbell story
Saturday night as none ran anything scandal-related and two led with a
"silent" protest for gun control. By Sunday night ABC and CBS
were back to questioning the tapes, stressing attacks on Burton.
Some highlights from the weekend evening shows:
-- Friday, May 1:
ABC's World News Tonight combined into one
story the Hubbell tapes and Starr's speech about executive privilege.
Jackie Judd's piece featured just one tape clip which she introduced with
Hubbell's denouncement: "In Washington today, Web Hubbell indicted by
Starr yesterday, complained that some of his prison conversations released
by the House Government Reform committee have been unfairly taken out of
context. In one conversation, recorded two years ago, Suzy Hubbell, his
wife, says she has heard from a White House official unhappy about the
possibility that Hubbell might sue the law firm he once worked at with
CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather
displayed more concern for GOP strategy than the tape content: "Good
Evening. The President and Mrs. Clinton came under new and strategically
aimed political fire today on two fronts. Republicans raised new questions
about First Lady Hillary Clinton in selectively leaked tapes from the
congressional leadership on Capitol Hill -- recordings of personal prison
phone calls made by Mrs. Clinton's former law partner Webster
First, Phil Jones ran excerpts from the
tapes about suggestions Hillary over billed clients and how Hubbell's wife
felt Clinton aide Marsha Scott was squeezing her by making clear that if
Hubbell talked she'd lose her administration job. Second, Scott relayed
the basics of Starr's executive privilege address.
CNN The World Today at 8pm opened with Wolf
Blitzer's assessment that the Hubbell tapes "...repeatedly offers
what federal investigators believe are tantalizing hints of possible
illegal activities involving First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton." CNN
also ran a story from John King with Clinton in California, a look by
Pierre Thomas at Starr's case against Web Hubbell, and a report from Bob
Franken on Starr's speech.
FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report led with the
controversy over the LA suicide video and featured a story by David
Shuster on Hubbell, but only FNC alerted viewers to evidence that Clinton
operatives worked to make sure Linda Tripp was embarrassed. Co-anchor
Catherine Crier announced: "Not long after Linda Tripp went public
with her tapes of Monica Lewinsky, the Pentagon went public with Tripp's
criminal record. The timing's a little too convenient for some who smell a
smear campaign by the White House."
Rita Cosby explained that while the
official Pentagon line is that an employee improperly released Tripp's
personnel file to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, leading to the story about
Tripp's 1969 arrest, Pentagon press aide Clifford Bernath denied he messed
up. In a deposition to Judicial Watch, Cosby reported, he now says his
bosses, including Assistant Defense Secretary Kenneth Bacon, told him to
release the information to Jane Mayer. Cosby relayed: "The Chairman
of Judicial watch says Bacon's involvement shows they were acting on
behalf of the White House."
-- Saturday, May 2: CBS and NBC led with
the "silent" gun protests held nationwide. NBC Nightly News
anchor Brian Williams provided a glowing review: "Good evening.
Tonight in a number of American cities and towns there is exhaustion after
a day spent making a point about what many consider one of America's
biggest domestic threats: Handguns, especially those in the wrong hands.
While billed as a silent, mostly symbolic protest today, the marchers are
demanding changes and they took their demands to the people who are making
Newt Gingrich can't get a break. If he
dares say anything negative about Clinton the media condemn him as
"harsh" or "nasty" and if he remains quiet, ABC
showed, he gets hit with the same censure. On World News Tonight, after
reporter Mike Von Fremd in California summarized Clinton's take on the
IRS, anchor Elizabeth Vargas observed that Gingrich is also in the Golden
State and asked: "Is he continuing the drumbeat on his attack on the
President?" Von Fremd assured her: "No he's not, we're not sure
why. He had promised he would bring up the President's ethical lapses at
every speech, but in conservative Orange County he didn't have a nasty
word to say about the President today."
