CyberAlert -- 05/24/2000 -- CBS Tried to Discredit Disbarment

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CBS Tried to Discredit Disbarment; Forget "Personal Peccadillos"; Freeh Corroborator

1) CBS News tried to discredit the disbarment recommendation for Clinton, featuring a recused member who accused the other committee members "using every means necessary to get him." But John Roberts undercut that premise by noting the member also said that party politics did not play a role in the final decision.

2) Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric pressed disbarment supporters more than opponents. Matt Lauer wished for less scrutiny: "I hope that the American people would find it more exciting to talk about health care and Social Security and not about these personal peccadilloes."

3) Tom Brokaw's liberal prism: Missile defense is "controversial" while big money political fundraising reflects "excesses" worthy of denouncement by John McCain.

4) FNC's David Shuster uniquely reported: "There are now two witnesses who may back up the claim that Lee Radek," in charge of Justice's campaign finance probe, "talked about pressure at the FBI and mentioned that Janet Reno's job" might be at risk.

5) Elian will soon be moved closer to Washington, DC, FNC's Rita Cosby disclosed, thus making it more convenient for Cuban indoctrinaters to see him.

6) MRC Special Report released and now online, "Back to the 'Peaceable' Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian."

>>> MRC credited for "tirelessly" pointing out the politically active background of Million Mom March organizer Donna Dees-Thomases. In a May 29 Weekly Standard article titled, "Million Mom Mush: Hollywood touches, inflated numbers, and bogus stories from media-savvy moms," Edmund Walsh wrote: "For your average 'mild-mannered suburban mom,' as CBS dubbed her last fall, Donna Dees-Thomases sure knows how to throw a party....Dees-Thomases, as you probably didn't learn from the heavy network coverage, is a pro; she's worked as a publicist for both CBS anchor Dan Rather and late night host David Letterman. According to the official myth of the Million Mom March, doggedly clung to by most of the media, the event was the brainchild of a typical suburban housewife, spurred to action by a brief flash of political awareness following last August's shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center near Los Angeles. But as Fox News Channel and the conservative Media Research Center tirelessly pointed out in the week leading up to the march, Dees-Thomases was anything but typical. And not just because of her background in PR...."
To read the entire piece, go to the Weekly Standard's Web site. <<<


The CBS Evening News aired a story Tuesday night, featuring a recused member of the Arkansas committee which voted to recommend Bill Clinton's disbarment, who accused the other committee members of playing politics as they really believe "we're against him and we're using every means necessary to get him." But then reporter John Roberts concluded by undercutting the entire justification for the story, noting that the complaining member "disputes the assertion...that there was bias among the remaining committee members and that party politics played a role in their final decision."

Roberts tagged the Southeastern Legal Foundation a "conservative activist group," but failed to label as liberal the committee member he profiled even though he'd donated to many Democratic candidates.

Neither ABC's World News Tonight or the NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night mentioned the disbarment vote.

On the May 23 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather recalled how a committee appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court recommended disbarment, but only after eight of 14 members recused themselves. He ominously asked: "So who was, and perhaps more importantly, who wasn't, on that committee?"
John Roberts narrated a piece about one of the eight: "In the company of some House members who once tried to remove him from office for lying under oath, the President today was silent on the move to disbar him for the same offense. But in Morrilton Arkansas, attorney Bart Virden was speaking out."
Bart Virden, attorney: "I became disenchanted with what I was reading in the papers and seeing on TV with how the process was being used by the complaining party."
Roberts: "Virden was one eight members of the Arkansas attorney discipline committee who recused themselves from hearing the complaint against Mr. Clinton. Virden came under enormous pressure from an Arkansas newspaper to withdraw because he'd contributed to local Democratic candidates."
Virden: "That was their reasoning, was because I'd contributed money to Democratic candidates that I couldn't hear this case against a sitting Democratic President. I thought it was ludicrous, I still think it's ludicrous."
Roberts: "Legal expert Paul Rothstein believes, as he did about the impeachment process, that this case is about politics."
Rothstein, Georgetown University Law School: "This recommendation is out of keeping in the sense that it is among the most severe that I have seen for comparable cases."
Roberts: "The conservative activist group that brought the complaint contends the case is clear."
Matthew Glavin, Southeastern Legal Foundation: "This process isn't about punishment -- it's about protecting the public's interest in the integrity of the judicial system."
Roberts: "Committee member Virden calls that explanation just fantastic."
Virden: "I would have much more respect for them if they said 'hey, we're against him and we're using every means necessary to get him.' At least they're being honest."
Roberts concluding by undercutting the premise of the whole story: "While Virden says that politics played a role in this all the way up to the committee hearing, he disputes the assertion, floated by some supporters of the President, that there was bias among the remaining committee members and that party politics played a role in their final decision to recommend that the President be disbarred. He said he would not second guess that decision."

