CyberAlert -- 08/21/1998 -- Wag the Dog?
Wag the Dog?; Lewinsky Buried; Rock Crushed; Starr: Face of Nazi & a Persecutor
2) Wag the Dog scenario considered by all the networks as CBS questioned the lack of "bipartisan patriotism." On ABC George Stephanopoulos insisted Clinton refused to apologize "because he was afraid of projecting weakness" to the terrorists.
>>> Latest MediaWatch now up on the MRC home page, thanks to MRC Research Associate Kristina Sewell and MRC Web Manager Sean Henry. The August 24 edition features a page one story titled "First Lady Painted as Hero Instead of Complicit in Deceit;" a Review by Tim Graham listing over a dozen examples of media figures since January defending Clinton's denials, titled "A Chronology of Embarrassing Errors;" and articles on Geraldo Rivera and comments from CNN's former military analyst Perry Smith. Plus, Newsbites, including "Book the Liars Again" by Clay Waters on how seven months of relaying false information didn't dissuade the networks from treating Ann Lewis, Lanny Davis and James Carville as credible sources and "Shills for Shays" by Jessica Anderson on ABC's one-sided promotion of liberal, pro-regulation campaign finance "reform." <<<
Correction: The summary at the top of item #1 in the August 20 CyberAlert stated that "NBC's Lisa Myers disclosed Clinton wore in China sunglasses bought by Lewinsky." As the subsequent quote from Myers accurately stated, he wore them in Africa.
Reagan worried about his own re-election when he decided to bomb Libya in 1986? Yes, according to Dan Rather's presidential election year calendar. MRC news analyst Clay Waters alerted me to Rather's recollection announced at about 2:43pm ET Thursday just after CBS showed Defense Secretary William Cohen's briefing on the U.S. strikes against terrorists.
there's an argument over whether Reagan's 1986 bombing in Libya
suppressed terrorism or led to more terrorism, such as the downing of Pan
Am 103. Rather contended:
Of course, in 1986 Reagan was well into the second year of his second term having been re-elected in 1984.
President Clinton's decision to launch a bombing strike at terrorists consumed the entirety of CNN's 8pm ET news show and nearly all of the ABC, CBS, FNC and NBC newscasts Thursday night, thus nearly eliminating Monica Lewinsky news. CNN skipped Lewinsky's second appearance before the grand jury while the other networks managed to squeeze in a story near the end of their shows. For more on Lewinsky coverage, see item #3.
Every network went through the details of what happened before getting to suggestions Clinton may have been motivated by trying to distract attention from his Lewinsky troubles, but every network did raise the "Wag the Dog" scenario. ABC gave it a few sentences in a larger story while the other networks allocated an entire story to the theme. Every network but ABC featured a soundbite from Senator Dan Coats, who most enthusiastically jumped on Clinton. CBS questioned the lack of "bipartisan patriotism" and CNN recalled how a similar charge about diversion was made against Reagan after the Grenada invasion.
On ABC George Stephanopoulos insisted Clinton refused to apologize Monday night "because he was afraid of projecting weakness" to the terrorists. Peter Arnett is back: CNN played at about 8:15pm ET a 13 minute profile of Bin Laden by Arnett, which first aired on Impact in May 1997, the precursor show to NewsStand.
Here's how each
network handled the "diversion" idea on Thursday night, August
Next, Cokie Roberts reported most leaders in Congress were supportive, including Newt Gingrich, but she noted a few have raised questions. Roberts did not show any soundbites.
George Stephanopoulos then told anchor Forrest Sawyer that Clinton "left his political advisers completely out of this," contending: "Yesterday White House advisers were saying that one of the reasons the President was wary of a giving a more fulsome, elaborate apology Monday night was because he was afraid of projecting weakness in the face of potential hot spots around the world and now we know why."
Who really believes that? Instead, Clinton's now ridiculed.
The show ended
with a story from Charles Feldman in Los Angeles on how most on Capitol
Hill back Clinton, but not Dan Coats. After showing Secretary Cohen being
asked about the Wag the Dog scenario, Feldman conveyed: "While not a
scientific poll by any means, most of the people we talked to in Los
Angeles also questioned the President's credibility."
FNC also featured a full story on the Wag the Dog scenario, "questions about life imitating art."
Pete Williams handled the story that included a soundbite from Coats, but which Williams concluded by emphasizing public support for Clinton.
