Economy Rules; Gingrich Ruined Bipartisanship; NBC Goes Left, Fox Right
ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC led Thursday night with the indictment for tax evasion charges of Webster Hubbell, his wife, his lawyer and his accountant. Then they went to Clinton's press conference. FNC flipped the order, hitting the press conference first.
(Last Friday, April 24, The Washington Post reported that the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee discovered that Hubbell received $700,000 in payments while being pursued for Whitewater testimony in 1994. That's up $200,000 from the previous estimate of $500,000. None of the broadcast networks or CNN reported the disclosure last Friday, but all included the higher figure in their April 30 reports on Hubbell's indictment.)
ABC and especially CBS emphasized how Clinton refused to answer questions about the Lewinsky matter, but NBC stressed Clinton's announcements regarding the booming economy. CNN devoted more than half of the 8pm ET The World Today to Hubbell, the press conference and Lewinsky and featured side by analysts grouching about how Ken Starr's indictment of Hubbell is out of bounds. (Nightline played audio tapes of Hubbell in prison talking to his wife.)
Here are some highlights from the April 30 evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight: Jackie Judd handled the Hubbell story, noting that the indictment claims he paid little in taxes on about $1 million in 1994-97 income. "Nothing will make him betray his friends," Judd intoned leading into a soundbite of Hubbell saying Starr can indict his or cat or dog, "but I'm not going to lie about the President" or Hillary Clinton.
Judd concluded: "Prosecutors do clearly hope Hubbell will feel enough pressure to now reveal why he got all of that financial help, whether it was about blocking Ken Starr's investigation and obstruction of justice."
Next, Sam Donaldson checked in from the White House: "Peter, the subject was scandal and politics. Lots of questions, not always lots of answers." Leading into a clip of his question to Clinton, Donaldson explained: "At one point the President even declined to say whether he thought as a general principle Presidents should obey the law."
also noted: "And he came close to agreeing with his wife that there
is a conspiracy working against him."
"It was a news conference the President had to hold eventually. His aides convinced him that continued delay would only prolong the agony. But in light of his failure to answer so many questions, Peter, it is a news conference he will probably have to hold again."
Evening News: Phil Jones looked at Hubbell:
After running Hubbell's soundbite about indicting his dog and how he's "not going to lie about the President," Jones concluded:
"Investigators believe Web Hubbell knows everything about the Clinton's Whitewater activity. But Hubbell claims he knows nothing."
CBS delivered the toughest story of the night on Clinton's press conference. Dan Rather declared: "Questions about the Starr investigation came fast and furious, but not the answers."
Scott Pelley asserted: "He took 14 questions on the Monica Lewinsky obstruction of justice investigation, but he turned almost all of those aside, saying that he has offered all the explanation he intends to give."
CBS then showed the complete exchange between Pelley and Clinton at the press conference. Pelley's piercing question: "It was suggested at the beginning of this news conference, sir, that you've answered the questions about Monica Lewinsky. But respectfully, there has been no explanation for her dozens of visits to the White House after her employment here ended. No explanation for the Secret Service concern about her behavior in the West Wing. No explanation about the extraordinary effort by your secretary and your closest friends to find her a job. Sir, could you now give us some better sense of what appears to be an extraordinary relationship that you had with this woman and fulfill your promise to the American people of 'more rather than less, sooner rather than later'?"
Clinton's curt retort: "Well, first of all, you have more information than you did when I said that. And secondly, I have nothing else to say. I have been -- I have been advised -- and I think it's good advice under the circumstances, but I just, I just don't have anything else to say about that."
-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. "Overshadowed by Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater, President Clinton finds scandal comes before accomplishments," announced anchor Jim Moret at the top of the show.
Reporting on Hubbell CNN's John King specifically cited the $100,000 from Revlon arranged by Vernon Jordan and $62,000 from the Lippo Group.
Second, Wolf Blitzer reviewed the press conference, but the only suggestion of stonewalling came in this one sentence at the end of the piece: "Despite repeated questions, Mr. Clinton refused to go beyond his earlier comments on former intern Monica Lewinsky." Previously in the piece Blitzer noted how Clinton had raised the name of Starr deputy Hickman Ewing whom, Blitzer added, Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal "has accused" of "being a religious zealot out to get the President." Blitzer highlighted Clinton's conspiracy theory and showcased Clinton's diatribe against his opponents: "Like First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Clinton suggested he's the target of a wide-ranging conspiracy."
Clinton: "This has been a hard, well-financed, vigorous effort over a long period of time, by people who could not contest the ideas that I brought to the table, couldn't even contest the values behind the ideas that I brought to the table, and certainly can't quarrel with the consequences and the results of my service. And therefore, personal attack seems legitimate."
Anchor Joie Chen then discussed the day's developments with Jeff Greenfield, followed by a background story on Hubbell delivered by Bob Franken. CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren appeared next and she stressed the weakness of the indictment.
after a report from Pierre Thomas on Lewinsky's options without the
immunity deal, anchor Joie Chen talked to two analysts, both of whom were
more upset by Starr's crime-fighting than by Hubbell's crime-doing.
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET began with Wendell Goler on the news conference and how Clinton "may never say more about his relationship with the former intern." Summarizing Pelley's question, Goler relayed that Clinton "wasn't swayed by a reminder that he promised in January more information rather than less, sooner rather than later." Next, David Shuster gave a run down of the Hubbell story.