So, there's no story here. Just a chance for CBS to impute politics into it in order to help make Clinton's case that he's under siege from unscrupulous enemies.

One little fact left out the CBS on-air story: Two of the remaining six committee members who voted are Democrats. How do I know this? CBS News reported it in its Web version of this story, which stated: "Of the six who heard Mr. Clinton's case, at least two are Democrats; three have not identified their affiliation because voters are not required to do so in Arkansas unless they want to take part in a primary. Whether the sixth member has identified a party affiliation could not be determined."

To read the longer Web-posted story, go to:,1597,198209_412,00.shtml

But don't trust the quotes in the story. CBS appears to be "transcribing challenged." All of the quotes in the Web story which were also in the TV report were inaccurate. For instance, here's how the Web piece quoted Bart Virden at one point:
"I would believe them more if they just said we're out to get him and we'll do everything we can to get him...At least they're being honest"

Now, here's what he actually said as shown in the CBS Evening News piece: "I would have much more respect for them if they said 'hey, we're against him and we're using every means necessary to get him.' At least they're being honest."


The disbarment recommendation topped the Tuesday morning shows. On ABC's Good Morning America, which did not bring on a supporter to defend the vote, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said it may be upheld but complained that it's a "severe sanction" for a "single, discreet event." Interviewing Joseph Cammarata and Lanny (He's not above the law, but he's not below the law) Davis, CBS's Bryant Gumbel did not press Davis with Cammarata's points but pushed Cammarata repeatedly about how Clinton was held to a higher than usual standard as "you can't deny the politics of this."

Similarly, NBC's Katie Couric did not press Alan Dershowitz but did demand that Matthew Glavin of the Southeastern Legal Foundation respond to his points: "Can you refute that this is not a double standard here, that...your organization would have gone after someone like Cap Weinberger?" In a later segment, Matt Lauer hoped to Doris Kearns Goodwin: "So will the lesson that will be learned out of all this Doris be that maybe we go back to a time where we give less scrutiny to a President's personal life?"

-- ABC's Good Morning America, May 23, featured a 7am piece from John Cochran in which he relayed how "the committee was acting on a complaint filed by a conservative group called the Southeastern Legal Foundation." Instead of a regular interview segment with guests, Diane Sawyer turned to ABC News legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, fresh from attending Monday night's White House State Dinner for South Africa's Prime Minister. She wondered: "What is the precedent here?" Toobin replied:
"Well, it's very confusing. Like so much in the Lewinsky case, there's no direct precedent. But this does appear to be a very severe sanction under Arkansas law, where you're talking about only a single, discreet event during a civil proceeding that relates to personal behavior, but it is not so wild that it might not be upheld. So I think that Bill Clinton's law license is hanging by a thread today."

Toobin went on to call Clinton's defense for his misstatement weak and to predict there will be no resolution until well after Clinton leaves office.

ABC's first guest interview of the 7am half hour: Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on gas prices.

John Cochran reprised his story during the 8am news update. News reader Antonio Mora followed up with this question considered odd by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, excessive punishment or not, in the end, though, wouldn't disbarment just be a slap on the wrist or would it really mean something to his career prospects?"
Cochran suggested it could mean something if he ever wanted to become a "rainmaker" for a law firm.

-- CBS's The Early Show brought aboard Lanny Davis and former Paula Jones attorney Joseph Cammarata. Check out the angle of interviewer Bryant Gumbel's questions:

Gumbel set up Davis: "You were the President's attorney at the time of this deposition in question. What's your view of this panel's recommendation?"
Gumbel followed up: "What are you telling me? He's being punished for his prominence?"

Gumbel then posed this mildly challenging question: "Do you still defend the President's choice of words on the day in question?"
Davis: "I don't defend the President in that deposition. I think he did what most people who are asked about a private sexual relationship would do. I don't think he was truthful. He does not deserve to be disbarred under the circumstances I just described."
Gumbel: "But you don't think he was truthful?"

Gumbel moved to his other guest with a similarly open-ended initial inquiry: "Mr. Cammarata, good morning. What's your reaction to this panel's recommendation?"

But with Cammarata Gumbel turned argumentative: "But as you know, the Jones case was dismissed. The President's testimony was ruled inadmissible. How then does it merit disbarment? Why not a sanction? Why not suspension?"
And: "Do you know, Mr. Cammarata, if other lawyers have been disbarred for similar actions or what their punishment has been and whether or not the President, in this case, is being punished for his prominence or is being accorded a different kind of treatment?"

After Davis maintained Clinton is being treated disproportionately severely, and is "not above the law but is not below the law," and Cammarata pointed out that the whole legal system will collapse if litigants can lie with impunity, Gumbel fired back at Cammarata: "Mr. Cammarata, you can't deny the politics of this either. I mean, the panel, Mr. Cammarata, the panel consisted of 14 members, eight of whom recused themselves because of ties to the Democratic Party. Can we not assume the remaining six were political opponents?"

