Will Sid's First Amendment Army Recant?
On February 26, White House aide Sidney Blumenthal stepped outside the courthouse and blasted Ken Starr for focusing on his contacts with reporters. But by reading the grand jury transcripts, Nightline discovered Blumenthal misled reporters.
ABC replayed Blumenthal: "Today, I was forced to answer questions about my conversations, as part of my job, with, and I wrote this down, the New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.S. News, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Observer and there may have been a few others, I don't remember right now. Ken Starr's prosecutors demanded to know what I had told reporters and what reporters had told me about Ken Starr's prosecutors."
ABC's Dave Marash then read from the transcript: "A look at the grand jury transcript shows prosecutors pressing Blumenthal not about his contacts with the media, but with the President, the First Lady and other top White House politicos and about the messages that they wanted Blumenthal to spin into the media."
Blumenthal told the Starr team: "If reporters called me or I spoke with reporters I would tell them to call the DNC to get those talking points, and those included news organizations ranging from CNN, CBS, ABC, New York Times, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, New York Observer, Los Angeles Times."
FNC reporter David Shuster aired a story last night: "Prosecutors, restricted by grand jury rules of secrecy, could do nothing to counter the public perception. The grand jurors were infuriated and even four months later, when Blumenthal returned, they took the unusual step of admonishing him in person." So why aren't the other networks following up on their earlier outbursts?
CBS reporter Eric Engberg underlined an "ominous" prosecutor and grand jury on March 2: "It is now the one invitation in Washington no one wants, a call to testify before Ken Starr's grand jury. It left some [video of Lewinsky's mother] near emotional collapse, others [video of Blumenthal] raging about police state tactics. And nearly all the witnesses, it is safe to say, felt the ominous chill that comes with the arrival of a grand jury subpoena."
CNN's Bernard Shaw asked reporter Pierre Thomas on February 24: "By calling before the grand jury people such as Sidney Blumenthal, is Ken Starr acting illegally?" Right after Blumenthal's testimony on the 26th, Shaw began a segment: "Now let's discuss the question: Should Ken Starr resign?...Should Starr pack his bags?"
NBC's Matt Lauer put the onus on Starr on the February 26 Today. "White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal is scheduled to testify before Ken Starr's grand jury later today and his subpoena has caused an uproar in Washington over Starr's practices. Has Ken Starr gone too far? We'll talk about it in our first half hour." Lauer asked three times if Starr had "overstepped his boundaries."
On the PBS show Washington Week in Review on February 27, Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy claimed: "You know, Starr, by subpoenaing people like Sidney Blumenthal at the White House, you know, played right into the White House strategy of sort of demonizing Starr. Starr did some other things this week that didn't make a lot of sense. He said there were an 'avalanche of lies' being told about the people in his office. We are - you know, if snow was the metaphor, all he got was a light dusting."- Tim Graham