Carville Still Credible; Starr's Zealotry; "We Like a Virile Leader"
1) Lanny Davis, James Carville,
Ann Lewis etc. still treated as credible by the networks despite months of
2) ABC and NBC skipped a
Democratic Congressman's call that Clinton resign, only Lisa Myers
reported that Clinton asked about witness intimidation, Brokaw worried
about Starr's "zealotry."
3) To ABC's Sam Donaldson
the Clinton family walk to the helicopter displayed Hillary's anger at
Bill, but for NBC's Claire Shipman it showed family forgiveness and
4) Time's Margaret Carlson
insisted passing "campaign finance reform is more important in the
end" than Monicagate.
5) An actress declared:
"He's been playing around for years. But that's why we like him.
We like a virile leader."
>>> "TV Morning Shows
Highlight Polls Asking If Starr Probe or Impeachment Hearings Should Be
Stopped: Drop It, and Reward Seven Months of Lies," the latest MRC
Media Reality Check fax report is now up on the MRC home page. The text of
this fax report by Tim Graham was distributed to the CyberAlert list
yesterday. One noteworthy question, this one from Good Morning America's
Lisa McRee to linguist Deborah Tannen: "Women who've been polled seem
to put it behind them as well, and are willing to move on and forget about
it. Is that because Bill Clinton's been such a great President whom they
elected in great part, or is there something I want to say almost sexy
about a man who can get away with things over and over again?"
Correction: The August 18
CyberAlert misspelled the name of U.S. Representative Bill McCollum.
You'd think that after telling falsehoods all year about Clinton's
denial of sex with Lewinsky, and maliciously maligning Ken Starr, Clinton
allies would have lost some credibility and no longer be considered
sources worth listening to. But no, there they all were on Tuesday's
morning shows: Ann Lewis, James Carville, Lanny Davis etc. While they were
asked some tough questions about Clinton's deceit, their answers were
treated as credible.
Here's an incredible question, caught by MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens, by Today co-host Matt Lauer to James Carville,
who has lost all credibility, but hasn't in networkland:
"How can the President, James, restore his
credibility with the American people after this episode?"
Fallout from Clinton's Monday night mini-speech dominated all the
networks on Tuesday night, with each devoting over half their air time to
the subject which led them all.
In various ways
each network emphasized how Clinton had refused to answer some questions
during his Monday afternoon testimony and that he is in real political
trouble. On ABC, Sam Donaldson's spin favored Clinton as he announced
that "the prosecutors pushed Mr. Clinton unmercifully to describe
graphic details of his moments with Monica Lewinsky." ABC's Jackie
Judd added that Clinton was surprised by the level of detail in the
questions. On NBC Lisa Myers uniquely reported that prosecutors quizzed
Clinton about intimidating witnesses, such as Kathleen Willey.
Capitol Hill offered tepid support for Clinton, a point made by all the
networks, but ABC failed to air any soundbites from Republicans or
Democrats. Of the broadcast networks, only CBS told viewers that a
Democratic Congressman, Paul McHale of Pennsylvania, had called for
Clinton to resign. Both CNN and FNC reported the first Democrat to urge
All the networks
featured pieces on the public's reaction, mainly how while they may not
trust Clinton they want the investigation ended. And Tom Brokaw ended
Nightly News by taking a shot a the "judicial zealotry" of Ken
Here's a run
down of highlights from the Tuesday, August 18 evening shows made possible
with the transcribing help of MRC news analyst Paul Smith who stayed late
to pitch in:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Sam Donaldson described the internal battle of the speech
content, using clips from Clinton's speech to illustrate:
"None of the President's problems appears
to have been ended with his speech last night as he hoped they would be. A
speech crafted only after an internal struggle which was won by the
hardliners. On one side were the President's political advisers, led by
Paul Begala and Rahm Emanuel. On the other, was the President's lawyer
David Kendall and Mrs. Clinton. Both sides thought he had to confess that
he lied to the country last January and he did....Both sides thought he
had to express some remorse, and he did....But the political advisers
wanted him to go further, to actually apologize to the country and ask the
country's forgiveness and pledge to be a better President. He did not.
Instead the hardliners got the narrow, legal document they wanted....And
the tone of personal defiance concerning the Clinton's private life.
Above all the hardliners got the attack on independent counsel Kenneth
Starr's investigation the polls said might be popular but the political
advisers thought unwise."
continued: "The intense dislike of Starr was only heightened by
yesterday's questioning of the President in the White House Map Room.