Monica Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury for a second time on
Thursday and contradicted the President, a point made in stories squeezed
into the ABC and NBC newscasts. ABC and FNC revealed that Lewinsky said
Clinton "fondled" her and NBC relayed her claim that their sex
included "unusual practices." CBS emphasized how Clinton will
fight a subpoena. CNN skipped it all, devoting all of The World Today to
the anti-terrorist strike.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. In a piece that lasted barely a minute, Linda Douglass, filling in for Jackie Judd, informed viewers: "According to legal sources, Monica Lewinsky's testimony today directly contradicted the President's on two key points. First on the question of Mr. Clinton's gifts to Lewinsky, which he later returned to his secretary Betty Currie, sources say the President testified that they talked about the gifts before they had been subpoenaed in the Paula Jones case. But Lewinsky testified today that the discussion came after the subpoena arrived, which could amount to obstruction of justice."
Douglass continued: "And though Mr. Clinton admitted to sex with Lewinsky, he denied it fit the description presented him in the Paula Jones case which would involve his fondling her, but today, say sources, Lewinsky testified he did fondle her. A source close to the President said it is possible quote, 'that in the heat of battle something could have occurred between them and Mr. Clinton has forgotten.'"
Sex to Clinton is a "battle" and he forgot?
-- CBS Evening News. Citing "what we've been told by sources in a position to know," Bob Schieffer reported that Clinton will answer no more questions voluntarily and will fight any subpoena. On Monday Clinton deferred detailed answers, "that was one reason Miss Lewinsky, who was described as hurt and angry about the President's Monday night speech, was called back to the grand jury today. And, we're told, her description of events continues to differ from the President's." Schieffer offered on details.
-- FNC's Fox
Report. David Shuster announced: "According to sources familiar with
the investigation, Lewinsky's testimony flatly contradicted what the
President told the grand jury on Monday. Lewinsky described encounters,
said a friend, where Mr. Clinton allegedly fondled parts of her body. In
addition, Lewinsky again recounted discussions with Mr. Clinton about how
to cover up the relationship."
Nightly News. Lisa Myers revealed: "NBC News has learned that
Lewinsky today contradicted key parts of the President's testimony and
provided graphic details of sexual encounters with the President that
suggest he did not tell the full truth to the grand jury Monday."
After noting another contradiction about the gifts, which is important to obstruction of justice charges, Myers concluded: "As for Lewinsky, friends say she's feeling hurt and betrayed. Legal sources tell NBC News that Lewinsky told prosecutors the President led her to believe that they might somehow have a future together after he leaves the presidency."
Lying for seven months and embarrassing his political allies who put their reputations on the line for him should make Clinton a more sympathetic figure the average person can now better relate to. So contended Today co-host Matt Lauer Thursday morning in an exchange I was alerted to by Steve Allen, Washington correspondent for World Net Daily (www.worldnetdaily.com).
MRC analyst Mark Drake transcribed the relevant portion of the August 20 interview with family therapist Pat Love and syndicated columnist Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Matt Lauer suggested: "What about the possibility the President's apology has narrowed the gap, so to speak? That's he's now more of a real person to real people living in this country, as opposed to being this political figurehead."
wondered: "If he is seen as more of a real person, isn't there a
possibility, Jacqueline, that people are saying: 'Hey, if a friend of
mine, if the guy who lived down the street from me did this, I would
forgive him. So why shouldn't I forgive the President of the United
NBC's Today removed the interview with comedian/actor Chris Rock from the PT/MT feed of the August 19 show, so 30 percent of Americans never had a chance to see his diatribe against Ken Starr and for Bill Clinton quoted in the August 20 CyberAlert.
At one point Rock declared: "If President Clinton would pardon me I would whip Starr's ass right now. I will get a crew from Brooklyn and we will stomp him like, like, we're Savion Glover. We'll stomp him like it's bringing da noise. Who else? Stephanopoulos. He gave this guy a job! You can't dis people that gave you jobs, man. He put my man on, he's talking, he needs to get stomped. Somebody need to whip his ass. Anybody. If I give you a job, if I give you a job, you know."
A Today press rep explained that Rock's "Language today was inappropriate for morning TV, especially for the many children who are off from school and watching at that hour."
But, judging by the use of language in NBC's sit-coms documented in studies by the MRC's Parents Television Council (www.parentstv.org), perfectly appropriate for the family hour.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said Ken Starr reminds him of Heinrich Himmler and is more of a persecutor than a prosecutor. All in one question. The August 20 CyberAlert recounted Olbermann's August 19 clarification of a question he posed on August 18, but at the time I didn't have the text of his original question. So here's his question as posed on the August 18 Big Show with Keith Olbermann, as located and transcribed by MRC analyst Paul Smith, followed by his apology the next night.
Olbermann to Jim
Warren, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, August 18:
The next night,
August 19, Olbermann told his viewers:
Notice that he's not sorry for denigrating Starr's professionalism by denouncing him, in Geraldo-like fashion, as a "persecutor." -- Brent Baker
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