Starr the Sieve?; Reporters Had Full Access to Tapes; CNN Denies Bias
1) Who leaked the executive
privilege ruling? ABC and NBC relayed the White House attack on Starr but
FNC added an alternative explanation.
2) Dan Rather warned of
"international merger mania" Wednesday night and adopted the
White House spin about Starr probing Clinton's "personal life."
NBC's Myers added to the Currie story.
3) "Reporters were
encouraged...to review the committee's excerpts and then to listen to the
tapes to get the context," National Review revealed. So none were
misled on the Hubbell tapes.
4) CNN's negative portrait of
Dan Burton prompted the Congressman to complain, but Judy Woodruff
insisted: "We try not to be biased."
Correcting the correction.
More than one reader has pointed out that contrary to the May 6 CyberAlert
correction about how "affect" is a verb and "effect"
is a noun, "effect" can also be a verb, as in "effect a
solution," meaning to bring about. In the future I think I shall
stick to bias and avoid grammar, an area I know much less about.
the Sieve or Clinton the Conniver? Or, who leaked? Wednesday night ABC and
CBS relayed the White House complaint, filed by Clinton's personal lawyer,
that the Office of the Independent Counsel improperly leaked the judge's
sealed decision denying the executive privilege claim invoked by some top
Clinton aides. But only FNC and Brit Hume offered viewers the theory
forwarded by Starr's office that the White House really did the leaking.
Concluding his May 6 World News Tonight
story, ABC's Sam Donaldson told anchor Peter Jennings: "Back in the
administration's court the President's lawyer David Kendall, late today,
accused independent counsel Starr of leaking the court order yesterday and
in a letter to the court asked that Starr and his office be held in
contempt. Peter, getting hotter, getting hotter."
Similarly, NBC's David Bloom ended his
Nightly News piece: "Late today the President's private attorney
again asked that the independent counsel's office be held in contempt of
court, arguing that at least one broadcast news report cited Starr's
office as the source of the leak of the supposedly secret executive
But on FNC's Fox Report Rita Cosby noted
Kendall's letter, but added that "sources are saying that prosecutors
believe that they can prove that the original leak didn't come from them
but from the White House."
Near the end of the 6pm ET Special
Report with Brit Hume a few minutes earlier, the FNC's Washington Managing
Editor -- that would be Hume -- offered some informed speculation about
what might have transpired:
"David Kendall is blaming the
independent counsel for the leak because the Fox News Channel report
mentioned the independent counsel's office as having done this. In fact, I
can tell you that the reporter who did that story did not talk to the
independent counsel's office, but subsequently, we have heard from
sources, that the way the independent counsel's office was first
approached by the press was by the news organization which broke this
story which was Lisa Myers at NBC News, called and had a tip already,
already knew about it. And the suspicion at the independent counsel's
office apparently is that the White House leaked this and put its spin on
it and then when the independent counsel's office was later quoted then
and NBC led Wednesday night with stories pegged to Clinton's contention
that the facts in his executive privilege claim distinguish it from
Nixon's assertion. Of the broadcast networks, only CBS featured a separate
story on Dan Burton and only NBC aired a separate piece on Betty Currie's
grand jury appearance as Lisa Myers charged "she was more deeply
involved as a go-between for the President and Monica than she previously
The proposed Daimler-Benz merger with
Chrysler topped the ABC, CNN and CBS newscasts. "International merger
mania, the theory that bigger is better, is spreading to the automobile
industry now," warned Dan Rather at the start of the May 6 CBS
Evening News, noting the deal would "bring together a world renowned
maker of luxury cars and a company whose legacy includes the Duster."
Some other highlights from the evening
shows of Wednesday, May 6:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Sam Donaldson
reported there are "a lot of indications" Clinton will appeal
the executive privilege ruling. After a soundbite from Clinton at a press
conference with the Italian Prime Minister in which Clinton insisted
"the facts are quite different in this case" than in Nixon's,
Donaldson observed: "The President wouldn't say how the facts in the
Monica Lewinsky investigation are different from Watergate."
