CyberAlert -- 09/15/1998 -- Polls Back Clinton

Polls Back Clinton; Rivera: Media Must Apologize to Clinton; Probe Starr?

1) Monday night the networks focused on Clinton trying to show all is normal and how polls show the public opposes resignation or impeachment. FNC focused on Betty Currie as an active facilitator.

2) With Clinton supposedly cleared on Filegate and Travelgate, Geraldo demanded to know when the media will say "We're sorry." And he lashed out at divorcee Peter Jennings for "talking about the President's bad morals."

3) At ABC's GMA it's Starr who needs investigating and Clinton who is the victim of a prosecutor "chasing down his personal life."

4) On Today, Katie Couric warned about a "bunch of self righteous hypocrites on Capitol Hill" and Matt Lauer worried about too much Clinton scandal coverage.

5) Film director John Frankenheimer declared Ken Starr is "a witch hunter and a very dangerous man who has done great harm."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Top Democrats saying Clinton must drop his legalese defense, Clinton trying to show all is normal by giving a policy speech and polls showing continued public approval and opposition to resignation or impeachment, were the themes pushed by the networks Monday night. NBC Nightly News opened with a graphic of Clinton with this tag: "On the Job."

Only CBS's Scott Pelley highlighted the irony of how in his address to the Council on Foreign Relations Clinton "found himself lecturing struggling nations on the virtues of honesty, discipline and responsibility." CBS's Eric Engberg produced a "Reality Check" on the weaknesses of Starr's case. ABC's Peter Jennings interviewed Senator Orrin Hatch, but didn't mention an angle raised by Bob Schieffer on CBS that "Hatch has become so frustrated with the President's legal team he has sent word to the White House that he would personally be willing to lead an effort to see that the President is not indicted for perjury if he would just admit he lied."

CNN explored the gap between how men and women assess Clinton. FNC's delivered three unique items: David Shuster on how the Starr report shows Betty Currie was an active facilitator of the Clinton/Lewinsky trysts, Gary Matsumoto on how USA Today and other major newspapers have called for Clinton's resignation, and in poll numbers placed in an on-screen bumper, how most Americans are ashamed of Clinton.

Here are some scandal coverage highlights from Monday night, September 14:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings painted a President on the run:
"...And when the most senior members of the President's own party say they are not satisfied with the President's standard of truthfulness, when senior, even sympathetic members of both parties say the President has got to tell the truth as the rest of us understand it, then you know it is far from over."

Up first, Linda Douglass on how Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt issued statements urging Clinton the drop the legalese defense. She reported that they feel they can only defend Clinton if he's seen to be telling the truth. That would make censure possible and avoid impeachment, the Democrats believe.

Second, Sam Donaldson recounted Clinton's trip to New York City: "With a spring in his step and his wife by his side once again looking content and supportive, Mr. Clinton gave no indication today he feels like a man with his back to the wall. In fact in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations on the global economy, he made no reference to the scandal or his difficulties, just presented the picture of a President battling the Republican Congress for more money for the International Monetary Fund on behalf of American prosperity."
Donaldson concluded by relaying how the White House had just released a response saying "that no legalisms can obscure the fact that he knows he was wrong." But, Donaldson countered, "missing from this statement is any indication Mr. Clinton has instructed his lawyers to change their tactics."
Peter Jennings asked Donaldson about a poll showing by 57 to 39 percent the public want Clinton to stay, not resign. It's those kinds of numbers, Donaldson explained, which concern aides worried that Bill and Hillary may be "beguiled by" them and think their troubles are over.

Third, Jackie Judd explained that the White House is pursuing the unpopular legal strategy because an admission of guilt would risk and indictment after Clinton's term ends. Next, Jennings talked with Senator Orrin Hatch about how the Senator wants Clinton to be honest. Then Jennings highlighted an ABC poll which found 45 percent think the Starr report made a "strong case," versus 42 percent who said he delivered a "weak case." That's better than for Clinton's response, which 59 found weak and just 31 considered strong.

