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Stephanopoulos Hails Bill Clinton as Great "Character Witness" --12/22/2003


1. Stephanopoulos Hails Bill Clinton as Great "Character Witness"
To ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton makes a valuable "character witness." On Sunday's This Week, Stephanopoulos described the "crowning moment" for Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, during his testimony last week at the war crimes trial in The Hague for Slobodan Milosevic, as when the former General called "on a big gun as a character witness" -- Bill Clinton.

2. CNN's Zahn Marks 5th Anniversary of Impeachment with Regret
Watching Paula Zahn's Thursday night CNN show on the 5th anniversary of the Clinton impeachment vote was like re-living the bias of the time, with those friendly to Clinton (Sidney Blumenthal, Lisa Caputo and Paul Begala) treated sympathetically, as victims while she was far more hostile to those who took on Clinton, Paula Jones and then-Congressman Bill McCollum, trying to extract admissions that they or those around them had disreputable motives. To Paula Jones: "So you don't regret what happened to the President or the country?" And: "So you acknowledge tonight then that those people that came to assist you, in fact, had personal vendettas against the President?" To Bill McCollum: "You must have heard some of what our panel just had to say. They accused you of leading an assault on the U.S. Constitution."

3. FNC's Gabler Falsely Impugns MRC as "Almost Always Duplicitous"
For the second time in six weeks, FNC's liberal media analyst, Neal Gabler, impugned the integrity and accuracy of the MRC after a fellow panelist accurately cited a news coverage quote reported by the MRC. On Saturday's Fox Newswatch, when Jim Pinkerton cited the MRC has his source for how on the day of the announcement of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Peter Jennings remarked that "there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at this moment," Gabler claimed: "Now that's not what he said!" Gabler proceeded to insist Pinkerton was "quoting a line out of context" and Gabler charged that the "MRC is almost always duplicitous." Not even fellow liberal panelist Jane Hall went along with Gabler's take.


Stephanopoulos Hails Bill Clinton as
Great "Character Witness"

To ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton makes a valuable "character witness." On Sunday's This Week, Stephanopoulos described the "crowning moment" for Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, during his testimony last week at the war crimes trial in The Hague for Slobodan Milosevic, as when the former General called "on a big gun as a character witness" -- Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post profile of the two top Howard Dean campaign strategists relayed how Dean's Communications Director Tricia Enright became "friendly" with Stephanopoulos when the two worked together in the Clinton White House.

Stephanopoulos traveled to the Netherlands to cover Clark's testimony before the international criminal court's trial of Milosevic. Stephanopoulos reminded viewers of how former Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton said Clark was removed from his European command because of "integrity and character" issues. Stephanopoulos then ran through one exchange at the trial:
Stephanopoulos: "Milosevic counterpunches with the Shelton charges."
Milosevic, in English: "This is the New Yorker. Shelton said, 'I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues.' [Milosevic via interpreter:] Then why were you removed from your post in Europe prematurely?"
Clark: "Because in all candor, there was a policy difference between General Shelton and myself. I believed that the United States and NATO could not permit another round of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans."
Stephanopoulos: "And for his crowning moment, General Clark calls on a big gun as a character witness."
Clark: "This is a statement from former President Bill Clinton: 'Contrary to Mr. Milosevic, General Wesley Clark carried out the policy of the NATO alliance, to stop massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, with great skill, integrity and determination.' And I ask that this be submitted as an item for the record."

In a profile in last Thursday's Washington Post, "Schmooze-Makers: Howard Dean's Campaign Team Charms His Way Into Print," Howard Kurtz looked at Campaign Manager Joe Trippi and Communications Director Tricia Enright. Kurtz recalled in the December 18 "Style" section piece: "Enright did several stints in the Clinton White House, where she became friendly with George Stephanopoulos, but spent most of her time at the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

So, the Dean campaign seems to have a friendly contact inside ABC News, which probably explains Trippi's appearance on Sunday's This Week sandwiched around Stephanopoulos' taped session with Clark.

