Clinton's "Comeback;" Clinton Perjury or Not; Producer Condemns Starr
2) ABC and NBC referred to White House stonewalling while Dan Rather marveled at Clinton's "comeback." CBS and NBC offered opposite assessments on the implications for Clinton of a judge's ruling and NBC found more people who think the media have gone too far. CBS and NBC picked up Trie. Only NBC mentioned Babbitt.
With so much going on in Fellategate, I can't get it all into even a daily CyberAlert, so check out our Web page for additional information and analysis: http://www.mrc.org . Today the MRC will distribute the third fax report of the week. Check the Media Reality Check link for all the reports:
-- The Wednesday, January 28 report, on coverage of Hillary Clinton's conspiracy theory and five other Clinton scandal stories the networks are ignoring, is now up on the site. Direct address: http://www.mediaresearch.org/reality/FAX0128.htm .
-- The Thursday, January 29 report will be posted this morning. "Media Should Say Whoops Over Whoopee: After Years of Insisting Sex-Related Abuses of Power Weren't Relevant, Media Refuted by Monicagate."
-- The Friday, January 30 issue will address CNN's Wednesday night special on how the media are covering the scandal. Media Reality Check editor Tim Graham will explain how CNN's approach assumed liberal assumptions about how reporters went too far were true and failed to take up conservative perspectives. This should be posted by late Friday, but I will also send it in a weekend CyberAlert.
Also posted on the Web site by MRC Web manager Joe Alfonsi, a press release from MRC Chairman Brent Bozell identifying our true leader. "Bozell Identifies Leader of Vast Anti-Clinton, Right-Wing Conspiracy: Media Need To Look No Further Than Jay Leno."
The press release begins:
Media Research Center Chairman Brent Bozell has identified the leader of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" bent on destroying President Clinton. "There is no longer any need for the national media to take up Hillary Clinton's clarion call to search and find the leader of this ruthless cabal," Bozell declared. "Tonight Show host Jay Leno is our leader and he is behind the right-wing conspiracy."
The release features 16 Leno jokes proving the point that were collated by MRC analyst Tom Johnson. Here's a sampling:
-- "Al Gore is now just an orgasm away from the presidency" (1/21/1998).
-- "We shouldn't assume President Clinton is guilty. We all thought Richard Jewell was guilty, and then we were wrong about him. Can you really compare Richard Jewell to President Clinton, though? I mean, one's a big, southern doofus, the other's a wealthy, respected former security guard" (1/22/1998).
-- "Clinton says he wants to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The problem is, to Clinton, those are three different things" (1/23/1998)
-- "The Super Bowl...was so exciting. Bill Clinton jumped right up and knocked the intern off his lap" (1/26/1998).
-- "Insiders say the President is saddened and depressed over this scandal. In fact, he was so down today, he canceled his nooner" (1/26/1998).
Thursday night the three broadcast networks led with Fellategate, but went to other topics before the first ad break. They all ran another piece later, but for the first time since the story broke last Wednesday, less than half of all three shows dealt with the sex scandal. ABC and NBC used the term "stonewall" to label White House reaction and CBS led by emphasizing Clinton's "comeback" shown in a poll that found 73 percent approval.
NBC caught up with ABC and CBS and featured a story on how the public believes the networks are overplaying the story. CBS and NBC offered conflicting assessments of what the judge's Jones case ruling means for President Clinton.
Wednesday night ABC mentioned Trie. Thursday night NBC gave his indictment a few seconds and CBS a longer piece, but only NBC mentioned Bruce Babbitt's appearance before the House investigating committee. In the morning, only Thursday's Good Morning America cited Trie's indictment. MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen noted that news anchor Kevin Newman referred to it in three of his half-hourly updates. Zilch though on CBS's This Morning and NBC Today, analysts Steve Kaminski and Denise Froning informed me.
Highlights of the January 29 evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Opened with a rundown of the day's events from Jackie Judd, including the status of Starr/Lewinsky immunity talks and the New York Times story about how Clinton and Lewinsky met after she was subpoenaed by lawyers for Jones. Judd emphasized that while Vernon Jordan arranged a job interview for Lewinsky with Revlon, her affidavit was not filed until after the job offer. Peter Jennings asked Jeffrey Toobin about he meeting and Toobin described it as ill-advised, but not a crime.
Sam Donaldson checked in from the White House, explaining that the Clinton team refused comment on the meeting story but it would be easy to check since all visitors are tracked by the Secret Service. Donaldson elaborated:
"A lot of other questions should be easy to answer also. For instance, has the President discussed the investigation with Lewinsky in any way at any time? Has the President, in fact, given Lewinsky any gifts? And above all just what was the President's relationship with Monica Lewinsky? Surely he knows the answers to all these questions, but his Press Secretary made it clear today that he doesn't and really doesn't want to..."
After a McCurry soundbite, Donaldson toughly concluded:
"What they say here is all of this will come out at the appropriate time, and that's presumably when the investigation has been concluded. Until then, Peter, the watch word here is stonewall and hope the questions go away."
-- CBS Evening News. "Good evening," Dan Rather greeted viewers with this upbeat spin: "What a comeback for President Clinton. Right after the Monica Lewinsky story broke there was widespread talk of possible resignation or impeachment, but look at this: A CBS News poll out tonight indicates the President with his highest job approval rate ever, 73 percent, that's up 16 points since the State of the Union address. And for the first time a majority of Republican give the President a thumbs up. But even as the public rallies around the President, his legal and political troubles are not over...."