-- NBC's Today. Katie Couric opened the show, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, by labeling the complaining group "conservative' but not bothering to point out how Alan Dershowitz is liberal: "A committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court recommended Monday afternoon that the President be disbarred for giving misleading testimony about his relationship with the former White House intern. There is sharp disagreement in the legal community over this recommendation. We'll be talking with a representative of the conservative foundation that filed the initial complaint and with noted Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz."

After a full story from Pete Williams, Couric interviewed Dershowitz and Matthew Glavin of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. After getting both their views, Couric demanded that Glavin answer a charge from Dershowitz:
"Mr. Glavin, excuse me can I get you to give us some kind of precedence though for this kind of action and can you refute that this is not a double standard here, that you would, your organization would have gone after someone like Cap Weinberger?"
She followed up: "Do you have any examples of historic precedence though Mr. Glavin?"

Couric did not force Dershowitz to reply to Glavin's points, though she did note that in addition to the "conservative" group federal judge Susan Webber Wright also filed a complaint.

In the 8am half hour Matt Lauer talked about the case with liberal historian, though unlabeled, Doris Kearns Goodwin. He wished we could go back to a time when there was "less scrutiny" of Presidents. Quite a standard for a reporter to yearn for. He suggested: "You talk about the loss of opportunity which frustrates Bill Clinton and also must frustrate the American people. So will the lesson that will be learned out of all this Doris be that maybe we go back to a time where we give less scrutiny to a President's personal life, back to the Kennedy and Eisenhower and Roosevelt years?"
Goodwin agreed: "Well I think the lesson that I hope could be learned is that the private lives of our public figures are relevant if they directly affect their leadership. I don't know that the sexual behavior did that. When he chose not to tell the truth then he did bring into his leadership, his private life. But I hope that the media does go back to that earlier standard. I don't want to talk about this. None of us do. Think about how much more exciting it would be if we were talking about civil rights, education, health care. And yet we've had to because of all this, and not the media's fault, the President as well be involved in this for such a long period of time. I feel the sad sense all over again that here we are back."
Lauer wished: "Yeah. But I hope you're right. I hope that the American people would find it more exciting to talk about health care and Social Security and not about these personal peccadilloes. I'm not sure. We could probably debate that."

Maybe if we had a little more media scrutiny during the 1992 campaign we wouldn't have "personal peccadillos" to want to ignore.


Tom Brokaw's liberal prism: Missile defense is "controversial" while big money political fundraising reflects "excesses" worthy of denouncement by John McCain.

On the May 23 NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw gave a few seconds to George Bush's national security speech. He didn't find anything controversial about Bush's advocacy of a missile cut, reserving his scorn for missile defense:
"Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush today unveiled his nuclear weapons policy and brought out some heavy artillery to back him up. Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, among others. Bush says that he would cut America's nuclear arsenal to its lowest possible number consistent with national security -- no matter what the Russians do. Bush says the reductions would be part of a broad national security policy that includes a controversial missile defense system."

Brokaw then introduced the very next story: "For all the talk about campaign finance reform this year, the reality is that the system just keeps raking in big dollars, bigger than ever. Tomorrow night President Clinton will appear at an event with a price tag for the best seats that's a half million dollars, $500,000 for just one ticket. This after Democrats blasted a big money Republican fundraiser starring George W. Bush recently. More tonight on the latest excesses from NBC's Lisa Myers."

Lisa Myers cited examples from both parties in a story that assumed there's something wrong with big fundraising events. After noting how the Wednesday Clinton event should "rake in $23 million" while a Bush fundraiser a few weeks ago hauled in $21 million, she allowed just one person to denounce it: "Senator John McCain calls it all outrageous."


The FBI's general counsel, FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume reported Tuesday night, provided corroboration for FBI Director Louis Freeh's statement in a 1996 memo that he learned that Attorney General Janet Reno's job was at risk if she pursued Clinton-Gore fundraising question. Not a word about the corroboration, which came during an unrelated House hearing, aired on any of the broadcast network evening shows, which last Friday ignored the Freeh memo which broke late Thursday night, nor on CNN's Inside Politics.

Brit Hume introduced FNC's unique May 23 story: "Last Friday a memo from FBI Director Louis Freeh surfaced that said one of Janet Reno's top deputies had told the FBI that the attorney general's job might be in jeopardy if the investigation into 1996 campaign finance abuses was pursued. The Reno aide denied it, denied saying that, but it now appears there was more than one FBI official present who corroborates the story."