CNN's Zahn Marks 5th Anniversary of Impeachment with Regret

CNN's Paula Zahn on Thursday night devoted three segments featuring a total of six guests, consuming about half of her hour-long 8pm EST show, to marking the fifth anniversary of the House vote to impeach President Bill Clinton.

Watching her session was like re-living the bias of the time, with those friendly to Clinton (Sidney Blumenthal, Lisa Caputo and Paul Begala) treated sympathetically, as victims, not perpetrators of vicious attacks on conservatives for telling the truth as Clinton lied, asked only how they felt at the time and if they felt betrayed by Clinton. But she was far more hostile to those who took on Clinton, Paula Jones and then-Congressman Bill McCollum, trying to extract admissions that they or those around them had disreputable motives. Zahn also interviewed Monica Lewinsky's first lawyer, William Ginsburg.

Some sample questions posed by Zahn on the December 18 Paula Zahn Now. To Paula Jones:
-- "So you don't regret what happened to the President or the country?"
-- "So you acknowledge tonight then that those people that came to assist you, in fact, had personal vendettas against the President?"
-- "And those that hated the President for some reason, were you able to figure out what drove them, what their motivation was, what they were so mad at?"

To First Lady Hillary Clinton's Press Secretary, Lisa Caputo:
-- "Describe what it was like for you to be with Mrs. Clinton when she arrived with the President on Martha's Vineyard after he admitted to her the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky."

To pro-Clinton zealot Sidney Blumenthal who has made a career attacking conservatives: "Give us a final thought on how you think the impact, or how do you think the impeachment impacts the President's legacy."

To Bill McCollum, then a Congressman from Florida who was part of the House team which presented the articles of impeachment before the Senate:
-- "You must have heard some of what our panel just had to say. They accused you of leading an assault on the U.S. Constitution."
-- "He [Blumenthal] basically said when you looked at those moderate Republicans who were opposed to impeachment, they ultimately changed their vote because their financial backers were threatened."
McCollum: "That's just nonsense."
Zahn: "They were coerced."
-- "Mr. McCollum, you gained a reputation for a willingness to delve into the sexual specifics of this case. Do you have any regrets about that?"

The MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed the slanted session and MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth corrected the transcript against the tape. Highlights from the December 18 CNN program:

-- Zahn with Paula Jones: "As it turns out, Paula Jones may have triggered the scandal when she sued President Clinton for sexual harassment. As we have seen, it was her case that led to the Lewinsky investigation, which ultimately led to the President's impeachment. Paula Jones joins us now from Little Rock....When you look back at this period of time, last five years, do you have any regrets that you filed this suit in the first place?"
Jones: "Not really. I regret what happened to me as far as the procedures and people talking about me and stuff like that, but I don't regret anything that I did because what I said was the truth. And I think that it did bring to light what he did and who he is as a person."
Zahn: "So you don't regret what happened to the President or the country?"
Jones: "No, because I didn't cause that. Bill Clinton caused that. So, and, you know, everything's turned out just fine it seems like. So it didn't do a whole lot of harm, I guess, to the country."
Zahn: "But let me ask you this: Did you ever think for a second what you alleged to have happened in that hotel room would eventually lead to the impeachment of the President?"
Jones: "Oh, no, I never thought that far ahead at all. I was just out there to try to get my name and reputation back and because it was said in the article that I had a consensual sexual relationship with him, which I knew I did not. And that was what I set out to do, and it just kind of just got bigger and bigger and bigger. And for that, I do regret how big it did get as far as, you know, other people jumping in on the bandwagon and using me for their own agendas and stuff like that. But as far as me coming out, I don't regret that at all."
Zahn: "When you talk about being used, was there pressure put on you to file the suit?"
Jones: "To some extent, there were certain people who I thought were just being there as a support system, you know, because I was, I was scared. I really didn't know what was going to happen. I mean, we're talking about the President here, and I was scared for my family's lives and for my life. And these people came forward to help me feel comfortable about going ahead and going forward. Well, you know, in the end, and as it went by, I realized that a lot of those people were using me for their own agendas to get at Bill Clinton for other reasons."
Zahn: "So you acknowledge tonight then that those people that came to assist you, in fact, had personal vendettas against the President?"
Jones: "I believe some of them did, a lot of them. Some of them did, I know, but some of them were truly my friends that, you know, were there to support me. So I think it was, you know, pretty much half and half or whatever, but some of them did, yes."
Zahn: "And those that hated the President for some reason, were you able to figure out what drove them, what their motivation was, what they were so mad at?"
Jones: "I guess because he was a Democrat and a liberal and he was, you know, against their issues and stuff like that, which, you know, I am so apolitical, I really don't care one way or another, you know, and I was at that point in time. But that, as it grew bigger and bigger, and it kept going on for year after year, then I realized it was about the, you know, the politics."
Zahn: "Paula, I was fascinated by something you said a little bit earlier on the, in the interview, when you said part of your motivation for filing the suit was to clear up your name, and yet you became such a lightning rod for criticism."
Jones: "Yeah."
Zahn: "Do you think, in the end, that your reputation is more damaged now than it was before you even filed the suit?"
Jones: "No, I really don't....