Finally, Erin Hayes checked out reaction among teens in Asheville, NC. One girl in a high school class observed: "I think that now that he is weakened so much that a lot of people find that when he gets up and says I have sinned and I shouldn't have done this it's almost funny."
She showed more common sense than the Washington media. As detailed in the September 12 CyberAlert, far from laughing at Clinton's prayer breakfast address, network reporters praised it as "extraordinary" and "poignant." In a Time Daily dispatch from Friday passed along to me by MRC analyst Clay Waters, Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson declared: "It's one of the most remarkable speeches ever given by a President."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened: "Good evening. Congress is starting to weigh in tonight after a weekend of mulling Ken Starr's accusations. President Clinton concentrated on a policy strong point with the public: the economy. A CBS News poll tonight indicates still solid approval on his job performance. Against this backdrop Congress talked about how or whether to consider impeachment, censure or keeping the pressure on for resignation."

First, Bob Schieffer highlighted how both Republicans and Democrats are urging Clinton to "reign in his lawyers and just admit he lied to the grand jury. They are telling him that frustration with his legal team is the main factor driving the increased pressure here to hold impeachment hearings. We've learned that the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Orrin Hatch has become so frustrated with the President's legal team he has sent word to the White House that he would personally be willing to lead an effort to see that the President is not indicted for perjury if he would just admit he lied."

Second, Scott Pelley looked at Clinton's New York speech, uniquely noticing that he "found himself lecturing struggling nations on the virtues of honesty, discipline and responsibility."
Clinton: "We need to be honest with Russia and everyone else. No nation rich or poor, democratic or authoritarian, can escape the fundamental economic imperatives of a global market. No nation can escape its discipline, no nation can avoid its responsibility to do its part."
Pelley delivered the same conclusion as had Donaldson:
"This evening the White House has just released a statement saying that the President believes, and I quote, 'no legalisms should obscure the fact that what he said was wrong, he apologized for it and he has asked for forgiveness.' But the White House has still not given up the legalism that it wasn't technically perjury."

Next, Dan Rather defined what censure would entail and then introduced a Jerry Bowen story on public reaction by noting that a CBS poll discovered 61 percent approve of his job performance. Bowen explained that while only 32 percent now want him to resign, if he obstructed justice 50 percent would want him to resign or be impeached. For now, 57 percent favor censure. Bowen added, without a specific number, that most thought Starr's report was meant to embarrass the President.

Finally, Eric Engberg checked in with a "Reality Check" on Starr's report. Citing Starr's claim of abuse of power by claiming executive privilege in order to delay the investigation, Engberg protested: "But Presidents routinely fight to protect the powers of their office."
As for obstructing justice by having an understanding with Lewinsky that she should lie, Engberg countered: "But no explicit order to lie was uncovered."
Engberg continued after clips of Clinton lawyers Ruff and Kendall: "Experts agree Starr's most damaging case against the President is allegations of perjury, that he lied under oath three times." Noting that Clinton claimed he did not recall being alone with Lewinsky, Engberg led into a soundbite from former prosecutor Greg Garrison by suggesting: "prosecutors would pounce on that." Engberg concluded by highlighting his doubts:
"But perjury cases can also be difficult to prove because the issue is what the accused was thinking, did he intend to lie, did he know he was lying after he took an oath to tell the truth?"

-- CNN's The World Today opened with anchor Jim Moret reporting that Clinton is "trying to project a business as usual image." John King examined complaints by Democrats about Clinton's legalistic defense and Wolf Blitzer explained that White House strategy is to convince Congress that the public supports the President. Candy Crowley summarized the various views from Capitol Hill before CNN ran an on-screen graphic of a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showing that when asked "Do you respect Clinton?" 54 percent replied no, 43 percent yes.
CNN also ran a piece from Jonathan Karl on how more women than men support Clinton, a story about public reaction in Glendale, California, and a report from Brooks Jackson on how the scandal is helping Republican Congressman Steve Chabot in Ohio.

