CNN Dedicated Special to Disparaging Burton; "So-Called Scandal"
1) CNN took on Dan Burton, an
unfair menace to Clinton, in a prime time special. "Burton's own
marks for integrity suffered when he released some -- but only some -- of
the Hubbell tapes."
2) Nightline also focused on
Burton's misdeeds and how, as Ted Koppel put it, "evidence of a
cover-up may be lost amid political squabbling."
3) Executive privilege led all
but FNC. CBS pushed how GOP leaders want "to clip Burton's
wings." Peter Jennings warned there's "no regulations" for
Internet gambling, "no way to control" the Internet.
4) CNN's Wolf Blitzer referred
to "this so-called scandal."
Corrections. Since in the Clinton era
everything is done "for the children," I don't want to be blamed
for promoting bad English. So two grammatical errors pointed out by
readers. First, the April 27 CyberAlert reported that the MRC Web site was
down, noting "it hopefully will be" up soon. I should have
written: "I don't know when it will be up again, though I hope it
will be by the time you read this." Second, the May 1 CyberAlert
stated: "Donaldson showed another soundbite in which Clinton insisted
his enemies, like Newt Gingrich, can't effect his character." That
should have read "can't affect." Effect is a noun; affect is a
verb. Lesson complete for today.
advantage of being a Clintonite: Whenever a political opponent presents a
threat CNN will come to your aid and devote a hunk of prime time to giving
credibility to your effort to discredit the pesky enemy. Back on February
5 CNN aired a prime time special, "Ken Starr: Investigating the
Investigator." Tuesday night, May 5, CNN pitched in again for the
White House with a 10pm ET/7pm PT special dully titled "Burton Versus
Clinton." The hour-long show followed the premise that President
Clinton is the victim of unscrupulous attackers, running through a litany
of grievances about Burton, blaming Republican bumbling for letting the
White House change topics and insisting that the media gave Burton's
initial tape release too much time and credibility.
-- Anchor Judy Woodruff's opening revealed
CNN's priorities as she painted Clinton as the victim of attacks and
Burton as the one in need of scrutiny:
"We'll take a look at the facts and
the omission of facts at the center of Washington's latest partisan
battle. Tonight, a CNN special report, Burton versus Clinton. Thank you
for joining us. It is a remarkable political and personal battle, even for
a President who has been under attack from day one, even for a Congressman
known for harsh words and partisan hardball. As we will explain in the
next hour, Burton versus Clinton is about the Webster Hubbell tapes and so
much more, including Dan Burton's power, his tactics, and even his
-- Up first, a "profile of Burton and
his mission" from Bruce Morton, who asserted: "Burton is an
unusual Congressman, less like a politician than like the puritan Oliver
Cromwell, convinced of his righteousness and determined that the king must
fall. What he sees as a cover-up fuels his anger."
After running through some of Burton's
anti-Clinton statements, Morton charged: "Burton's anger makes him
overstate his case, as when he called the President a scumbag and was
burned himself." Burton acknowledged: "Perhaps I could have used
different and more diplomatic language to describe how I feel, but the
fact is I do not believe that the President of the United States is a man
of integrity." To which Morton countered: "But Burton's own
marks for integrity suffered when he released some -- but only some -- of
convicted Clinton friend Webster Hubbell's phone calls from prison."
Looking at how Burton supposedly distorted
the tapes, Morton played this soundbite from a tape originally released by
Suzanne Hubbell: "I'm hearing the
Webster Hubbell: "So I need to roll
over one more time."
Noted Morton: "Which sounds like
cover-up. This was not in what Burton released."
Webster Hubbell on over billing:
"Hillary's not, Hillary, the only thing is people say why didn't she
know what was going on, and I wish she never paid any attention to what
was going on at the time. That's the gospel truth."
Huh? In the first clip Hubbell is
suggesting he hasn't told all he knows, which could encompass any number
of issues from Hillary Clinton's billing records which show what she
worked on to her involvement to obtaining an illegal loan to her role in
illegal schemes in setting up Castle Grande. And that's just the
Whitewater stuff. Hubbell knows plenty about many other topics too. In the
second clip all Hubbell says is that she did not falsely bill clients.
That hardly contradicts the first soundbite.
Morton concluded with this shot:
"Oliver Cromwell bent on bringing down a king. On Congressman
Burton's Web site, there's a heading called inspirational poetry. One of
poems is Rudyard Kipling's 'If,' which begins, 'If you can keep your head
when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,' and that may
decide whether Burton can make his case. Can he, in fact, keep his
-- In the second segment Brooks Jackson
relayed his review of the unedited tapes. After he aired clips implicating
the Clintons in wrongdoing and some portions favorable to them, he
decreed: "So those hours of tapes are certainly intriguing, but
-- Third, Candy Crowley focused on efforts
by Democrats to remove him from the investigation and discomfort amongst
Republicans about his actions.