-- After an ad break, Zahn set up another segment: "When Monica Lewinsky needed a lawyer, she turned to William Ginsburg, a Washington outsider who shared the spotlight with the former White House intern, some would say at times even overshadowing her. But the fame was fleeting. Lewinsky removed him as her lawyer, and he has remained out of the public eye since then. William Ginsburg joins us now from Las Vegas....Do you ever regret representing Monica Lewinsky?"
Ginsburg: "Absolutely not. I think it was necessary. I think that the constitutional challenge was something that had to be handled, and I'm pleased that I could have played a part."
Zahn: "Were you prepared for what it turned into?"
Ginsburg: "No, I don't think anybody could be prepared, whether they lived in the Beltway or outside of the Beltway. The maelstrom of press attention, fireworks, international attention was more than most people could handle, certainly me."
Zahn: "Well, at one point, you actually told a reporter after you'd gotten a tremendous amount of attention, quote, 'I am the most famous man in the world.' Shortly after that, critics were beating you up as being an air hog, being a megalomaniac. How do you think you dealt with that?"
Ginsburg: "Well, you know, first of all, the statement was taken out of context. I was being facetious in response to somebody's remark...."
Zahn: "Well, let me ask you this: I know in the process you ended up going into therapy. What did you learn about what you had endured, and did it help?"
Ginsburg: "Well, everybody who comes back from a maelstrom, whether it's wartime or whether it's Washington, needs to get back to reality and get his feet on the ground. What I learned was that we came close as a nation to putting so much power in the hands of one man that we were almost, and most people don't realize this, we were almost in constitutional crisis. What I also learned is, is that the media cannot let a story simmer. The media, even when nothing is happening, must continue to press a story, and therefore, as I say, shape the outcome, regardless of the truth and the facts."
Zahn: "Well, I beg to differ with the conclusion you arrived at, but I certainly can't defend the reporting of everybody during the impeachment process. Explain to us tonight what it was like for you behind the scenes with Monica Lewinsky and her family when you realized the extent to which she was going to be involved in this scandal."
Ginsburg: "It was extremely difficult...."
Zahn: "If you were able to write the legacy story of this impeachment, share with us a little bit of what you might have to say."
Ginsburg: "Well, I think the main thing that I would stress is that the Constitution was written by very brilliant men, mostly men, and that they knew what they were doing, and it remains one of the most valuable and one of the most enduring documents that we have in the entire history of the world. And I would say that any time that Congress, who is charged with investigating high crimes and misdemeanors, ever thinks again about delegating the responsibility to investigate what is essentially political, they ought to think twice...."

