CyberAlert -- 05/29/1998 -- Starr's "Personal Life" Probe

Starr's "Personal Life" Probe; Avoiding China Morning & Night

1) Dan Rather keeps endorsing the pro-Clinton spin, insisting Starr is probing Clinton's "personal life." ABC and CBS have yet to mention William Ginsburg's concession of Clinton-Lewinsky sex.

2) Wednesday night Dan Rather portrayed Starr as the unreasonable one: "The President has declined Starr's unprecedented request for his testimony." NBC stressed how Clinton is contradicting his promise.

3) Nightline has yet to look at the China-connection. Total coverage on NBC's Today so far: one story.

4) "Bulworth" star Warren Beatty is angry about the "disparity" in wealth and how Democrats have become too conservative.

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The underground nuclear tests in Pakistan topped the three broadcast network evening shows Thursday night while CNN led at 10pm ET with a bombing in Illinois and FNC's Fox Report went first with the murder of Phil Hartman. CBS, CNN and NBC ran full stories on Ken Starr's request that the Supreme Court expedite a ruling on the White House appeal of the executive privilege ruling. Wednesday night CNN and NBC had highlighted the open letter by William Ginsburg in which he suggested Clinton and his client Monica Lewinsky did indeed have a sexual relationship. Thursday night FNC caught up and mentioned it as NBC raised it again, but ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News again overlooked the telling admission.

For the second night in a row, on Thursday night, instead of saying Starr is probing possible obstruction of justice, Dan Rather insisted upon relaying the White House spin about how Starr is conducting an "investigation into the President's personal life." ABC, CBS and FNC played the soundbite of Lewinsky's father denouncing Starr as "un-American," but NBC cut off that portion of his comments. Only CNN and FNC reported that Vernon Jordan appeared again before the grand jury.

Some highlights from the Thursday, May 28 evening shows:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. After anchor Peter Jennings noted how Ken Starr had asked the Supreme Court "for some extraordinary help," he went to Jackie Judd for a full story on Lewinsky's trip to the FBI to submit writing and fingerprint samples. Afer airing her father's curbside attack on Starr, Judd explained that Starr is collecting the samples in order to authenticate evidence of claims made in recorded conversations with the handwriting to see if it matches notes to Clinton and the fingerprints to check if they match those on the talking points directing Linda Tripp to offer false testimony.

-- CBS Evening News. From Los Angeles, Dan Rather delivered this loaded rundown of the day's Monicagate events, leading to a full report from Bill Plante on the executive privilege appeal:
"Monica Lewinsky showed up, as ordered, to give the FBI handwriting and fingerprint samples for special prosecutor Ken Starr's deepening investigation into the President's personal life. She arrived at the federal office building here with her father, flanked by security, and the press of course all around. Lewinsky's father castigated Starr and his tactics."
Bernard Lewinsky: "I would like the American people to know that my daughter is a pawn and Kenneth Starr is trying to use her as a pawn to get the presidency. This is unfair, it is totally un-American."
Rather: "CBS News in Washington has been told by sources close to the Starr investigation that the Lewinsky group chose to walk the media gauntlet into the federal building. They had been offered a more private entrance. Also back in Washington, another aggressive move by the special prosecutor today."

-- CNN's The World Today at 10pm ET. Charles Bierbauer filed a story on Starr's request that the Supreme Court bypass the appeals court and rule immediately on the executive privilege appeal. Afterwards, viewers saw a clip of Vernon Jordan complaining that in his fourth grand jury appearance he answered the same questions "over and over again."

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster ran through list of events on the Monicagate front. Referring to Lewinsky attorney William Ginsburg, Shuster observed: "When asked about his own letter suggesting prosecutor Kenneth Starr may have succeeded in unmasking a sexual relationship, Ginsburg told reporters to back off."
Shuster also reported that Lewinsky might be indicted in the federal court district in Alexandria, Virginia which is much faster than D.C.'s federal court and that Vernon Jordan appeared for the fourth time "but it doesn't appear as if the grand jury has been satisfied with Jordan. He's been ordered to come back again in two weeks." Finally, he gave a quick overview of Starr's Supreme Court request on executive privilege.