Sources say the prosecutors pushed Mr. Clinton unmercifully to describe
graphic details of his moments with Monica Lewinsky. The President refused
citing privacy grounds, understanding that if he were to describe details
that fit within the definition of sex used during his Paula Jones
deposition last January, he would be admitting perjury. When his testimony
was over, the President is said to have been extremely angry at Starr
which helped seal the tone of his speech."
concluded by telling anchor Forrest Sawyer:
"Usually after Presidents have addressed the
nation in moments of difficulty, their aides fan out immediately to
declare victory, telling reporters how many favorable phone calls have
come in and how their internal polls have gone sky high but today there
was almost none of that. Today, basically, there was silence. Another
indication Forrest that this President knows he's in real trouble."
Next up, Jackie
Judd reported: "Monica Lewinsky has been summoned back to the grand
jury Thursday at the request of the grand jurors themselves who want to
question her, possibly about discrepancies between her testimony and that
of the President. Sources familiar with Mr. Clinton's testimony say the
President was surprised by the amount of detail and knowledge that
prosecutors had about his involvement with Lewinsky. That element of
surprise, according to the sources, led the President to frequently confer
with lawyer David Kendall...."
From Capitol Hill
Cokie Roberts delivered this somber assessment of where Clinton stands,
but she did not run any soundbites from congressional leaders:
"There is a lot of anger here from both
Democrats and Republicans, people furious at his statement last night,
seeming to place the blame someplace other than on himself. And some
Democrats, genuinely upset, saying that they had believed the President,
they had taken him at his word, he had looked them, some of them
personally in the eye, and said that this was not true and now they're
questioning not only his credibility but what they should do about
After an ad break
ABC reporters checked in with reaction from around the nation, each
illustrated with local man on the street soundbites.
Ron Claiborne: "Here in Chicago, we were
struck by the number of people who thought the President was less than
honest and candid in his speech. Even some people who characterized
themselves as supporters say Mr. Clinton is still playing word games and
hiding behind lawyerly distinctions."
After anchor Forrest Sawyer noted that an ABC
News poll found 59 percent thought Clinton said enough and should not
resign, he went to Brian Rooney: "Here in Seattle, even the people
who don't like the President are uncomfortable with the government
inquiring into his personal life. Most people seem to think that his
public admission of doing wrong is good enough for them."
Sawyer noted that most don't think he should be
impeached even if he lied. Then Dean Reynolds reported: "Here in
Greenville, a conservative city in a conservative state, we met a man who
said he was very dissatisfied with the President's remarks especially
when he said he'd been asked to answer questions that no American should
have to. Well heck, said this man, he's not just any American, he's
the leader of our country. We put him up on a pedestal and it's his
responsibility to stay up there."
Finally, after Sawyer highlighted how 69 percent
have had enough of the investigation, JuJu Chang found support for that
view: "Here in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the home state of John F.
Kennedy, many say it's not the first time a President has acted
scandalously in his personal life. It's simply the first time one has
had to fully confess to it. In this heavily Democratic, working-class
town, many feel this investigation has not uncovered a criminal act but a
personal one and that it should end."
-- CBS Evening News. "Ken Starr relentlessly
pursues Bill Clinton and his presidency," Dan Rather teased at the
top of he show. Rather then delivered this dramatic opening:
"President Clinton and his family left Washington today but not
questions about the future, even the survival, of his presidency."
CBS went first to
Bob Schieffer: "This cannot be what the White House was hoping for.
Most congressional Democrats who spoke out offered only tepid support.
Dick Gephardt, the ranking Democrat in the House, Tom Daschle, the top
Democrat in the Senate, said it was time for the country to move on but
they expressed disappointment in the President's personal
After soundbites from both Schieffer highlighted
this statement from Senator Diane Feinstein: "My trust in his
credibility has been badly shattered."
Unlike ABC and NBC, Schieffer focused on how
"Pennsylvania Congressman Paul McHale became the first Democratic
officeholder to call on the President to resign."
McHale: "I think that he has made a genuine
contribution to our country. I also believe he has lied under oath."
Schieffer to McHale: "This must have been a
very difficult thing for you to do."
McHale: "It was awful. I have sympathy for
the President. Nonetheless, I think there is accountability when any
citizen, particularly the chief executive, deliberately lies under
"even harsher," Schieffer noted in reporting that Senators
Ashcroft and Coats also called for his resignation. "No one was
angrier than the usually mild-mannered Chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee," Schieffer asserted before Orrin Hatch fired:
"Frankly, you know, the way he treated Ken Starr last night, yeah,
last night he was a jerk."
described Clinton as the instigator of the confrontational attitude
Monday, not Starr as Donaldson had implied:
"Dan, sources familiar with the
President's testimony yesterday tell CBS News that the President was
defiant, sometimes combative, when questioned by prosecutors. He refused
to answer key questions that go to the issue of whether he committed
perjury. In his address, Mr. Clinton said his previous testimony in the
Paula Jones sexual harassment suit was, quote, 'legally accurate.' But
when grand jurors tried to find out more about his sexual relationship
with Lewinsky, he refused to answer."
by emphasizing the disgust of staffers:
"Mr. Clinton spent much of the day
personally apologizing to members of Congress and members of his staff.