-- Following another ad break, Zahn brought aboard Clintonistas Lisa Caputo, Paul Begala and Sidney Blumenthal: "Time to hear from some folks who were close advisers to the Clintons. Crossfire's Paul Begala advised the President during the impeachment trial, Sidney Blumenthal was a former presidential aide and author of The Clinton Wars, and Lisa Caputo was Hillary Clinton's Press Secretary and remained close to her throughout the scandal. Welcome to all of you. Sidney, I'm going to start with you this evening. You were alone in the Oval Office with the President when the impeachment vote came down. What did he say?"
Blumenthal: "He told me that he was sincerely regretful about his personal behavior, but he also added that no amount of apologies on his part would really have stopped this, that the Republican leadership in the House was so determined to remove him because they could never accept a progressive Democratic President, that they would do anything, that what they were concerned with, above all, was power."
Zahn: "Paul, you were one of the President's closest advisers. You worked very hard on his reelection campaign. Let's review, for a moment, that now very famous denial that the President made."
Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."
Zahn: "At that time, did you believe him?"
Begala: "I did. I did. He said it with real vigor. You just saw again. First off, it was none of my business, and I think probably it would have been a better answer to say, it's none of your business either, America. But yes, I did. I think he said it with sufficient force and power that I did believe him."
Zahn: "So when the President ultimately admitted his inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, did you feel betrayed?"
Begala: "Oh, yeah. Oh, Paula, I've never written about this, because, you know, it was a very personal time. I was, I felt betrayed. I was very, very angry. I thought for a long time, I went on a long vacation, long for the White House, two weeks. And I thought about quitting. And then they ginned up the impeachment machine. You know, ironically, had the Republicans done nothing, the shame that he would have faced, President Clinton would have faced, would have been the proper punishment, and a lot of people might have quit. I felt like the Constitution was under assault, and I look back on that now, and it was the best decision I ever made in my life. I felt like I was serving my country, and I think history's vindicated my decision to stay with him and to fight and beat back what I believe then, and I think history has judged to have been, an unconstitutional attempt to remove a President."
Zahn: "Lisa, were you mad at the President?"
Caputo: "Oh, definitely. I mean, I, too, felt misled, deceived in so many ways, and so disappointed, and in a lot of respects, disillusioned. I believed him, his wife believed him, and so many of us who had worked for him in the White House and who had remained friends of his believed him, and a lot of us went out on the air, on television, and publicly defended him based on what he had said to each of us, both publicly and privately, and, you know, I think still to this day, I don't think I fully have gotten my head wrapped around it."
Zahn: "Describe what it was like for you to be with Mrs. Clinton when she arrived with the President on Martha's Vineyard after he admitted to her the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky."
Caputo: "Not a day I like to remember. Not a fond memory at all. There were a group of us up on Martha's Vineyard, actually, on vacation, a lot of former and current staff, at the time, had gone up there just to vacation, and then the Clintons obviously had made their plans to come to the Vineyard, and a group of us went out to the airport to greet them, and it was a cold and rather frosty moment in time that I remember very well. And it was very sad....
Zahn: "Give us a final thought on how you think the impact, or how do you think the impeachment impacts the President's legacy. Sidney, you first."
Blumenthal: "I think that there'll always be a polarized opinion about what happened. And the country itself today, five years later, remains very polarized along the same lines."
Zahn: "Paul, your take?"
Begala: "I actually thinks it makes his accomplishments look all the more remarkable, Paula. I mean, we all know those accomplishments, on the economy, on crime, on welfare, on foreign policy and national security, that he could do all of that while making a tremendous personal mistake, but one, frankly, that many of our Presidents has made, have made, and standing up to what I believe then to have been, and do now, a right-wing assault on him, actually makes me admire his talent as a President even more. He's the most gifted public leader of my lifetime....