Noting that Dan Burton fired his top aide
over how the Hubbell tapes were released, Donaldson showed critical clips
from Clinton and Congressman Henry Waxman before this soundbite from Newt
Gingrich: "I'd rather side with a decent man trying to get at the
truth than side with Henry Waxman and the cover-up artists who do anything
they can to avoid the truth."
Donaldson concluded with the news about
David Kendal cited above in item #1. Anchor Peter Jennings then took a few
seconds to note Betty Currie's appearance.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather adopted the
White House spin about Starr probing Clinton's "personal life,"
"President Clinton today said little
and shrugged off any similarity between a federal court rejecting his
assertions of executive privilege in the Ken Starr investigation of his
personal life and the Richard Nixon executive privilege claims during the
crimes of Watergate. But, President Clinton's spokesman Mike McCurry put
it bluntly, and I quote, 'In Watergate crimes were committed,'
Scott Pelley reported that Clinton's
lawyers think they have strong grounds to appeal the executive privilege
decision. He also highlighted how Clinton disagreed with the Watergate
comparison but that Clinton failed to say how the cases differ. After
noting Currie's appearance Pelley observed that while Starr has won all
the recent court rulings the appeals are beginning as Lewinsky's lawyers
plan to appeal the immunity decision, which will delay Starr for months.
Turning to Capitol Hill Rather found
Republican "internal stress cracks on display." He reported the
firing of Burton's aide, adding that Gingrich "distanced himself from
the Burton committee." Bob Schieffer emphasized how Republicans found
Burton embarrassing and wanted to get rid of him, but the aide took the
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Wolf
Blitzer reviewed Clinton's executive privilege claim, specifically citing
White House counsel Charles Ruff as favoring an appeal, and noting how
that would further delay Starr. Bruce Morton then provided a history of
executive privilege claims before anchor Martin Savidge noted Currie's
appearance and how Susan McDougal's lawyer asked a judge to throw out her
two year sentence for a conviction related to a SBA loan.
Finally, Candy Crowley checked in from Capitol Hill, where she found that
"Dave Bossie took the fall for releasing incomplete tape transcripts
which has given the Democrats an issue for five days running."
Crowley asserted that while "in public the GOP is circling the
wagons" around Burton, they are not in private. Crowley uniquely
reported that the last of the Hubbell tapes were released Wednesday, but
she was less than impressed: "They are as ambiguous and inconclusive
as the first tapes."
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET led with Rita
Cosby on Clinton claiming he's different than Nixon and condemning the
Hubbell tape release. Cosby's story also covered the resignation of
Burton's aide, the Congressman's apology to his colleagues and Currie's
recall to the grand jury.
-- Tom Brokaw opened NBC Nightly News by
observing that while Clinton "claimed the facts are quite
different" from Watergate, he "didn't elaborate." David
Bloom filled in the details before switching gears: "Among the
President's Republican opponents -- disarray." Burton fired his top
investigator David Bossie because, Bloom asserted, Burton had come under
fire for releasing Hubbell "recordings that appeared selectively
edited to damage the White House."
Next, Lisa Myers offered no specifics about
what Starr's team had learned about Betty Currie, but tantalizingly
"With Monica Lewinsky not talking, the
President's secretary is for now Starr's most crucial witness in
determining if the President lied and obstructed justice. And today she
was confronted with new evidence, which NBC News has learned, suggests she
was more deeply involved as a go-between for the President and Monica than
she previously indicated..."
Myers did add: "Starr also is
investigating any White House efforts to influence Currie's testimony.
Sources tell NBC News that pager records show White House officials
frantically trying to reach Currie while she was holed up with Starr's
investigators right after the Lewinsky story broke."
to the media line dismissing or ignoring the content of the Hubbell tapes
because Dan Burton and aide David Bossie supposedly provided only
misleading excerpts (see Bloom and Crowley above and the May 6 CyberAlert
for examples), National Review revealed that reporters had full access to
all the tapes last week.