Scott Pelley reported that the FBI found no DNA evidence or stains on a dress that belonged to Lewinsky. He explained that immunity talks have broken down completely, possibly because prosecutors have strong evidence, a tape made by the FBI of Lewinsky telling Tripp she intended to lie. Pelley concluded by issuing this assessment:
"A federal judge has ruled that Lewinsky essentially will no longer be a witness against the President in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. The two cases had gotten hopelessly entangled, with each case demanding the witnesses of the other, so the judge essentially separated the cases. That's one less witness against the President in the Paula Jones case, but it also means that the perjury and obstruction of justice charges will go ahead and that's what worries the President the most. Dan."
Next, a less than a minute report from Bob Schieffer on the Trie indictment. Observed Schieffer: "But at the least this is embarrassing for the President in that Trie was one of his biggest fundraisers and their friendship goes back to when then Governor Clinton ate in Trie's Little Rock restaurant..."
Of course, it's not so embarrassing when it gets just seconds on the networks.
CBS ended with a piece on the controversy over making Secret Service agents tell what they know. Concluded Rita Braver:
"Rank and file agents have told CBS News that they are worried and unhappy about the prospect of violating their credo, worthy of trust and confidence."
-- NBC Nightly News led with David Bloom asking whether Clinton told Lewinsky to lie as he outlined the New York Times story. Bloom continued:
"All of which raises doubts about whether Lewinsky will ultimately cooperate with independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Still, the White House strategy to stonewall questions about the alleged affair drew a sharp response from one of America's foremost conservatives today, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett."
Bennett: "Mr. President, you should tell the whole truth to the American people because we're trying to raise children here Mr. President, and there are a lot of questions and you need to answer them."
Bloom concluded with the same news as had Pelley on CBS, but suggested a very different implication:
"Finally today, a courtroom victory for Mr. Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. A federal judge in Little Rock Arkansas ruled that allegations Lewinsky had sex with the President are, quote 'not essential to the core issues in' the Jones case. Now that ruling is significant for this reason. Legal scholars say that even if it can be proved that President Clinton lied earlier this month when he swore in a deposition that he did not have a sexual relationship with Lewinsky -- that is no longer a material fact in the Jones case. And that, legal scholars say, would make it difficult, if not impossible, to charge the President with perjury. Tom."
Claire Shipman detailed the meeting allegation, noting "investigators say at the very least it raises the perception that the President may have tried to shape her story about their past relationship..." Shipman ran through the troubling timeline of how Lewinsky met Jordan in mid-November, then is subpoenaed, gets help from Jordan before Christmas, learns Trip will not help cover-up, on Sunday, December 28 in evening she meets Clinton privately. Ten days later affidavit of no sex, next day Jordan calls Revlon. Shipman ended her story:
"Now what's worrisome to many Clinton friends about this isn't the content, because that basically boils down to he says she says. And not whether or not is was legal because they say it was. It's the perception of this sort of quiet meeting at such an awkward time. Even some of Clinton's legal advisers say they would have counseled against it."
After stories on Iraq and the abortion bombing, Brokaw announced:
"And we have news from another Washington scandal tonight, the Money Trail. A federal grand jury has indicted Democratic fundraiser Charlie Trie. We tracked him down in China last summer. Trie, now charged with numerous campaign finance violations, including obstruction of justice. It's not clear when Trie will face justice because he left the country to avoid prosecution and remains it's believed somewhere in China."
Next, Brokaw delivered all of the 15 seconds Babbitt generated on the three networks Thursday night: "On Capitol Hill Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt denied that politics played a role in his decision to deny an Indian casino license after a competing tribe gave a big donation to the Democratic Party. Babbitt called the allegations, quote 'a half baked conspiracy theory.'"
As opposed to Hillary's "full-baked" one.
And NBC joined ABC and CBS in bemoaning how they've done too much on the scandal, but at least reporter Bob Faw noted that Clinton would be in big trouble if he worked for a business. Brokaw opened: "NBC News In Depth tonight. Public lives, private lives and more on the crisis in the White House. Do the American people care what the President does in private? Has the saturation coverage by all of us in the news media, have we simply gone too far?....More and more Americans are now saying wait, enough is enough."
Faw showed three soundbites of people complaining, but then led into a sexual harassment lawyer's comment by observing: "If it happened in the corporate world there'd be hell to pay."
After the lawyer, he continued: "But a stunning 90 percent of recent callers to NBC complained the media have gone too far."
Why so little outrage? Because, Faw asserted, since Flowers people expect bimbo eruptions and social mores are changing. Faw added: "Truth be told, other things do matter more. Nowadays the Jones most people worry about is the Dow, not Paula....To worldly wise Europeans all the hubub shows Puritanism is alive and well."
A reliable source in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's New Jersey satellite command center passed along this item from the January 25 Daily Record newspaper in Morris County, New Jersey. In the "View from Morris" column listing quotes from local residents, our source noticed this comment:
"'President Clinton is doing a good job and it's unfortunate
that he'll be overshadowed by these events. It's a shame for the country and him. Six hours into this thing the allegations went away and it's like he'd done it. People are describing what's on the tapes as if they'd heard them. I blame Ken Starr.' -- Reid Collins Jr., Senior Producer for CBS News, Madison [NJ]."
From the January 29 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other Monica Lewinsky Nicknames for President Clinton." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10) "Puffy the Intern Slayer"
9) "Sheriff Bubba"
8) "The Chief Sexecutive"
7) "Unnamed High-Ranking Official"
6) "My Sweet Impeachable You"
5) "The Little Rock Rascal"
4) "El Presidente Del Amor"
3) "Tubby Dearest"
1) "Free Willie 2"
Expect a weekend CyberAlert with material I couldn't fit even into this long report, such as my Monday Investor's Business Daily op-ed as well as highlights from this week's fax reports.
-- Brent Baker 
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