-- NBC Nightly News began with Lisa Myers: "Showing just how far he's willing to go to get evidence against the Clinton, the Independent Counsel indicted not only Hubbell but also his wife Suzie for tax evasion and fraud."
Following Myers' story Brokaw introduced a piece on the press conference, but he took his time getting there, putting the emphasis on the good economy, not Clinton's stonewalling.
"For his part President Clinton today held a nationally televised news conference before the Hubbell indictment was announced. He opened with today's news on the continuing growth of the American economy. And today there were more signs of tremendous growth, no signs of inflation. The gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of the economy's strength, up an impressive 4.2 percent for the first quarter. At the same time inflation is holding at its lowest level in 35 years. As a result, the Dow was up almost 112 points in very heavy trading, the NASDAQ gained almost 17 points. However, as NBC's Claire Shipman reports tonight, the news conference was not all economy all the time."
illustrating Clinton's obtuseness by showing an exchange, she just ran
two brief clips of Clinton: "I have nothing else to say" and
"I just don't have anything else to say about that." She then
ran a clip of him defending his character, said he "offered
occasional flashes of anger at Ken Starr" and ran down his points on
some non-scandal topics before stating: "And he insisted that he can
rise above recent attacks by Newt Gingrich." Shipman concluded:
Yes, it's working because networks like NBC play along.
Earlier in the day, on MSNBC just after the press conference ended, Brokaw telegraphed how Nightly News would handle the event a few hours later. He was concerned that his colleagues gave too much emphasis to the Monica mess, asking Shipman to react to this thesis: "At least he did acknowledge the presence of network correspondents this time Claire. In the last news conference he pretty much avoided all of you. Most of the questions that did come from what we would call the prominent members of the White House press corps had to do with the Lewinsky scandal. Is there a possibility that he is only building more political capital by letting you ask those questions, batting them away and the American public beginning to say there is a kind of obsession with the subject?"
in doubt, blame Newt. MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this on
Wednesday's Today (April 29) from Katie Couric. She told Tim Russert:
"Tim, as you know any aura of bipartisanship in Washington dissolved
this week when Newt Gingrich had this to say about the President and Ken
Starr's other investigation involving Monica Lewinsky. Let's
Hardly outrageous observations. Russert explained the immediate cause of Gingrich's anger: Democrats on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee refused to grant immunity to four fundraising witnesses even though the Justice Department approved. Coverage of this April 23 committee action: zilch on any of the networks that night or the next morning. But the morning of the partisan vote Today featured a story on Democrats upset by Chairman Dan Burton calling Clinton a "scumbag."
Some partisan actions get more attention than others.
of people condemning Burton's remark, MRC news analyst Clay Waters
noticed a distorted report filed by CBS Radio reporter Mark Knoller. In
his weekly appearance on the CBS show Saturday Morning on April 25 he
He then played this soundbite from Clinton: "A President can not repair the breaches in a country, cannot unify a country, and cannot lift its vision if he takes personally personal assaults."
He just has his henchmen do the name-calling for him. Contrary to Knoller's assurance that the White House is better than Republicans, on April 23 Press Secretary Mike McCurry issued this slam on Burton: "The use of a two syllable vulgarity by the Chairman was rather ambitious."
An entertainment update: NBC's upcoming liberal crusading movie and a Sunday night series on Fox featured a plot that could have been written by the Cato Institute.
-- This Sunday night, May 3, at 9pm ET/PT NBC will broadcast "The Long Island Incident," a made-for-TV movie about the commuter rail shooting that propelled Democrat Carolyn McCarthy into the House of Representatives. Her husband was murdered in the 1993 tragedy. Liberal Clinton buddy and financier Barbra Streisand is among the Executive Producers.
In his April 7 Daily Variety column Army Archerd reported: "The NBC TV movie attacks the NRA and what the show calls the NRA's 'fraudulent' claims of gun protection under the Second Amendment."
elaborated in the column caught by MRC entertainment analyst Melissa
There's no about the political purpose of the movie. As MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson noticed in reading the May 2 TV Guide, actress Laurie Metcalf who plays Carolyn McCarthy in the movie and was a star of "Roseanne," told the magazine: "I want to help Carolyn reach a bigger audience with her message of gun control."
-- Last Sunday night, April 26, Mike Judge, creator of Fox's "King of the Hill" and a self proclaimed "social conservative" (People, April 26) took on the Americans with Disabilities Act, illustrating how easily it is abused. The animated comedy series airs at 8:30pm ET/PT and revolves around the life in a Texas town of Hank Hill, a propane distributor, his wife Peggy and early teen-age son Bobby. It often reflects small town values and disdain for liberal culture, but this episode was more overtly political than usual.
Caldwell wrote up this show summary based on the database input of Tom
employees claim to suffer from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, obsessive
compulsive disorder, "yuppie flu", priapism, bloating, and
uncontrollable anger so they can get out of doing their work as well.
Finally, a tip for the most bizarre TV video of the weekend: Friday night and Sunday night Dateline NBC will be showing the new BBC documentary on OJ Simpson featuring OJ flailing a banana, as if it were a knife, toward the neck of the female reporter as he utters a menacing laugh.
-- Brent Baker 
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