In the magazine's May 6 e-mailed Washington
Bulletin, NR Washington reporters Ramesh Ponnuru and John J. Miller
BLOOD IN THE WATER
Would Henry Waxman ever fire his top
investigator because Republicans were squawking about him-based on a
misunderstanding of the facts? That's essentially what House Government
Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R., Ind.) has just
done by firing Dave Bossie for editing the Hubbell tapes.
Whatever else they thought of him, reporters generally found Bossie
straightforward. From Lloyd Grove's profile in the November 14th
Washington Post: "'Dave Bossie has never lied to me, and the Clinton
White House has lied to me,' says ABC News producer Chris Vlasto, echoing
the comments of other reporters."
And it was not Bossie's decision to release short excerpts from the
Hubbell tapes; he favored releasing a lengthier version. Instead,
reporters were encouraged last week to review the committee's excerpts and
then to listen to the tapes to get the context, although they were
cautioned about the personal nature of much on the tapes. Yes, that's
right: reporters had access to the full tapes -- a fact which makes it
hard to attribute any intent to mislead to Bossie et al. Committee
staffers figured that reporters would be able to filter out obviously
self-serving statements by Hubbell for themselves. In other words, the
committee's condensation was really a sort of guide to the highlights of
the tape. And even that condensation included passages put there at
For information about receiving NR's
Washington Bulletin via e-mail, send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NR's Web site: http://www.nationalreview.com/
Burton-bashing. While on the subject, the day before CNN's Tuesday prime
time special diatribe against Dan Burton (see May 6 CyberAlert), CNN's
Inside Politics delivered a condensed version of its attack on him.
Afterwards Burton complained about the bias, but Judy Woodruff assured him
CNN tries to avoid bias.
MRC news analyst Eric Darbe alerted
me to this May 4 story and Burton/Woodruff exchange. Eric also caught the
Wolf Blitzer "so-called scandal" quote cited in the May 6
CyberAlert which I falsely credited to another analyst.
CNN's Inside Politics featured a profile of
Burton. Reporter Frank Sesno began: "From the outset of the campaign
finance hearings, Dan Burton has been a lightening rod for partisanship
and accusation. His adversaries say he has run the committee with
authoritarian zeal, that he's steamrolled Democrats and shattered
Henry Waxman (D-CA): "The Chairman has
made his view clear. And he has unilateral power and will do whatever he
Sesno: "Burton has given himself
authority to subpoena witnesses, and he's subpoenaed hundreds. The
Democrats say they've been shut out of what has always been a consultative
Following soundbites from Waxman and
Burton, Sesno continued: "Burton's release of the Hubbell tapes
has only inflamed passions and questions about his judgment."
Tom Lantos (D-CA): "I think it's
self-evident that Burton is incapable of conducting an objective, fair,
dignified congressional investigation."
Sesno: "Many Republicans are privately
uneasy. Several approached for this story declined to be interviewed. An
aide to one GOP Committee member says Burton's handling of the tapes
represents 'horrible tactics, horrible PR.'"
After noting that some Republicans are
pleased by his committee's work, Sesno concluded: "This is hardly the
first Burton blowup. There were his comments about President Clinton to
The Indianapolis Star last month. Quote: 'This guy's a scumbag, that's why
I'm after him.' Burton apologized for the vocabulary, but not the
sentiment. And there are plenty of other controversies, from his own
fundraising, to his persistent belief that White House counsel Vince
Foster's death was not a suicide."
Woodruff then launched a live interview with Burton, who immediately
complained: "I'd like to start off saying that when I do interviews
on shows like yours and Bernie's, I really expect to be treated fairly,
and I want you to know that pre-interview piece that you showed was very
biased, and I think your producers know it. All I ask out of you and CNN
is a modicum of fairness."
Woodruff insisted: "As you know, we try not to be biased in our
reporting. We identified that as flashbacks to some of the more
controversial moments on your committee. But if I may, I'm going to go
ahead and launch into these questions today..."
They should try harder. Judging by CNN's
May 5 10pm ET special on Burton (see May 6 CyberAlert) the network didn't
take Burton's admonition too seriously.
-- Brent Baker
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