Most were gracious but one source tells CBS News that some of Mr.
Clinton's advisers, quote, 'were disgusted' and felt betrayed."
Bill Plante in
Martha's Vineyard showed the big airport welcome where Clinton was
embraced by Vernon Jordan and Carley Simon. Later, Jerry Bowen delivered
assessed the status of Clinton's legacy, lamenting what could have been:
"He wanted his presidency to be about the
big things, fixing Social Security, confronting racism, improving
education. But instead of mending Medicare, his year has been about
Monica. Does anyone even remember the President's agenda this year? He
had a plan to find 100,000 new teachers. He planned to stick big tobacco
with a $1.50 tax hike and told working women they'd get child care with
the money. And he promised to help low-income workers. Did any of that
happen? Barring some future crisis, historians say, Clinton's substance
may be overshadowed by scandal..."
-- CNN's The World Today devoted its first 40
minutes to about a dozen Monicagate stories. Wolf Blitzer began the show
by relaying that "Sources familiar with the president's testimony
tell CNN Mr. Clinton himself drew the line on giving specifics when he was
asked whether he and Lewinsky had oral, manual or phone sex, as she has
testified. The sources also say the President's lawyers were surprised by
how explicit the questions were. They had thought, incorrectly, that once
the President conceded a sexual relationship, the prosecutors would have
been more restrained...."
checked in from the courthouse where Dick Morris appeared, on Capitol Hill
Candy Crowley, who highlighted Paul McHale's call for resignation, found
Clinton "has lost the benefit of the doubt." Mark Potter
described the reaction of tourists in DC before Brooks Jackson carefully
analyzed Clinton's words, trying to explain how Clinton could say his
deposition answer about not having sexual relations with Lewinsky was
"legally accurate" when he had definitively stated "I did
not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky." Jackson concluded:
"He did not say I lied to you nor did he say
I'm sorry. Confession is not Bill Clinton's style. Verbal gymnastics
are. He's a lawyer skilled at using words that say precisely something
other than what they seem to mean."
Other CNN stories
looked at Clinton's legacy, the reaction of young voters, how Clinton
may break off his vacation to push popular issues like HMO reform, Al
Gore's statement, the plight of Hillary Clinton and how female callers
to talk shows in Los Angeles were upset about Clinton's behavior.
-- FNC's Fox Report. Amongst several stories
FNC's David Shuster relayed that Dick Morris "has told friends that
President Clinton in January wanted to know about sex addiction." FNC
then interviewed Morris, a FNC analyst, about his testimony.
Much later in the
show Carl Cameron reported that Attorney General Janet Reno is
"closer than ever" to naming an independent counsel for
fundraising, prompted by new evidence about fundraising calls by Clinton
and Gore from the White House. Cameron noted that Senator Orrin Hatch
would find an inquiry on the calls too narrow given all the charges about
foreign influence. Reno has put her decision off to next week, Cameron
concluded, "to give the White House some breathing room."
-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers delivered some
unique information about topics raised with Clinton:
"Legal sources tell NBC News that much of
the four hours was spent on what for Starr is the key issue, whether the
President encouraged others to lie and obstruct justice. One source says
the President was questioned about the use of private investigators to
intimidate witnesses such as White House volunteer Kathleen Willey who
claims the President groped her. Legal sources say that it was clear from
some questions that the testimony of presidential confidant Vernon Jordan
was not especially helpful to the President. Jordan found Lewinsky a job
about the time she filed a false affidavit denying a relationship with the
"Starr is determined to make this the last chapter. One in which he
writes the script in the form of a report to Congress this fall. A source
close to the investigation believes the President's performance
yesterday gave Starr new ammunition."
provided a story on the importance of overseas reaction before Jim Cummins
revealed: "The White House is hoping the President's four minute
speech accomplished three goals."
He found they did in two of the three:
"First, to make the American people believe Mr. Clinton, that he's
now being candid with them. So far, it may be working. The new NBC News
poll shows three-fourths of the people surveyed believe the President is
now telling the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, with
women more likely to believe him than men....The second goal of Mr.
Clinton's speech, according to the White House, to show contrition.
He's sorry for lying to the American public. In his speech Mr. Clinton
did not say the words 'I'm sorry' and today many Americans disagreed
about whether the President truly feels he did something wrong."
After some mixed man on the street comments,
Cummins continued: "The third goal of the speech, closure, to help
end Ken Starr's investigation. The NBC poll shows, of the three goals,
the President may have come closest to achieving this because that's
what most Americans already believe. Of those who watched, more than half
agree that Mr. Clinton has already adequately answered all of the
questions about the Lewinsky matter."
