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."
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.
>>> 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
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?"
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:
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:
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:
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?"
-- 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 then posed this
mildly challenging question: "Do you still defend the President's
choice of words on the day in question?"
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?"
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:
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
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
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
But I bet most of the media can and will not cover the Wednesday hearing.
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
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.
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 cnsnews.com. -- Brent Baker
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