Tying Conservatives & Scaife to Hale; Starr's Cost Rises by the Minute
1) CBS painted Ken Starr as out of control in obsessing on Clinton's "private life" now that the underlying case is gone. CBS and CNN highlighted charges that Starr's probe is tainted by payments from conservatives to David Hale.
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Thursday night ABC led with the CDC study showing a rise in teenage smoking, but the other networks all put the Paula Jones aftermath at the top of their shows. The CBS Evening News painted Starr as the bad guy out of control. Dan Rather referred to how Starr is investigating not obstruction of justice, but the President's "private" life. Bob Schieffer insisted that "no one has ever been tried for perjury for encouraging others to lie after the underlying case has been dropped."
Both CBS and CNN ran stories on how, as Dan Rather put it, "Republican haters from the far-right" made payments to Whitewater witness David Hale. CNN put the American Spectator and Richard Scaife at the center of the conspiracy to get Hale to lie about Clinton.
CBS and NBC showed Fox News video of Clinton, as Rather so lyrically announced, "beating a drum, chomping a cigar and strumming a guitar." Only NBC's Lisa Myers suggested that how much longer Ken Starr's probe takes depends on how much Clinton obstructs the investigation.
Here are some highlights of the Thursday night, April 2, newscasts:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings ran through the days events, such as how the Jones team was taking time to decide if to appeal, Erskine Bowles appeared before the grand jury and how Starr said Jones does not effect his case.
Linda Douglass then looked at how the scandal has divided the GOP. She aired soundbites from Senator Hatch, who doesn't want Congress to back off, and Senator Specter and Speaker Gingrich, who worry about the backlash from attacking a popular President. Douglass noted that Ralph Reed is telling his clients that the too much focus on scandal will turn off the public.
Sam Donaldson opened his piece from Senegal: "His step seemed a little springier, his smile a little broader this morning. Was it any wonder given the good news of the Jones case dismissal. But in talking about it, the President seemed to deliberately downplay his delight."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's tease at the top of the show contrasted a delighted Clinton with a dour Starr:
"President Clinton's first public reaction to the dismissal of the Paula Jones case. A measure of pleasure as he flies home from Africa to fewer political clouds. Far less measured: special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's reaction today inside and outside of federal court."
First Rather began with the distant Fox News video of Clinton in his hotel room. Rather explained: "That's the President beating a drum, chomping a cigar and strumming a guitar." After a report from Scott Pelley in Senegal, Rather announced that a CBS News poll found the public agreed with Webber Wright's decision by 53 percent to 23 percent.
Rather continued by describing Starr's investigation the way Starr's opponents picture it, as an invasion of Clinton's personal life: "Several poll questions also indicate the American public wants an end to investigation of the President's private life, including the Ken Starr investigation of the Monica Lewinsky case. But as CBS's chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer reports, Kenneth Starr made it clear today by word and deed that he couldn't disagree more."
Bob Schieffer showed a clip of Starr asserting how lying under oath and obstruction of justice are not impacted by the dismissal: "It doesn't matter who wins and who loses in the civil case. What matters from the criminal laws perspective is were crimes committed."
Schieffer countered, leading into a soundbite from Senator Arlen Specter: "That's correct in theory, but the core of Starr's case is whether the President lied to Paula Jones's lawyers or encouraged others, such as Monica Lewinsky, to do so. And as far as can be determined, no one has ever been tried for perjury for encouraging others to lie after the underlying case has been dropped. That's one reason even Starr allies now say if Starr does have something on the President it better be something big."
The CBS attacks on Starr kept coming. Next, Rather reported that Attorney General Reno is looking into another matter, intoning:
"On another front there could be trouble for the Ken Starr Whitewater investigation. Reports continue to surface that this key witness for the prosecution, David Hale, may have been secretly bankrolled by political activists widely regarded as political opponents, people that Clinton supporters call Republican haters from the far-right..."
Of course, Web Hubbell also got payoffs. The difference is Hubbell was paid to keep quiet while if this charge is true it means Hale was paid to tell what he knew.
Reporter Phil Jones examined what the Jones team will do and later the Eye on America segment looked at what it takes to prove sexual harassment.
