CBS & NBC Blame U.S. in Kosovo; Starr's Stands; ABC: Benefits of Taxes
Blame America First, or at least the West or NATO, which really means the U.S. All the networks led Wednesday night with the violent deaths of refugees in a convoy on a road in Kosovo, but while ABC's Peter Jennings left open the possibility the Serbs may have committed the atrocity, CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw disregarded NATO denials and simply relayed how the Serbs blamed NATO bombing.
Here's how the broadcast anchors opened their shows on Wednesday night, April 14:
-- CBS Evening
News. Broadcasting again from Belgrade, Dan Rather's opening assertions
raised the possibility he's suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome.
His top of the show tease:
From a Belgrade street he introduced the first story by asserting, over grisly Serb-supplied video of mangled bodies: "Collateral damage has taken on new meanings tonight with these pictures of what is alleged to be Albanian refugees struck by a NATO missile. Serbian officials claimed that there were two separate attacks killing, they say, dozens of civilians -- 60 plus or more. NATO acknowledges that it was targeting what it says were military convoys in the general area. NATO says it's continuing to investigate this whole situation."
Only later in the program in another story did David Martin show viewers denials from Kenneth Bacon and a NATO official and explain how some suggested Serb aircraft may have done it in retaliation for NATO bombs which hit their military convoy.
From the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski began the subsequent report: "Tom, evidence indicates tonight that NATO warplanes may in fact have accidentally killed scores of Albanian refugees in what Pentagon officials say would be a tragic accident and an unintended consequence of the war..."
Geraldo Rivera prompted Susan McDougal to slander Starr deputy Hickman Ewing as a "murderer" who caused Jim McDougal's death. Earlier in the week, at Susan McDougal's victory party, one of Rivera's reporters bought a drink for her lawyer.
-- Susan McDougal
appeared live from Camden, Arkansas Wednesday night on both of Rivera's
CNBC shows. On Upfront Tonight Rivera tossed this loaded assertion about
Ken Starr as a question:
about Starr's prosecution team, Rivera encouraged McDougal to hold Starr
liable for the death of her ex-husband, though Bill and Hillary Clinton
were the ones to abandon their friend who tried to make them rich:
McDougal said she
didn't hear the question, so Rivera condensed it: "Did they help
speed your husband's sickness and his ultimate death?"
Rivera concluded the interview by stating his solidarity with her: "I think that their persecution of you was way beyond the pale. It was indefensible, it was reprehensible and I promised you before you went down on trial this time and I promise you next time if they go after you they're going after both of us."
And apparently he's more than just an impartial observer.
Katie Couric found convicted felon Susan McDougal's comments, after her acquittal on one charge Monday as the jury deadlocked on two other charges, to be "pretty funny."
gave Mark Geragos an unobstructed platform to blast Ken Starr, as the NBC
show didn't bother bringing on anyone to give a contrary assessment.
Following a couple
of easy questions about whether Geragos anticipates that Starr will re-try
her and whether she wants to testify against the independent counsel law,
Couric posed this as her last question:
Ken Starr spoke the obvious on Wednesday's Larry King Live, but it was a point which has evaded network analysis.
Tuesday night none of the broadcast networks uttered a word about Judge Wright's late Monday contempt of court citation against President Clinton, but all three ran items on how Ken Starr would testify before a Senate committee on Wednesday about how he opposes renewing the independent counsel law. Wednesday night ABC skipped Starr, NBC ran one soundbite while CBS and CNN ran full reports on Starr's testimony, including his charge that witnesses lied about what happened in the grand jury room.
Hours later Starr appeared live on CNN's Larry King Live, his first television interview since the slimy Diane Sawyer taped interview ran on 20/20 on Thanksgiving-eve last November in which the ABC star kept lecturing Starr about his misdeeds. (To read some of her loaded questions or to hear and see them via RealPlayer, go the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 1998: The Eleventh Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/best/nq1998best.html  and then scroll down to the award titled: "Too Late For Our Judging, But Year-End Best of NQ Worthy")
In the April 14 hour King failed to ask Starr what lies were told to the public by those on the courthouse steps and King ran through virtually every negative allegation made by Clinton supporters. But, but unlike Sawyer, King offered up some friendly questions, refrained from condemnatory lectures and allowed Starr to respond to each charge he raised.
Asked if he agreed
it would have been wrong for his office to have been in contact with
anyone associated with the Paula Jones case, Starr responded with a view
not heard from supposed experts in the media:
Not exactly the standard applied by Geraldo Rivera, the New York Times and CBS News -- all of which loved to condemn Starr when they jumped on allegations about a conspiracy linking those around Jones to Starr's staff.
