Tripp-Bashers of the Media, Unite!
The House Judiciary Committee released almost 3,000 pages of evidence, but the media are culling only the angles that reflect badly on the President's targets of rage. CBS, CNN, NBC, and the Fox News Channel have all reported that Kenneth Starr could find Linda Tripp guilty of perjury if her tapes of phone calls with Monica Lewinsky were altered, as well as noting Lewinsky's tales on her role in preserving the DNA dress and other matters. (NBC's Andrea Mitchell noted she's been compared to "the Wicked Witch of the West.") The networks have regularly skipped pro-Tripp angles:
May 1: Pentagon public affairs aide Clifford Bernath testified in a Judicial Watch lawsuit on the FBI files that chief spokesman (and Clinton appointee) Kenneth Bacon ordered the leaking of the Tripp's secret personnel files to his former Wall Street Journal colleague, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker - a possible violation of the Privacy Act. Mayer said Tripp lied on her job application by omitting a trumped-up teenage prank that caused an arrest.
Network coverage? FNC's Rita Cosby reported the story. The other networks didn't. But ABC (on World News tonight), NBC (on Today), and CBS (in a Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel interview with Jane Mayer) reported Mayer's original allegations in March.
May 21: Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon reported Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman forced Kenneth Bacon to admit he orchestrated the Tripp file's release. Sammon added that Clinton promised in 1992, when Bush's State Department investigated Clinton's passport file, "If I catch anyone using the State Department like that when I'm President, I'll fire them the next day." TV coverage? A mention on CNN.
June 10: FNC reported Harold Ickes is at the center of a Virginia grand jury investigation of the Tripp files. Ickes had "admitted discussing Tripp with Ken Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman." Other network coverage? Only a CNN story by Bob Franken.
July 7: Every network noted how Maryland had launched its own grand jury investigation into whether Tripp violated state law by taping her phone calls with Lewinsky. None noted the Maryland State Prosecutor pursuing the case, Stephen Montanarelli, is a Democrat.
July 11: The Washington Post reported Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the Defense Department to seize and search Bernath's computer after he admitted deleting files from his computer. Coverage? Zero. But the next day, CBS's Rita Braver mentioned Bacon's role in a profile of Larry Klayman on Sunday Morning.
July 31: FNC's David Shuster reported Tripp told the grand jury "Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey threatened to destroy her" if she repeated her allegations about Kathleen Willey to Paula Jones's lawyers. Other coverage? Only a question to a Tripp lawyer on CBS's Face the Nation.
The Tripp leak also implicates Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, who declared on the April 26 Fox News Sunday "we know the individual who did it...he was responding to an inquiry from the press." Cohen's inference that Bernath released Tripp's file on his own is misleading, since Bacon personally told Cohen he'd authorized it. But Cohen appeared since May on ABC's Good Morning America (twice) and This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, NBC's Today and Meet the Press, and PBS's NewsHour without a single Tripp-file question. - Tim Graham