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET was just a half hour Thursday night to make room for an 8:30pm special on the Muslim gathering "the Hajj" in Mecca. CNN devoted half of the half hour to the Jones case implications. Bob Franken reported on the status of the Starr investigation and John King checked in from Senegal before anchor Joie Chen asserted that "one key part of Ken Starr's investigation of the President may be in trouble."
CNN's Pierre Thomas picked up on the Hale story, explaining: "David Hale, Ken Starr's primary witness in the Whitewater investigation, may soon find himself the subject of a criminal probe. At issue: allegations conservative groups paid Hale cash, and provided perks in exchange for damaging testimony against President Clinton..."
After a clip of Reno, Thomas introduced a blast from James Carville: "Bolstered by the recent dismissal of the Paula Jones lawsuit, Mr. Clinton's supporters say the allegations point to their long held belief in a right-wing conspiracy." Following Carville's bite, Thomas elaborated on the conspiracy:
"The U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, recently began an investigation of Hale and dispatched FBI agents to pursue the case. One witness alleged to the Associated Press that Hale was paid hundreds in cash by a man named Parker Dozier (sp?). Dozier admitted he was paid $35,000 by persons working for the conservative magazine American Spectator. The magazine is affiliated with conservative millionaire Richard Scaife, thought to have funded a number of anti-Clinton projects. The witness says Dozier and Hale discussed Whitewater and passed information to the magazine. Dozier denies paying Hale anything or discussing Whitewater with him, but told AP he gave Hale use of his cabin and a car. The allegations against Hale are similar to those raised about former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell.
They charged Clinton supporters gave Hubbell financial assistance to keep quiet about Whitewater...."
Wow, "hundreds in cash." Not quite as much as the hundreds of thousands in cash delivered to Hubbell.
If CNN plans to assign Thomas to the conspiracy beat he needs to learn how to pronounce the name of the grand conspirator in chief: Thomas pronounced Richard Scaife's name as "Skay-fee" when it is properly enunciated "Scafe."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began: "After a twelve day visit President Clinton is coming home from Africa tonight in better shape than when he left. Nonetheless, even though the Paula Jones case may be off the docket for now, the Ken Starr investigation continues..."
Lisa Myers told viewers that Starr's staff is debating two options: One, bring Monica Lewinsky in, give her immunity, and then send a report to the House. Or two, indict Lewinsky, use her trial to air evidence against Clinton and call Clinton as a witness.
Breaking from conventional wisdom, Myers put the burden on Clinton for when Starr's probe will end: "So how much longer will all this take? Sources say it depends on the President, whether he keeps invoking executive privilege to keep aides from telling all they know and whether his administration keeps blocking questioning of Secret Service agents..."
Next, David Bloom raised the possibility Jones may not appeal the ruling after all. Bloom also featured the Fox News video as a lead-in to a soundbite from the media's favorite Republican, Senator Specter: "In his hotel room last night the President celebrated, banging an African drum, chomping an unlit cigar and why not. Today a leading Republican admitted the public has scandal fatigue..."
NBC's "In Depth" segment examined what you have to prove to win a sexual harassment complaint and how Jones's case failed to meet that burden.
"Federal auditors report special prosecutor Ken Starr's investigation of the Clintons has now cost at least $29 million and still counting," Dan Rather announced on the March 31 CBS Evening News.
In just a day and a half Starr managed to squander another $6 million, as Bill Plante told April 2 CBS This Morning viewers:
"...The judge's decision will also have an impact on Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigation. In nearly four years, Starr has spent about $35 million. Now that the Jones suit has been thrown out, it will be harder for Starr to justify a further prolonged investigation. Starr says that Judge Wright's decision is all the more reason for a quick resolution of the investigation."
Minutes later in an interview with former White House aide Jack Quinn, co-host Mark McEwen added another $5 million to the tab: "Let's talk about that Starr investigation. Everybody has been watching television since this came out. People in the country, many of them are saying enough already, it's been $35 to 40 million being spent. What do you think this will do to Starr's investigation?"
This kind of inconsistent reporting isn't doing much to bolster CBS News's reputation.
-- Brent Baker 
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