-- Fourth, Wolf Blitzer ran through the
White House strategy:
"In hammering their critics, White House officials are on very
familiar turf. As depicted in the film The War Room, Clinton associates
have been doing it since the '92 campaign....The counterattack is designed
to change the subject, put the opponent on the defensive, and then get him
Blitzer concluded by conveying an insult
from the White House: "Privately, White House officials call Burton
quote 'the tape doctor, unscrupulous, and stupid.'
AEI's Norm Ornstein chirped in:
"Putting Clinton into the ring with Dan Burton is like putting
Muhammad Ali in against Pee Wee Herman. It is no contest here."
-- In the fifth slot Woodruff talked with
CNN political analyst Bill Schneider who proposed that Republicans are on
the attack because they are frustrated by Clinton's political success.
Like Blitzer, Schneider credited White House success in getting the media
to switch subjects not on the media itself but on bad Republican public
"Dan Burton pulled a stunt that was so
outrageous it enabled Democrats today -- this week to seize the
initiative. They were able to distract attention from Starr's campaign to
build a case for a cover-up and have enabled Democrats to try to discredit
the whole investigation as partisan and unfair. Starr and Burton and
Gingrich have been doing that all along. Their behavior has allowed the
White House to depict them as zealots and partisans out to get the
President, and Democrats hope that discredits anything they could turn
Of course, no matter how misleading
Burton's tape release, nothing is stopping the media from focusing on the
actual content now that all the hours are coming out.
-- Avoiding a totally one-sided production,
in the sixth segment viewers heard a report about how popular he is in his
Indiana district. Marveled Woodruff: "Despite the controversy
surrounding him, Dan Burton has been elected to Congress eight
-- Seventh, John King highlighted the First
Lady's ties to Hubbell. King gave voice to some of Burton's concerns:
"Mrs. Clinton is a central figure in several unsolved mysteries.
Burton leads Republican criticism of the First Lady's role in firing White
House Travel Office workers, and her ties to controversial Democratic
donors like Johnny Chung." But he also made sure her side got in
their hit: "The First Lady's friends accuse Burton of leading a
campaign of smear and innuendo over suspicions that can't be proven in a
courtroom are recycled in the political arena."
-- Eighth, CNN worried about the propriety
of Burton's tape release. Woodruff wondered: "Dan Burton and his
Democratic opponents might agree on one thing: both have raised concerns
about Webster Hubbell privacy. Did Burton cross any legal or ethical lines
when he released tapes of Hubbell's prison phone calls?" CNN's Pierre
Thomas ran soundbites of those questioning Burton's ethical judgment, but
concluded he did nothing illegal.
-- After a
Bill Press versus Pat Buchanan Crossfire joust, CNN turned to media
coverage. But instead of exploring why journalists are so easily
sidetracked from substantive information damaging to Clinton because they
are so eager to tear down his critics, CNN's story relayed just the views
of those upset by a news value being assigned to the tapes. Reporter Linda
"In this tale of truth, lies and
audiotapes, the media is smack in the middle of a confusing, complicated
and constantly changing story. Critics say journalists were too late to
question being handed only a one-hour edited version out of 150 hours of
recorded jail house conversations."
Several soundbites from professor Larry
Sabato (claiming there was a frenzy because the tapes remind reporters of
Nixon) and from columnist Jack Germnond (bemoaning the lowering of
journalistic standards), Pattillo ended by scolding her profession:
"News organizations argue that there
is intrinsic news value when the chairman of a major congressional
committee releases information, but there is no doubt that some are
somewhat uncomfortable with the role they played in this episode. But are
they uncomfortable enough to change the way the media is covering this
continuing saga in the nation's capital?"
-- Finally, Woodruff
prompted Schneider: "You were just telling me you thought Linda
Pattillo had a point just a moment ago about the press here."
Schneider: "I do. I think the press was far too quick to use these
tapes without proper warnings that they were not complete and they came
from a partisan source. I think Burton tried to put one over on the press,
and the press was too eager to buy it.
Well CNN has certainly gotten even.
night featured even more Burton-bashing. At the end of World News Tonight
Peter Jennings declared: "Later on Nightline, were the Webster
Hubbell tapes deliberately edited to make the Clintons look bad?"
Ted Koppel opened the May 5 broadcast:
"Tonight, the bumbling of the Hubbell tapes. How evidence of a
cover-up may be lost amid political squabbling."
