White House Plays Nice; Rivera Declares "Love" for Clinton
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The cable networks stuck with the Tuesday impeachment hearings all day and into the night before they ended at about 9pm ET. PBS, or at least Washington's WETA-TV, cut out early to go to the NewsHour and an evening begathon. The cable coverage wiped out the normal CNN and FNC evening newscasts, but CNN ran a special at 10pm ET.
The hearings led the three broadcast network evening shows as each emphasized how the White House decided to take a more conciliatory approach. "The message today was 'I am sorry,'" insisted NBC's Tom Brokaw. Seconds after CBS's Bob Schieffer assured viewers that the "President's team stuck to the high ground," his colleague, Scott Pelley, reported that in the just-released written defense of Clinton "the President's lawyers call Ken Starr's prosecution deceptively one-sided." So, business as usual but neither ABC or NBC took note. ABC's Sam Donaldson played clips of Clinton's September contrition trilogy before warning that his advisers "fear" that showing contrition again "would be seen as a cynical ploy." Imagine that.
Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, December 8 evening shows, including the show openings from the anchors to give you a flavor of the network spin on such an important day in the impeachment process.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings began:
Linda Douglass opened her piece of the President's witnesses by introducing a soundbite from Greg Craig: "Facing Republicans who seem bent on impeaching the President, the White House lawyer began by apologizing on Mr. Clinton's behalf."
Next, from the
White House Sam Donaldson took up the recommendation that Clinton must
show contrition if he is to survive. Donaldson observed:
As if it wasn't before.
Bob Schieffer summarized the hearings and played several soundbites before concluding: "All this marks a striking departure for the President's team, which until now has built its defense around attacks on the independent counsel Ken Starr and the Republicans. But today the President's personal attorney David Kendall, who has clashed repeatedly with this committee, stayed in the shadows and the President's team stuck to the high ground. They haven't changed any minds on the committee yet, but the Republicans like this new approach, Dan, a lot better than the old one."
Rather then went to Scott Pelley who quickly countered the notion that the Clinton team has dropped its effort to discredit Ken Starr: "Dan, the White House has just released a new point by point defense of the President. It runs nearly 200 pages and in it the President's lawyers call Ken Starr's prosecution deceptively one-sided and they insist that Mr. Clinton's testimony has always been technically true."
After Pelley's piece Gloria Borger explained how the White House is lobbying Republican moderates.
Gwen Ifill led into a clip of Craig by stressing the nice White House mode: "A new strategy for White House lawyers today. Gone, the defiant attack on Republicans and Ken Starr. In its place, a milder apologetic tone."
Following Ifill Brokaw asserted: "The President still does not plan to appear before the committee personally, but plainly his team has been listening to complaints the White House is arrogant. As NBC's David Bloom reports from the White House tonight, the message today was 'I am sorry.'"
Bloom began by noting that the new 184 page defense starts by saying Clinton is "profoundly sorry."
Finally, Lisa Myers checked in with one of the struggling Republican moderates: Brian Bilbray from San Diego.
Clinton could actually be impeached, the networks somberly relayed Monday night, December 7, the first time network viewers got a real sense from the anchors that things were going the wrong way for Clinton:
-- Dan Rather, CBS Evening News: "The President's advisers are now convinced that there are enough votes in the full House to get the President impeached..."
-- Jim Moret, CNN's The World Today: "It's the beginning of a landmark week in this country's history. Bill Clinton likely is days away from joining Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon, U.S. Presidents who had to face articles of impeachment...."
-- Tom Brokaw, NBC
Nightly News: "Good evening. One week from tonight the full House of
Representatives could very well have a recommendation from the Judiciary
Committee that President Clinton should be impeached. That would trigger a
series of rancorous debates and votes the President is desperate to avoid.
He does not want to become only the second President in history to face an
impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. So tonight his White House team is
Geraldo Rivera blamed Clinton's "pro-choice politics" for motivating efforts to impeach him, admitted to Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett that "I love him maybe more than you do," and blurted out how he's "delighted to announce that Amo Houghton...has just said he's coming out against impeachment." All that in under 48 hours.
want to impeach in order to ban abortion. Rivera opened the December 7
Upfront Tonight on CNBC:
-- Declaring his
"love" for Bill Clinton. Journalistic norms say you challenge
your guests with the arguments and points made by political opponents of
your guest. Not Rivera. Check out the slant of these questions, caught by
MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, on Monday's Rivera Live to Clinton
lawyer Bob Bennett.
Will Vermont families be able to travel to the hospital to visit their sick children? Only if Geraldo Rivera makes good on a bet he lost about how no one has ever been prosecuted for lying about sex in a federal civil case.
In a USA Today story last Friday reporter Kathy Kiely disclosed that Rivera has yet to make good on the $10,000 he admitted in late October that he owed. The winners want to give it to a Ronald McDonald house which hopes to buy a new transport van. Here's an excerpt from the December 4 story:
The case of Barbara Battalino, one of the convicted perjurers who testified this week in the House impeachment inquiry, could result in a Christmastime gift to the families of sick kids in Vermont.
But first Geraldo Rivera will have to make good on a bet.
Battalino's case, eerily similar to President Clinton's, came to the House Judiciary Committee's attention because of a challenge Rivera issued earlier this year on his CNBC show.
The flamboyant TV personality offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a case in which a person was penalized for lying under oath about sex.
Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, a husband-and-wife Washington legal team with close ties to the GOP, took Rivera up on the offer....
[Battalino] was fined and sentenced to house arrest after a former patient proved that she lied under oath when she denied having sex with him....
On Oct. 30, Rivera announced on the air that DiGenova and Toensing had won the $10,000 bet. They have decided to donate the money to a Ronald McDonald House that provides housing for families of children hospitalized at the Fletcher-Allen Health Care center in Burlington, Vt., Toensing said. Their grandson, now 5, had surgery at the hospital several years ago.
Pam Fenimore, an administrator at the Ronald McDonald House, plans to use the money to replace a 10-year-old van that ferries families between the house and the hospital.
"We do not know when we're going to get the check,'' she said. "Hopefully, the money will be here by Christmas.''
The check is "still in the processing stage,'' Rivera spokesman John Brine reported when USA TODAY inquired. He said Rivera's not commenting on whether the money is coming out of his own wallet, or his television network is footing the bill.
Liberals like Rivera love to use anecdotes to demonstrate the insensitivity by conservatives to the needs of the less fortunate. So, will Rivera live up to his liberal ideal and fulfill his promise so sick and dying children can spend time with their families? It's already been over a month since he lost the bet and Christmas is just a few weeks away -- so he better move fast.
Finally, catching up on a Thanksgiving Eve item which shows some
conservative columnists are much more cutting than I in their comments
about media figures. Here's one item from Boston Herald columnist and
WRKO radio talk show host Howie Carr's November 25 Herald piece on what
some should be thankful for:
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