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Jim Angle suggested that by giving his New York speech Clinton "tried to remind voters of the good old days" when he concentrated on policy. Angle also highlighted Democratic complaints about Clinton defense. Next, David Shuster suggested the Starr report has transformed the image of Betty Currie from "shell-shocked victim" to an active facilitator who came in on weekends to clear Monica in. Shuster elaborated: "Another time, fearing that the White House staff was suspicious, Currie walked with Lewinsky and the President, then headed through a door to the dining room and waited 20 minutes."

Carl Cameron relayed reaction from Capitol Hill, anchor Jon Scott interviewed Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham, and Jane Skinner plugged a Crier Report interview in which Clinton childhood friend Dolly Kyle Browning claims Clinton once admitted that he's a sex addict.
Next, prompted by USA Today's call for Clinton's resignation, Gary Matsumoto reported that 7 of 39 papers with a circulation over 250,000 have done the same, but a Los Angeles Times poll found 63 percent of the public opposes resignation.
Rick Leventhal looked at the controversy over Starr's report which uses the word "sex" 548 times, but "Whitewater" just four times.
A bumper displayed by FNC relayed the findings of a Zogby America poll. "Are you proud or ashamed to have Bill Clinton as your President?" Proud: 31.9 percent; Ashamed: 50.1 percent; Not sure: 18.1 percent.

-- NBC Nightly News. Over a picture of Clinton with the tag "On the Job" beneath, Tom Brokaw announced:
"Good evening. President Clinton tonight wants the world to know, and especially the financial markets, that he's on the job and that he intends to stay. With Mrs. Clinton at his side he made a trip to New York today to outline a major plan to deal with the global financial crises before they sink the U.S. economy. And at the same time Congress is deciding whether to proceed with impeachment steps and the public continues to offer its reaction to the Ken Starr report."

Up first, David Bloom who relayed the complaints about legalese from Democrats, adding: "The President was all business today, or at least he wanted it to look that way..." After reading a bit of Daschle's statement, Bloom asserted: "But Mr. Clinton's supporters say they're bolstered by public opinion polls which show most Americans know about the Starr report, disapprove of the President's behavior but don't want to see him resign or be impeached."

Gwen Ifill offered reaction from Capitol Hill, including how top House Republican John Kasich called on Clinton to quit.

Introducing a piece by Lisa Myers, Brokaw declared: "Lying is not always a black and white issue, but Starr is convinced he has caught the President lying repeatedly." Myers highlighted some, such as how Clinton "claimed he never touched her breasts or other intimate parts of her body, quote 'that is not my recollection.' But Lewinsky said it happened ten times and is backed up by friends she told at the time."

Later, Andrea Mitchell explained how 60 percent say Congress should not drop the matter. Mitchell outlined three options for the Congress: impeach, censure, or censure plus a fine.


Gerald3cap.jpg (19690 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Geraldo's pissed and he lashed out at NBC and Peter Jennings Monday night, demanding to know when the media will say it's sorry to Clinton for over covering issues ignored by Starr. On CNBC's Rivera Live he demanded:
"The President's not the only one who should fess up....almost drown in the sea of sludge, the fact that despite the four year, $40 million blah, blah, blah, Whitewater mentioned two times, Travelgate not once, Filegate not once, not even a reference to the infamous talking points. Jonathan Alter my good friend at Newsweek said 80,000 stories had been published, 80,000 stories on those three topics, on Whitewater alone, 80,000 just on Whitewater."

80,000. Sounds like a Nexis search that included whitewater rafting.

"We have done some research of our own," announced a crusading Rivera. On screen viewers saw story tallies from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Without any source offered or time frame given, Rivera announced the totals: 5,456 "references" to Whitewater, 217 to the talking points, 273 to Travelgate and 157 to Filegate. Again, without any definition of parameters, for NBC he claimed 746 stories "referred to" Whitewater, 62 to Filegate, 94 to Travelgate and 52 to the talking points.

Rivera demanded: "Will all of the media, including NBC, give even a fraction of the airtime and the newsprint that we gave to these allegations to the fact that no impeachable offenses were found? When are we going to say to the President of the United States, 'we're sorry'?"

Later, he lashed out, in an apparent reference to Peter Jennings: "At one network they got an anchorman married four times and the reporter married four times, there's eight divorces between them, and they're talking about the President's bad morals!"