Thompson explored how to talk to kids about a scandal involving honesty:
"In school, nine year old Marisa Rosado learned America's first
President, George Washington, couldn't tell a lie but found out its 42nd
second could." Thompson added: "It's a gray area
in a child's world of black and white making the difficult job of
raising kids even harder. Now along with violence, drugs and divorce
parents must also deal with the sex and lies surrounding America's
Finally, at the
end of the show Tom Brokaw delivered these comments about why Americans
have lost faith in Washington, but instead of putting the blame on Clinton
for lying for seven months Brokaw portrayed Starr and everyone else as
just as culpable:
"What makes this scandal so discomforting is
that it involves elementary behavior and personal relationships everyone
can identify with. Secret sex, tape recordings of a friend, a media
frenzy, judicial zealotry [Starr video], self righteous criticism, lies,
betrayal, family and friends. As his own worst enemy the President is in a
class by himself, but there are no common heroes, no one player who has
the universal admiration of a grateful nation. They may emerge, but it's
hard to see how now that so much has been spilled out into the public in
such a self-serving, and for some, infuriating fashion.
"At a time in America when so much is going
so well there is a longing for the simple satisfaction of looking to
Washington and saying, 'there's someone I can believe and believe
Every network showed video of the Clinton family walking across the South
Lawn Tuesday afternoon to the helicopter, but ABC and NBC offered
conflicting interpretations of what it demonstrated about the state of the
On ABC's World
News Tonight Sam Donaldson began by reading a statement from the First
Lady's office about how "she believes in this marriage, but clearly
this is not the best day in Mrs. Clinton's life." Donaldson
illustrated, announcing over video of Hillary, Chelsea and Bill walking to
the helicopter, with Chelsea between her parents:
"And indeed when the Clinton family left the
White House this afternoon for their delayed Martha's Vineyard vacation
she never looked up, he was tight lipped and unsmiling as they walked with
daughter Chelsea between them. At Andrews Air Force Base, as the
Clinton's boarded Air Force One, observers winced at the body language
as she brushed past him in the doorway."
NBC viewers, in
contrast, got a message about family forgiveness and togetherness. From
Martha's Vineyard reporter Claire Shipman opened her top of the show
story: "The White House message today, the President has said his
peace. It was tough, it was embarrassing and now it's over. A
translation for Ken Starr and the rest of the country, Bill Clinton has
already paid a terrible price both with his family and legacy and his
family, for one, seems ready to forgive."
Then, over the
same video of the three walking to the helicopter, Shipman suggested:
"There was no better picture than this to
make the point that this is a family still very much together. [video
zoomed in on Bill and Chelsea holding hands] And just before the Clintons
flew off on their two week vacation to Martha's Vineyard, Mrs. Clinton
offered a public display of support for her husband through a
On one channel Monday morning Time's Margaret Carlson urged viewers to
get beyond Clinton's scandalous behavior to pass campaign finance reform
while on another Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame dismissed any
correlation between Nixon's actions and this "sex scandal."
-- ABC's Good
Morning America brought an audience inside, MRC analyst Clay Waters noted,
to ask questions of guests. Responding to one Time's Margaret Carlson
conceded that Clinton "bears the larger part of the
responsibility" for foisting this tawdry episode upon the American
people, "but there is one point to what Ahmet and the other person
[in the audience] have said, is that campaign finance reform is more as
important in the end, and we don't give that as much attention."
-- On CBS's This
Morning, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Jane Robelot proposed to
"Today's testimony may be the pivotal
point in Mr. Clinton's presidency. Our CBS News consultant Carl
Bernstein played a key role in exposing the defining crisis of another
presidency not so long ago: the Watergate scandal that brought down
President Richard Nixon. Mr. Bernstein joins us this morning to help put
today's events into perspective. Are there similarities? Is this the
pivotal day in the Clinton presidency?"
Despite Clinton's seven months of lying and
delaying, Bernstein maintained: "It's obviously the pivotal day.
This is not Watergate. Watergate was about a vast and pervasive abuse of
power by a criminal President of the United States, who ordered break-ins,
fire-bombings, presided over a coverup and obstruction of justice in which
hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid to burglars, a President who
hired a goon squad to thwart the electoral process, who abused his
presidential authority. This story, the Lewinsky events are really a sex
scandal, in which there are allegations that the President lied under oath
and may have obstructed justice. There's a big difference in
Tuesday's Entertainment Tonight relayed Hollywood reaction to
Clinton's predicament. Most are baffled about why such a big deal is
being made about his private life. The show picked up this bit of wisdom
from actress Amy Brenneman, who I think once had a role on NYPD Blue, at
the premiere party for a new movie about infidelity titled Your Friends
"I think Hillary knew. I mean c'mon he's
been playing around for years. But that's why we like him. We like a
virile leader. We liked JFK."
I can't think of
a closing line that could top that. -- Brent Baker
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