+++ Experience Starr's rarely heard views. Thursday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post, on the MRC home page, a three-minute clip from the CNN interview. You can hear his answer quoted above, as well as how he defended Linda Tripp and said the stained dress proved "there's no doubt, there's no doubt whatsoever" about Clinton's guilt. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
The morning shows on Tuesday all ignored the Monday testimony from former Energy Department official Notra Trulock who charged that "beginning in early 1997 senior DOE officials, including my direct supervisor, urged me to cover up and bury" his warnings about Chinese espionage. As detailed in the April 13 CyberAlert, on April 12 the CBS Evening News ran a full story and FNC gave it 43 seconds, but ABC, CNN and NBC all skipped the first comments from Trulock made in front of video cameras.
Tuesday night FNC caught up with CBS, running a full story by Carl Cameron, which appeared on Special Report with Brit Hume but not on the Fox Report.
Crane versus Contempt. Today allocated three times more time to the crane rescue than to the contempt citation for Clinton; only FNC and CNN followed up on Monday's citation on their Tuesday night shows; and Eleanor Clift spun the contempt ruling into vindication for Clinton about how the judge "was sympathetic with the President's frustration at the political motivations behind much of this case" and impeachment was excessive.
-- "But Katie, bottom line, to be held in contempt by a federal judge is a big deal." So declared NBC News VP Tim Russert just past 7:30am on Tuesday's Today -- AFTER Today dedicated most of the first half hour to talking with five people involved in, or who covered, the rescue of the man in Atlanta trapped on a crane above a roaring fire.
The April 13 Today allocated 13:34 to the fire rescue, by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens' count, versus just 4:24 dedicated to the contempt citation issued to the President the afternoon before, a first in American history. Wednesday morning Today producers couldn't resist spending another 2:15 on the fire story, running a piece on the hero firefighter. April 14 time spent on contempt: Zero.
-- Tuesday night, April 13, only CNN and FNC followed up on the contempt citation. Not a word on ABC, CBS or NBC about fallout or White House reaction, though NBC Nightly News found 2:25 in the middle of the show to spend profiling the heroic firefighter, a slightly different version of the story Today would play the next morning.
On the Fox Report
David Shuster uniquely showed viewers how the White House refused to
address the embarrassment: "At the end of an event in the White House
Rose Garden, Mr. Clinton was asked the question directly."
soundbites from Jones and her lawyer and explained what Wright ruled
CNN skipped the White House's non-reaction, going instead on The World Today with a piece by Bruce Morton on how after surviving so many scandals, "Finally, he ran out of teflon" and "got nailed for contempt of court. Not a close call, either. 'Contumacious' the judge called the President. Webster's says that means 'stubbornly perverse or rebellious, willfully disobedient.'..."
Looking back at how it all began, Morton wistfully recalled: "And what a tangled journey it's been. Think back. Once, there was a state trooper named Danny Ferguson who, in a magazine called The American Spectator, which most Americans don't read, mentioned a woman named Paula -- just the first name, that's all. And that obscure reference prompted Paula Jones to sue. We can't know why. But it changed her life; made her famous, if you like; made her the subject of attacks by Clinton backers; the subject of jokes on late- night TV; a tacky-tinged celebrity at best...."
Morton concluded: "Paula Jones, in the end, has won. She did not end Bill Clinton's presidency, but she is part of his legacy. First President ever cited for contempt is part of his legacy. And you still have to wonder why she did it or if today, she thinks it was worth doing."
Of course, broadcast network viewers probably don't realize the significance of the ruling given the short-shrift those networks have given it.
-- Here's how
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, in an April 13 Fox Report appearance on FNC
transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, creatively spun the contempt
ABC News anticipated the April 15 federal tax deadline by telling viewers about all the benefits they receive for their tax dollars which "are not always visible," such as preventing "suburban sprawl" by giving money to localities to "buy up development rights in order to preserve farmland."
For the April 14 World News Tonight reporter Judy Muller traveled to "the bucolic town of San Louis Obispo" California to illustrate what a bargain federal taxes offer. She opened by going to the downtown farmers market where she found a couple of people complaining about big government and high taxes.
"In fact, the federal government takes about a billion dollars a year
from this county, but what most residents don't realize is that the
government gives back almost the same amount -- money that definitely
makes a difference."
Sounds like the trickle-down economics the networks have long disparaged.
Muller concluded her lecture: "In other words, the benefits of tax dollars are not always visible. Take this picture [video of an empty field]: What you don't see is suburban sprawl. That's because federal money helped the county buy up development rights in order to preserve farmland -- farmland that feeds the farmers who feed the tourists, who feed the town."
Again, more trickle-down economics. And without taxes, suppressing property rights would be impossible.
Muller did not explain why it would not make more sense to cut out the federal middlemen and just let localities levy the taxes to pay for these wonderful projects.
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