1) Attorney General
Reno's announcement, that she would not request an independent counsel
to probe phone fundraising calls placed by Clinton and Gore, topped
the three broadcast network shows Tuesday night. She also decided
against an independent counsel for Hazel O'Leary, but ABC didn't
mention the former Energy Secretary. Only CBS noted that though
Clinton claimed he could not "recall" making fundraising
calls, Reno determined that he had placed many.
Conservatives and FBI
Director Louis Freeh point out that Reno took too narrow a view,
offering a legalistic ruling about one aspect of the scandal while
ignoring the need for further examination of the larger scandal
swirling all around and detailed by the Thompson committee -- a
possible conspiracy, involving the President, to subvert campaign
finance rules. CBS and NBC alluded to this, but only ABC outlined
Freeh's concern. Here's a summary of how the December 2 shows
approached Reno's decision:
ABC's World News
Tonight aired one taped piece followed by q & a between anchor
Peter Jennings and White House reporter John Donvan. Reporter Linda
Douglass began her piece by relaying how Reno said she will not give
in to political pressure, saying she found no evidence of a crime
since calls from Clinton came from private parts of the White House
and Gore thought he was raising soft money. Douglass then offered the
only complete summary of the evening of Freeh's contrary view:
"In making her
decision, Reno battled fierce opposition from FBI Director Louie Freeh.
Freeh argued Reno was wrong to focus only on the phone calls. Law
enforcement sources say he urged her to turn the entire fundraising
investigation over to an independent counsel on the grounds that there
may have been a wide ranging conspiracy by the White House to violate
Douglass next noted
that Reno insisted the Justice Department investigation is not over,
so the scandal could "still ensnare" Clinton and Gore. After
mentioning GOP support for Freeh and showing a clip of Senator Fred
Thompson, Douglass highlighted how "Republican are eager to
exploit this split" between Reno and Freeh, so Dan Burton has
called them both to appear before his committee.
Jennings then turned
to John Donvan for White House reaction. Jennings first asked about
how Gore reacted. Second, about White House support for Freeh. Donvan
reported that Mike McCurry was given several opportunities, but never
said the President had full confidence in the FBI Director. Jennings
offered this postscript: "So, part of the headline is, of course,
no closure on this story as of yet."
He just can't wait
until he doesn't have to report anything about this tawdry scandal.
Indeed, neither World News Tonight or Good Morning America have yet
uttered a word about O'Leary, a story broken in August by NBC Nightly
News and briefly noted four weeks later by the CBS Evening News. (CNN
aired several stories in September.)
CBS Evening News.
Phil Jones opened with Reno claiming that she did not find specific
and credible evidence. In her soundbite, Reno listed Clinton, Gore and
O'Leary. Jones picked up on what ABC ignored: "Former Energy
Secretary Hazel O'Leary was accused of soliciting funds for a favorite
charity in exchange for a meeting with a group of Chinese
businessmen." Leading into a clip of Congressman Dan Burton,
Jones said the GOP was "ready to pounce."
After Burton Jones
offered this limited explanation for why Freeh disagreed with Reno:
"The Attorney General clearly tried to downplay what has turned
into an open dispute with FBI Director Louie Freeh. Freeh had argued
for an independent counsel to pursue an investigation beyond the phone
calls." Jones concluded with a clip of Reno praising Freeh for
doing "an outstanding job," before Jones told viewers that
Burton will have them both before his committee.
Next, Dan Rather
announced: "As for the reaction from the Clinton-Gore camp, CBS
News White House correspondent Scott Pelley says you could almost hear
the sighs of relief there tonight, at least for now." Pelley
noted that Clinton said Reno based her decision on the law and facts,
but earlier in the day Clinton showed his frustration about how the
long investigation kept him from working with Freeh and Reno. Pelley
concluded by explaining how Clinton says he can't remember making
fundraising calls, but Reno's report says he made numerous calls,
though they were legal.
NBC Nightly News.
Pete Williams led by emphasizing how Reno made her decision against
the advice of Freeh who wanted an independent counsel. Williams
outlined how Reno said no laws were broken in the Clinton and Gore
calls. After a soundbite from Reno, Williams led into a soundbite from
Senator Bob Torricelli by relaying how Democrats applauded her ruling.
Williams gave a sentence to Reno's decision on O'Leary, noted how
Burton will convene a hearing, and concluded with an allusion to
larger issues still undecided: "The FBI is still looking at
possibly illegal Chinese contributions and influence and whether
Democratic Party money was illegally used to buy campaign ads."
Up next, from the
North Lawn, David Bloom asserted: "There's a sense of relief here
at the White House, but as Pete said, it's tempered by the reality
that no one here, from the President on down, is out of the woods. As
one of Mr. Clinton's top aides put it, anyone who's gleeful tonight
isn't speaking for the President."
Bloom showed reaction
clips from Gore, Congressman Henry Hyde and Senator Orrin Hatch before
reporting that the President charged that Republicans were
inappropriate in trying to pressure Reno. Bloom concluded: "And
tonight the White House is counting on the fact that many Americans
still view her as an honest broker, someone unlikely to do the