-- Sunday, May 3: Dan Burton appeared on
Meet the Press, but Tim Russert took more time pressing Burton about
exculpatory material he did not release than in reviewing the meaning of
what was released. In the evening the network set out to show that the
tapes really help Hillary's cause. Anchor Carole Simpson announced on
ABC's World News Tonight: "In Washington tonight, more controversy
over Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell. This week his words came back to
haunt him when tapes of conversations he had in prison were released to
the public. Now those words are also haunting the people who released
Mike Von Fremd showed Hubbell attorney John
Nields on This Week condemning the release as "outrageous."
After a soundbite from Burton, Von Fremd piled on Burton: "But the
criticism of Burton is piling up. In a letter released today, Democrat
Henry Waxman accused Burton of selectively releasing portions of the tape
just to make the First Lady look bad, so Waxman highlighted exchanges
where Hubbell says Mrs. Clinton had no knowledge of questionable billing
Over on the CBS Evening News reporter
Sharyl Attkisson got right to Waxman, beginning: "Congressman Henry
Waxman says the prison phone recordings released last week that suggested
Web Hubbell took hush money to protect President and Mrs. Clinton were
altered." Following a bite from Waxman, Attkisson presented his case
and his selected excerpt: "But the Burton tapes omitted references
that seemed to exonerate the First Lady, like this portion obtained today
by CBS News. In it Hubbell indicates that Hillary Clinton did not know
about illegal billing at the law firm where they both once worked."
Leave it the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt to never be satisfied with just
disagreeing with a political opponent. He feels obligated to impugn their
motives. Here's his attack on Dan Burton from Saturday's Capital Gang on
"I think the idea of taping a prisoner
is absolutely good, desirable, should happen and if they say something
incriminating, it ought to be used against them by prosecutor. But to go
to what Tom Lantos said, I think what Dan Burton did, if the Justice
Department had done it, it would have been against the law, would have
made Joe McCarthy proud. And one more point I would make is that these
tapes were selectively edited and given Dan Burton's track record, I would
not be at all surprised if we find out that some of it was done quite
Sunday night movie, "The Long Island Incident: The True Story of
Carolyn McCarthy," lived up to its promise, delivering an anti-NRA
railroading. (For some quotes from the movie, see the May 1 CyberAlert.)
Two new items since Friday: Another quote in which the star of the movie
trumpeted her thrill at spreading the anti-gun message and a
widely-syndicated TV reviewer shouted "Hooray!" at the news that
the movie upset the NRA, delighted that it also served as a reminder that
Bob Dole was "one of the most vicious hatchet men ever to wield an ax
-- From the opening of a May 1 USA Today
story by Jefferson Graham: "For Laurie Metcalf, choosing to play U.S.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in a TV movie was an easy decision because she
agreed so strongly with the film's message: Get guns off the streets. 'I
wanted to be on the team that would allow Carolyn to get that issue out
there to more people in one night than she reaches in Washington, D.C.,
every day,' says Metcalf, 42, a three-time Emmy winner as best supporting
actress for her role as Jackie on ABC's Roseanne...
'When I read through the script and saw some of the statistics, it was
just so overwhelming,' Metcalf says. 'I didn't realize that 10 children a
day die from handguns. It's staggering.'..."
-- From the May 2 review by the Washington
Post's Tom Shales:
"It could easily be argued that any
movie that upsets the National Rifle Association has to be worth
something. 'The Long Island Incident: The True Story of Carolyn McCarthy'
is worth plenty and, as it happens, will give the NRA fits. Hooray!...
"News footage of Babsy's [Executive
Producer Barbra Streisand] pal Bill Clinton is included showing him
favoring the assault weapon ban. The bill passes but then a new Congress
comes in and then-Sen. Bob Dole (not shown on-screen) vows to have the
bill repealed. Dole likes to romp around TV now, in commercials and sitcom
cameos, playing the cuddly geezer. The film is a reminder that in his day
he was one of the most vicious hatchet men ever to wield an ax in
"Eventually McCarthy is entreated to
run for Congress, and though she's a Republican the Republicans are happy
with their incumbent, dull Daniel Frisa. So McCarthy runs as a Democrat
and fries Frisa in the election. You'll want to cheer.
Is Shales a television reviewer or a
liberal commentator? I guess he's both.
The NRA is scheduled to hold a press
conference Monday to point out the distortions in the movie.
-- Brent Baker
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