-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers checked in with a story on executive privilege, recalling: "It is a replay of the Nixon years when the Watergate prosecutor got the Supreme Court to hear President Nixon's claim of executive privilege on an emergency basis."
Moving on to Lewinsky, Myers played Bernard Lewinsky's complaint about his daughter being a pawn, but did not include his "un-American" slam. Myers added: "Not talking today, Lewinsky's lawyer William Ginsburg, in hot water over an attack on Starr that instead may have harmed his own client." On screen viewers saw an excerpt from Ginsburg's article he which he ridiculed Starr, saying he "may have succeeded in unmasking a sexual relationship between two consenting adults."
Viewers then saw a clip of Alan Dershowitz urging Lewinsky to fire Ginsburg.

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Wednesday night ABC ignored Monicagate and related issues, but all the other networks featured stories. CBS led with a story putting the onus on Starr for making "an unprecedented" request for a President's testimony about his "personal life," instead of on Clinton for refusing to answer questions. NBC's Lisa Myers, in contrast, emphasized how Clinton's refusal to cooperate contradicts his earlier promises. But NBC also bizarrely treated as breaking news the judge's decision denying executive privilege for Bruce Lindsey and Sidney Blumenthal, though all that happened Wednesday was the release of the reasoning behind the ruling revealed last week.

CNN's The World Today, MRC news analyst Eric Darbe observed, ran two scandal stories. First, Wolf Blitzer on the article by Ginsburg denouncing Starr and suggesting a sexual relationship between Clinton and his client. Second, Bob Franken delivered a piece about how a Judicial Watch deposition elicited from Harold Ickes the news that though he had left the White House staff he still spins the White House line to reporters and helps the White House track what reporters are probing and may report. FNC's Fox Report led with "consumer groups" upset by lack of labeling of genetically altered foods. Anchor Jon Scott read a quick item on the Ginsburg article before David Shuster previewed Lewinsky's trip to the FBI and reported that Starr's staff is still undecided about sending a report to Congress.

Here's bit more on the May 27 CBS and NBC evening shows:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened: "Good evening. There is new information tonight about President Clinton's response to Ken Starr's hard press in his investigation of the President's personal life. As CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley reports, the President has declined Starr's unprecedented request for his testimony."
Pelley did raise what Rather suppressed, that Clinton said he would cooperate. Pelley also explained that the judge's just-released ruling on executive privilege revealed she thought Starr made a compelling case for the testimony of Lindsey and Blumenthal.

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began by acting as if no one knew the judge had rejected the executive privilege claim: "Good evening. There are major legal developments tonight in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. A federal judge has ruled that White House aides Bruce Lindsey and Sidney Blumenthal must tell the grand jury of conversations they had with the President about the case. Judge Norma Holloway Johnson said they are not covered by executive privilege, Ken Starr is entitled to hear what they have to say."

Claire Shipman filled in the particulars before Lisa Myers explored Clinton's refusal to cooperate:
"Despite his claims that he's cooperating with Starr's investigation, NBC News has learned that the President has actually refused repeatedly to answer Starr's questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky....The President's refusal to answer questions under oath contradicts what he's said publicly."
Viewers saw a clip of Clinton from February 6: "What I'm doing is going on with my work and cooperating with the investigation."
The big question now, Myers suggested, is will for first time in history a subpoena be issued to a President. Myers ran a soundbite from James Carville urging Clinton to take the 5th, before concluding by highlighting the Ginsburg article ABC and CBS have skipped:
"As for Monica Lewinsky, her lawyer in an angry open letter to Starr, seems to suggest that his client may indeed have had a sexual relationship with the President. He writes that Starr's investigation, quote 'may have succeeded in unmasking a sexual relationship between two consenting adults.' Tonight her lawyer denies he's referring to Lewinsky."

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) China-connection not connecting: Today and Nightline avoid the entire subject.

-- The May 26 CyberAlert noted that through Friday, May 22 NBC's Today had not uttered a word about the China connection since the May 15 New York Times story on Johnny Chung: no full story, no brief item during a news update, no interview, not even a question posed. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens and intern David Bozell have watched the shows since May 22 and discovered that through Thursday morning, May 28, this is the totality of weekday and Sunday Today coverage of the China-connection:
a) A mention on the May 24 Sunday Today from Tim Russert, in plugging his upcoming Meet the Press, that his show would explore the issue. And that really doesn't count as part of Today's editorial product.
b) A story from David Bloom run during the 7am news update on Memorial Day generated by Sunday morning discussion of the matter, including how Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz denied any connection between donations and the waiver and how documents released Friday showed Clinton was warned that the FBI was investigating Loral.