-- Zahn moved on to her sixth and final guest, pressing him with the charges made by the Clinton operatives: "And now we turn to another key player, one from the Republican side. Of all the voices on Capitol Hill calling for President Clinton's removal, few were as vocal as Bill McCollum. The former Florida Congressman was chosen to be one of the prosecutors to make the case against the President. He joins us now from Orlando....You must have heard some of what our panel just had to say. They accused you of leading an assault on the U.S. Constitution."
McCollum: "Well, most of us did not want, actually, to impeach the President, contrary to what others may think. It was a very difficult time for us. We listened to the evidence that was there, we spent hours and hours working on this in the judiciary committee before the impeachment occurred. And interestingly enough, I came to the conclusion, very independent of all of the shrill partisan comments that were made during that time, the President had actually committed crimes by lying under oath in a court of law. And because of that, because we thought he really was obstructing justice in the court proceedings that were corollary to this, not in what he said to the American public on television, but in court proceedings, we felt that this was a high crime and misdemeanor situation, in which it was our constitutional obligation, despite this difficulty, to go forward and press the charges....
Zahn: "All right. Well, what about what Sidney Blumenthal just said. I mean, he basically said when you looked at those moderate Republicans who were opposed to impeachment, they ultimately changed their vote because their financial backers were threatened."
McCollum: "That's just nonsense."
Zahn: "They were coerced."
McCollum: "That is absolutely not true. I can respect the other point-of-views that are out there, but I know the people involved, honorable people. Mike Castle, I think, was one, and I know Nancy Johnson's still serving in Congress. They were convinced by the facts they saw when they went to the House annex."
Zahn: "Mr. McCollum, you gained a reputation for a willingness to delve into the sexual specifics of this case. Do you have any regrets about that?"
McCollum: "I don't have any regrets about my role in this impeachment trial. I'm very proud of it. I had the obligation on the floor of the Senate when we opened this case -- and that's the only time that was ever discussed -- to tell the senators, and that's who we were addressing, as the person who presented the case for one hour, the basic thrust of why we were dealing with this and described to them the crime that was committed, what the lying was all about, what the perjury was there, and I couldn't do it without being descriptive, at least minimally...."

CNN's page for Paula Zahn Now: www.cnn.com

FNC's Gabler Falsely Impugns MRC as "Almost
Always Duplicitous"

For the second time in six weeks, FNC's liberal media analyst, Neal Gabler, impugned the integrity and accuracy of the MRC after a fellow panelist accurately cited a news coverage quote reported by the MRC. On Saturday's Fox Newswatch, when Jim Pinkerton cited the MRC has his source for how, on the day of the announcement of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Peter Jennings remarked that "there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at this moment," Gabler claimed: "Now that's not what he said!" Gabler proceeded to insist Pinkerton was "quoting a line out of context" and Gabler charged that the "MRC is almost always duplicitous."

Not even fellow liberal panelist Jane Hall, a former LA Times reporter who now teaches journalism at American University, went along with Gabler's take, though she damned us with faint praise: "I hardly ever agree with the Media Research Center, and I do think they usually take people out of context, but..."

The November 8 CyberAlert recounted an earlier incident in which Gabler, filling in as the liberal co-host on the Friday, November 7, Hannity & Colmes, made a false claim about what the MRC documented in a rundown, in the midst of the controversy over the CBS mini-series, The Reagans, of quotes from CBS News personnel bashing Ronald Reagan. After Sean Hannity recited two Reagan-bashing quotes from Lesley Stahl as listed in a Media Reality Check distributed by the MRC, Gabler rejected the notion that the collection of quotes proved hostility by CBS News toward Ronald Reagan since "only two of the seven statements" in the MRC report "were made on CBS! They were made by people who at one time were employed by CBS, but they weren't on CBS."