So, just how much attention did the media pay to these other scandal areas. Not as much as Rivera implied. Check out "Now They Decide to Cover a Scandal," an Investor's Business Daily op-ed I wrote back in January. Go to:

In a January, 1997 MediaWatch study the MRC's Tim Graham documented how the networks dropped Filegate soon after it broke: from June 30 to the end of the year running "only six evening news stories and seven morning reports." To read the entire study, titled "TV's Top Ten Undercovered Stories," go to:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Mendacity in the morning. At Good Morning America it's Starr who needs investigating and Clinton who is the victim of a prosecutor "chasing down his personal life."

-- Concluding a September 10 Good Morning America interview with former Starr deputy John Bates, MRC analyst Clay Waters noticed, co-host Lisa McRee suggested Starr has done wrong: "And finally, Mr. Bates: What does Kenneth Starr do now, and do you think he'll be investigated?"

-- On Monday's GMA, observed MRC analyst Mark Drake, after George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley asserted that it will be hard to justify prosecuting any perjury case involving an average person if Congress does not pursue Clinton's perjury, McRee's co-host, Kevin Newman, shot back:
"But I guess the difference here is not, the average person wouldn't have a $40 million grand jury chasing down his personal life."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Monday morning Today's Katie Couric came at Pat Buchanan with all the most used Clinton spins, observed MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens who transcribed these questions:

-- "Pat, of course the bottom line here is what President Clinton did is a heck of a lot different in the minds of many Americans than what President Nixon did, in terms of what exactly they were covering up. Can you understand that people have a hard time feeling that President Clinton should resign because of sexual indiscretions or because [of] an adulterous affair?"
-- "Do you think Ken Starr really had to get so graphic in this report? I mean it's, much of it is in the 'more than what we really wanted to know' category. Did the details have to be so lurid?"
-- "Meanwhile we've been hearing through, in recent days Pat, Dan Burton say that he fathered a child out of wedlock. Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth say that even despite the fact she campaigned on family values and won as a result of that campaign admit that she had an affair with a married man for several years. I mean are there bunch of self righteous hypocrites on Capitol Hill?"
Of course, neither Chenoweth or Burton lied under oath about it, which is why Clinton is in legal trouble and they are not.
-- "Well what about the American people Mr. Buchanan? 67 percent are saying that they still approve of President Clinton and many say he should serve out his term."

To be fair to Couric, she did at least ask Dee Dee Myers:
"I know c'mon Dee Dee. Really, I mean this whole thing, definition of sexual relations. I mean who's advising the President to do that? And isn't it just a totally bogus explanation?"

But she also delivered a pep talk: "And they've got to be heartened by the polls showing a lot of support still exists for the President. Although as Tim Russert mentioned and Matt, as well, earlier this morning they still want Congress to handle this. So they're really not home free."

Just like Rivera, Today co-host Matt Lauer whined about media over coverage, asking liberal columnist Molly Ivins:
"Over the past month there have been something like 400 segments on network news shows dealing with the President's scandal. To be very honest 300 of them have aired on the main morning shows like this one. Is that too much coverage and why?"

And he wondered: "Do you think then that this scandal, Molly let me ask this, has this scandal done more to hurt the presidency or the press?"

Not a concern back in the Iran-Contra period.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Hollywood is still solidly in Clinton's corner. MRC Entertainment Division Director Kasha Kelley passed along to me this blast at Ken Starr from film director John Frankenheimer as quoted in the September 11 USA Today:
"I think Kenneth Starr is a man who has done irreparable harm. I think there is nothing here that is so urgent that, even if it warranted any kind of attention, it couldn't have waited until the President finished his term. Starr is like some character out of a Victor Hugo novel. He's a witch hunter and a very dangerous man who has done great harm to the country."

MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson informed me that Frankenheimer is best known for the Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, Black Sunday and last year's movie about George Wallace on TNT. He's also director of a new film titled Ronin.

While on the topic of the entertainment community, from the September 14 Late Show with David Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard at the Emmys," here's #6: "The gown is Bob Macke but the stain is President Clinton." -- Brent Baker

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