David Shuster explained, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The dispute involves the basic allegation highlighted in a memo four years ago by FBI Director Louis Freeh that Attorney General Janet Reno was under pressure to protect the White House. In December of 1996, details of the Clinton-Gore fundraising scandal were starting to emerge. Lee Radek, the prosecutor in charge of the Justice Department investigation, allegedly told Freeh's top deputy Bill Esposito that Reno's job was hanging in the balance. Radek and Attorney General Reno have both denied that any such discussion could have or would have taken place. But during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Republican James Rogan, over objections from Democrats, got the testimony he was looking for from the FBI's general counsel."
Congressman James Rogan: "Mr. Parkinson, what I'd like to know is during the course of any investigation you've had at the FBI, do you know whether any other FBI official may have been in the room or was present during the Esposito-Radek meeting?"
Congressman Jerrold Nadler: "Mr. Chairman, it is now clear since we've heard the question that the question is part of Mr. Rogan's campaign for reelection, has nothing to do with the subject of this hearing, and should be done in the press conference outside. I ask that the witness be directed to answer questions that are before the committee."
Chairman Henry Hyde: "Thank you, you've made your point. May we have an answer from Mr. Parkinson?"
FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson: "The answer is yes."
Rogan: "And who would that be?"
Parkinson: "At the time, Principal Assistant Director Neal Gallagher."
Rogan: "And does Mr. Gallagher corroborate any of the accounts of this meeting?"
Parkinson: "Yes."
Rogan: "Who's account?"
Parkinson: "He essentially corroborates the account that's described in the director's memo to Mr. Esposito."
Shuster: "That means there are now two witnesses who may back up the claim that Lee Radek, who was in charge of the Justice Department investigation of the campaign finance scandal, talked about pressure at the FBI and mentioned that Janet Reno's job might be hanging in the balance. Radek maintains that the FBI still has it wrong, but he's been ordered to testify on Wednesday in front of a Senate committee, and Republicans, Brit, can't wait."

But I bet most of the media can and will not cover the Wednesday hearing.


Making it more convenient for Elian's indoctrinaters. Foreign embassy employees must request special permission from the State Department to travel more than 25 mile from Washington, DC with less than three days notice. Since the Wye River Plantation is more than 50 miles from DC, Elian's hiding place is inconvenient for Cuba's Castro operatives. But that may soon change, FNC's Rita Cosby disclosed on Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume:
"Sources close to Elian's father tell me that there are plans to move him and his son to a location in or near Washington DC in a matter of days. Sources say that Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Cuban officials have been complaining that Cuban diplomats can't easily visit him."


At a Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday afternoon, the MRC released a Special Report, "Back to the 'Peaceable' Paradise: Media Soldiers for the Seizure of Elian," is now online. Here's the executive summary of the report compiled by the MRC's Tim Graham:

We would like to think that the Cold War is over. But for the people of communist Cuba and the people who've fled it, the Cold War remains. In all of the coverage and controversy over the arrival and seizure of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez, the media have taken the stark contrast between American liberty and Cuban tyranny and muddled it to the point that much of the American public thinks Cuba is no different than America, or worse, that Cuba is better than America.

The Media Research Center has compiled a record showing how the national media built the public-relations rationale for Elian's eventual return to Cuba, and then justified the government raid on a private residence to insure a political victory for the Clinton administration and the communist regime of Cuba. Is it any wonder that the public told network pollsters that they approved of the seizure of Elian after being barraged with liberal arguments? Analysts identified four patterns of distinct liberal media bias:

1. The news media have deliberately undermined the moral legitimacy of Elian's Miami relatives specifically and anti-communist Cuban-Americans in general.

2. The news media have consistently praised the actions and "achievements" of Fidel Castro's Cuba, claimed it was better for children than America, and played up the paradise Elian could dwell in among the Communist Party elite.

3. The news media have justified Attorney General Janet Reno's actions and arguments, and lamented any resistance or delay in returning Elian to Cuba.

4. The news media have dismissed congressional criticism of the INS raid and calls for investigation as unpopular and unnecessary.

If the media were interested in a balanced presentation of the Elian controversy, they would have scrutinized the administration more than justified it; they would have explained the regimented reality of family life in Cuba; they would have balanced their questioning of the motivations of Elian's Miami relatives by questioning the motives of the reunification camp; and they would have encouraged more discussion and oversight instead of trying to cut it off.

END Reprint

To read the entire study with dozens of quotes from Elian coverage and a few illustrative stories via RealPlayer, go to:

Scroll to the bottom of the executive summary and click on the link to the full report as posted by Webmaster Andy Szul.

At the May 23 briefing, arranged by MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey, MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell and several members of Congress discussed media coverage the Elian case. To read about and see a couple of photos of the event featuring U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Dan Burton and Chris Smith, check out the story about it by Jim Burns posted by the MRC's -- Brent Baker

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