In fact, the MRC's November 4 compilation featured eight quotes and four of them were uttered by CBS News personnel while on a CBS News program. And the other four still illustrated the disgust top CBS News stars have for Reagan and his policies.

For a rundown of the quotes and more of what Gabler claimed: www.mediaresearch.org

Back to the December 20 Fox Newswatch. During the opening segment, on coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein, this exchange took place:

Jim Pinkerton, Newsday columnist: "The always valuable mrc.org-"
Host Eric Burns: "Media Research Center. A conservative media watchdog group."
Pinkerton: "-caught Peter Jennings saying there's not a lot of, quote, 'there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at this moment.'"
Gabler: "Now that's not what he said! Let's put this in some context."
Pinkerton: "I'm quoting him."
Gabler: "No, you're quoting a line out of context! What he said was, that given all that we've heard today, you know, 'there's not a lot for Iraqis to be happy about,' given what we've heard from Iraq. Namely, namely, let's put this in context, because MRC is almost always duplicitous."
Cal Thomas: "Oh please!"
Gabler: "Putting this in context, what he was saying is that given what we've heard from Iraq about the instability and insecurity, this is not necessarily a day for Iraqis to jump for joy. Now, the administration, effectively, has said the same thing, that with the instability and insecurity in Iraq this is not the end of things, the capture of Saddam."
Pinkerton: "Point of order here, I'm reading verbatim what they said."
Thomas: "Exactly."
Pinkerton: "And Neal really didn't argue what I just said. I mean he just said -- look, Peter Jennings took a negative spin on-"
Gabler: "He did not take a negative spin."
Thomas: "There was no time for celebration on the broadcast networks. You got 'Saddam Hussein has been captured and now we're going to tell you about the downside.' There was no time for euphoria, there was no time for excitement, there was no praise for the American military, hardly any."
Hall: "I hardly ever agree with the Media Research Center, and I do think they usually take people out of context, but I think, when you look at the quotes, it raises a very interesting question: Were the role of the media, was the role of the media to celebrate the way the Iraqi journalists stood up and cheered at the press conference when it was announced that 'we got him'? Were we, quote, part of 'we' and at what point do you start to raise some of the other question? I think to some people it looks unseemly to immediately say, well let's remind the American people that we supported him, let's remind the American people that there isn't a lot of joy in Iraq tonight? I think it's an interesting question."

As for the "duplicitous" MRC not putting the Jennings quote "in context," though I don't believe "the context" in any way makes Jennings look any less dour on a joyous day, the December 15 CyberAlert, posted that day on mrc.org, certainly provided full context:

During ABC's 8pm EST special, Saddam Hussein: Captured, Martin Seemungal in Baghdad relayed how many Iraqis were joyous at learning of Hussein's capture, but others were more muted. He suggested a reason why: "This muted response is really shock, that he went down without a fight. In fact, some people are that while they're happy he was captured, they're disappointed because they're disappointed that the man who terrorized them for so many years went down without a fight. They feel cheated. They're essentially saying that it would have been much better, they would have been happier to see him fight because it would have justified the fear that they had for him for these so many years."

Without explaining his personal contact with Iraqis during the day, Jennings asserted: "On the other hand Martin, as people have suggested to us today, there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power. Is that a factor today?"

END of Excerpt from CyberAlert

For the December 15 CyberAlert item: www.mediaresearch.org

In Gabler's attacks on the MRC, I think it's now MRC 2, Gabler 0.

FNC's page for Fox Newswatch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30pm and 11:30pm EST and Sundays at 2:30am and 6:30am EST: www.foxnews.com

For a picture of Gabler: www.foxnews.com

# A bit of a Christmas break. The next CyberAlert will be next Monday with the winners in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting," but tomorrow (Tuesday) e-mail subscribers will receive a "CyberAlert Special" with the text of the December 8 Notable Quotables.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all wishing a happy and, in this time of a "high" terror alert, an uneventful week.

-- Brent Baker