Reporter Chris Bury knocked down the
Democratic claim that the tapes had been doctored, then closed his story:
"In appearing to manipulate the Hubbell tapes for partisan advantage
Congressman Burton has given the White House plenty of ammunition. Now the
tapes will be remembered less for what they reveal than for the
controversy they generated and the President once again has been blessed
by the bumbling of his enemies."
And blessed by the cooperation of a media
more concerned about bumbling than criminality.
Interviewing Democratic Congressman Henry
Waxman, after running through Burton's misdeed, Koppel did actually get
back to the substance of the tapes, propounding: "You have had a
chance now, I assume, to look at much, if not most, if not all of the
transcripts of those 150 hours of telephone conversations. Is there not
material in there that troubles you too?"
CBS, CNN and NBC led Tuesday night with the judge's decision denying
executive privilege while the Vatican murders topped FNC's prime time
newscast. ABC's Jennings worried about the lack of regulation in place to
"control" the Internet. Some brief highlights from the May 5
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Jackie Judd
handled the executive privilege story, noting that Bruce Lindsey, Nancy
Hernreich and Sidney Blumenthal had all refused to answer and that
Blumenthal had even "made the unprecedented claim" of extending
the privilege to talks with Hillary Clinton. But there was "better
news for White House out of Little Rock" where the grand jury
disbanded without indicting a Clinton.
Sam Donaldson checked in with the White
House reaction which was they haven't decided whether to appeal, but the
notoriety of Nixon's appeal may dissuade them.
Plugging an upcoming segment, Peter
Jennings intoned: "And we'll take A Closer Look tonight at gambling
in America. Betting on the Internet. No regulations and as of now no way
to control it."
We can't let
the Internet escape government control.
-- CBS Evening News: Dan Rather in
Washington, DC introduced he lead piece from Scott Pelley: "Breaking
news tonight here in the nation's capital. Score another one for Ken
Starr. A federal judge has ruled that two close aides to President Clinton
are not entitled to presidential executive privilege and cannot decline to
answer at least some questions about the President's personal life and
Next, Bob Schieffer delivered a story about
the GOP leadership's lack of faith in Burton. Schieffer began with this
lengthy bite from Speaker Newt Gingrich: "Those who are covering up
the crimes and those who participated in the crimes are doing all they can
to smear anybody who seeks the truth. Rather than focus on Dan Burton why
don't you go and ask the White House doesn't it worry them that Mrs.
Hubbell thought she was being squeezed by a White House staffer, doesn't
it worry them that Web Hubbell was going to quote 'roll over one more
time'? Why the focus on Burton? Why isn't there a focus on the crimes and
contended: "For all the fury we've learned there may be more to this
than Gingrich is letting on." Noting the decision to release all the
tapes, Schieffer went on:
"When Burton aides got the tapes and
literally threw them to waiting reporters yesterday, the spectacle
appalled even some Burton supporters, especially since Democrats were
pointing out the content of the tapes had been altered. So Gingrich is
feeling the heat too and for all that public support he voiced for Burton,
we understand he and other Republican leaders in the House are now
actively looking for ways to clip Burton's wings and shift part of the
investigation to other committees. One Republican told us it's gone beyond
being a matter of concern in the House, this is a problem now for all
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Jeanne
Meserve filed a report on executive privilege, followed by Wolf Blitzer
with the lack of White House reaction and Bob Franken on the shutdown of
the Little Rock grand jury. Anchor Martin Savidge then introduced a
soundbite from Richard Gephardt followed by the same clip of Gingrich as
played by CBS.
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Carl
Cameron ran down the "major blow to the President's defense."
From Little Rock reporter David Shuster offered this unique take on the
difference between Starr's two grand juries: "The grand jury here had
a very difficult task, dissect complicated financial transactions and
Whitewater evidence described as complex. The issues in Washington will be
much simpler, focusing on whether the Clintons or their associates tried
to keep any of this under wraps."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened:
"A major setback for the President. A judge rules no on executive
privilege. Clinton's aides must reveal what they know about Monica
Lewinsky....As Richard Nixon learned, when a President is under
investigation on serious charges this is a tough claim to get by the
Lisa Myers explained: "It was one of
the most sweeping claims of executive privilege by any President and the
first time it was claimed for the First Lady. Legal scholars were not
surprised the President lost."
is scandal not a scandal? MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this
question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer to colleague John King on the May 3 Late
Edition: "John, what is the White House strategy right now in dealing
with all of these late breaking developments involving this so-called
Enlist so-called journalists in their
strategy to undermine Ken Starr and all GOP congressional committee
chairmen who dare to disclose harmful information.
-- Brent Baker
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