-- In the ten nights since the May 15 New York Times story, through May 28, ABC's Nightline has yet to produce a show on the China-connection, MRC news analyst Clay Waters has confirmed.

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)This being a Friday just before a weekend when many go to the movies, I thought I'd relay some of the latest liberal wisdom from the star of a just-released film, "Bulworth." Some of the reviews I've seen suggest that the film directed by Warren Beatty, who plays the lead character, delivers a general indictment of how big money has corrupted the political process. But when a liberal like Beatty says Democrats and Republicans are the same and that Democrats have sold out blacks, he's not saying politicians have become too liberal. Indeed, a look at some of his recent comments will show that he thinks Democrats have become too conservative.

In Bulworth Beatty plays a U.S. Senator who is so upset by abandoning his principles in order to satisfy large donors that he contracts a hit man to kill him, thus liberating himself to tell "the truth." In the promotional clip shown during his media appearances "Senator Bulworth" tells an audience of blacks that the Democrats have abandoned spending programs for them because they don't donate any real money.

Here are some quotes from Beatty reflecting the ideology behind the movie-maker. (Note that the third item features multiple obscenities.):

-- New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd relayed this analysis from Beatty in an April 29 column caught by MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson. Complaining about the focus on the Lewinsky case, Beatty argued: "All this time that's wasted talking about this issue of sex is time that would be better spent talking about the disparity of wealth, race, class and the tyranny of big money in politics."

-- From a May 21 Associated Press feature by Douglas J. Rowe that I caught in the May 24 New Hampshire Sunday News:

Ex-libertine, maybe. Ex-liberal, never. Warren Beatty, the legendary Lothario turned family man, can sound loud and proud these days about how his politics haven't changed since the 1960s. He invokes the names of New Deal liberalism -- Roosevelt, Truman, the Kennedys, Johnson and Humphrey -- and laments the Democratic Party's move to the middle.

His political beliefs come through in his new movie, Bulworth.... "I feel sympathetically toward the Democratic Party's vacuous incarnation," he says, characterizing that incarnation as a "sort of missionless position that it's taken in order to try to find a majority." He thinks the Democrats' "natural mission" is to protect people who can't take care of themselves, be they old, disabled, disenfranchised, or otherwise disadvantaged. Instead, the disparity of wealth between rich and poor is growing, and it's something that goes underreported, says Beatty.

There's nothing wrong with business and market forces, he says, but with the beginning of the Reagan administration ostentatious wealth became nothing to be ashamed of, and policies to help the less advantaged were forgotten. "We who think that that's not good are extremely out of fashion," he says.

"I'm not a communist. I'm not even a socialist. I'm a person who thinks, you know, we were going in the right direction for a certain number of years, and now we're going in the wrong direction. Not drastically. Not drastically. But incrementally."

So, who's to blame? "It's a condition that is allowed by all of us," he says. "We can't pin this on Clinton. It's not fair. But what we can say is: OK, somebody's gotta start speaking up about it."....

-- From the June issue of The Source magazine, a more intense recitation from Beatty picked up by the MRC's Tom Johnson. (WARNING: This passage contains three of George Carlin's seven dirty words. If they will disturb you, read no further as this is the last item in today's CyberAlert.) The Source's Michael Eric Dyson contended:
"As Bulworth's star, director and co-writer, Beatty uses gansta rap's erotically charged violence and vulgar speech, both literally and metaphorically, to reveal the corruption of electoral politics. 'Clearly what I think is obscene is the disparity of wealth and inequality in the country,' Beatty stresses. 'I don't think words like fuck, motherfuck, cocksucker are obscene. They are attention getting words. The real obscenity black folks are living with is trying to believe a motherfucking word that Democrats and Republicans say.'"

The movie outlet for Beatty's views was made possible by Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox, which funded and is now distributing the film. Remember that the next time a media figure insists everything Murdoch touches must be tainted by his conservative politics.
-- Brent Baker

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