Tiananmen Tanked; Stonewalling Admired; Assume Worst When Newt Talks
1) The Supreme Court decision
on Starr's request led all but CNN. All but ABC featured McCurry's
soundbite blaming Starr for delays and only FNC explicitly suggested a
downside for the White House. ABC and NBC skipped the Tiananmen Square
2) Who said this, a defense
lawyer or a supposed journalist? "Stonewalling happens to be good
lawyering and I'm glad the President and Monica Lewinsky have good
3) Evan Thomas insisted
Goldwater was "a dangerous extremist" and admitted "I
assume the worst when Newt opens his mouth." Peter Jennings added the
"moderation" half to Goldwater's comments.
4) Letterman's Top Ten
"Other Executive Privileges."
>>> The June 1 MediaWatch, our
"miracle edition," is now on the MRC home page thanks to the MRC
Web team of Sean Henry and Kenny Le May. I've dubbed it the "miracle
edition" because we managed to produce it in 24 hours after a holiday
weekend and our printer actually printed all the color correctly and
mailed it on schedule, a first with our redesign. Read the front page on
how the media were slow to recognize the China missile scoop; a Review by
Tim Graham running down four media-related ethics controversies involving
FOBs that reporters have failed to pursue; Page 4 article on how after
three years of ignoring it as Washington Post Ombudsman, Geneva Overholser
decided liberal bias really is a problem; Revolving Door on how a former
NBC News VP now works for Loral and lobbied for the waiver. Plus,
Newsbites, including "Arafat Allies," put together by Clay
Waters on how the networks painted Israel as the obstacle to peace.
To read the issue the "miracle edition"
The Supreme Court's rejection of Ken Starr's request for an expedited
ruling on attorney-client privilege for Bruce Lindsey as well as the
Secret Service privilege claim, topped Thursday night's newscasts on all
but CNN which led at 10pm ET with the sentencing of Terry Nichols. While
all the networks noted how the ruling will delay the probe, only FNC's Jim
Angle suggested a way the White House victory may backfire on it. Every
show but ABC's World News Tonight played the clip of Mike McCurry claiming
it's Starr, now on "Day 1,400," who is delaying the
investigation. (ABC's Donaldson did, however, quote McCurry.) All
highlighted the appearance before the grand jury by Sidney Blumenthal and
all but ABC also mentioned Nathan Landow's presence.
The ninth anniversary of the Tiananmen
Square massacre generated stories on CNN and FNC and a brief mention by
Dan Rather, but was ignored by ABC and NBC. Thursday night's Nightline
followed the work of Chinese human rights activist Wang Dan.
Here's a flavor of how the networks handled
the Clinton scandals Thursday night, June 4:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Jackie Judd
handled the Supreme Court ruling and Blumenthal's appearance, showing a
soundbite of his lawyer complaining about the questions. Noting how the
court's decision will mean the appeals will wind their way through the
courts and drag on to the fall, past the elections, Judd concluded:
"This could be a long, slow summer."
Next, Sam Donaldson checked in from the
White House: "The feeling here is that from a public relations
standpoint the justices have said to the country, 'hey this is not a
national emergency' and perhaps the country can say if the justices feel
that way maybe, you know, it's much ado about nothing."
Peter Jennings asked about Clinton's delay
strategy. Donaldson ventured: "They want to get this down the road,
into next year as Jackie says. If they can do that they hope that the
American people and the Congress will say 'what the heck, let's forget
-- CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley began:
"Starr's bid to push his inquiry of the presidency to a rapid
conclusion has failed. Starr's strategy was daring but doomed," as
the Supreme Court saw no urgency. Pelley then played this soundbite from
McCurry: "I mean today is what, the fourteenth, Day 1,400 of Ken
Starr's tenure as an independent counsel at rate of $30,000 a day of
taxpayer's money. Now that's, if there's any delay that's the delay right
there." Pelley proceeded to note how Nate Landow appeared before the
grand jury to be asked if he pressured Kathleen Willey to lie, that the
appeals court ruling will take months and that the delayed Secret Service
testimony would not prove the case outright.
Dan Rather then read a brief item on
how Clinton is going ahead with the ceremony Tiananmen Square, noting it's
the ninth anniversary.
-- CNN's The World Today at 10pm ET led
with the sentencing of Terry Nichols. Wolf Blitzer reported on the Supreme
Court decision, showed McCurry's successful soundbite and concluded with a
White House fear prompted by Lewinsky's move to get new lawyers:
"What especially worries the White House is that Starr may now accept
what he refused to accept earlier: an admission from Lewinsky that she did
have sexual relations with the President, even as she continues to deny he
told her to lie about it."
Anchor Joie Chen noted Blumenthal's
appearance, adding: "Blumenthal's lawyer calls Starr's investigation
Later, CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon marked the
Tiananmen Square anniversary by looking at students at the same
university. She found little sympathy for the 1989 students and little
interest in pursuing democracy.
-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report led with Jim
Angle on Clinton's victory. Angle allowed time for McCurry's claim but
also uniquely raised a downside for the White House: "Legal analysts
have suggested the White House is simply looking for delay by going to an
appeals court first. In answering that charge, the White House spokesman
couldn't resist the opportunity to take a swipe at Ken Starr."
"I'm mean today is what, the fourteenth, Day 1,400 of Ken Starr's
tenure as an independent counsel at rate of $30,000 a day of taxpayer's
money. Now that's, if there's any delay that's the delay right
Angle: "And today's victory by the
White House means it will take Starr even longer. But sources close to
Starr say today's decision also means that he is more likely to submit an
interim report to Congress. So the White House may have avoided a quick
hearing by the Supreme Court only to see the evidence show up sooner in
FNC's David Shuster reported on Blumenthal,
asserting "prosecutors are convinced the White House aide ran an
organized smear campaign intended to derail their investigation."
Later, Wendell Goler marked the Tiananmen anniversary by showing clips
from press conferences and mentioning the hearing cited Wednesday on NBC
about China selling body parts.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened:
"If you were hoping the Monica Lewinsky scandal was about to wrap up,
you're in for a disappointment tonight..."
ruling means the issues won't be settled until after the elections, David
Bloom judged: "That means that independent counsel Kenneth Starr gets
a defeat, and for the President a major victory...Mr. Clinton has pledged
to cooperate with prosecutor Starr but in truth the White House has tried
to thwart the independent counsel's every move." Bloom also played
the McCurry clip, introducing it: "Spokesman Michael McCurry bristled
at the notion Mr. Clinton is trying to stall Starr."
Myers provided a Starr status report, explaining that by "serious
crimes" Starr means lying under oath and obstructing justice. Myers
asked and answered: "Does this involve only lying about sex? The
President's defenders say yes. Others say it's about the President
subverting the very legal system he's sworn to uphold, a pattern that
allegedly goes back to the original Whitewater matter."
Myers told viewers Starr must decide how to handle Lewinsky and will
probably send a report to Congress about possible impeachable offenses.
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift thinks lying about sex is okay, Clinton's been a
great President and is glad Clinton's lawyers are blocking the truth from
coming out. She said all that in a June 3 appearance on FNC's Hannity
& Colmes caught by MRC news analyst Clay Waters. Here are a few of her
comments on the 9pm ET show hosted by conservative Sean Hannity and
liberal Alan Colmes:
-- "I think if a married man commits
adultery, lying sort of goes with it, and committing perjury in a civil
case that's been thrown out of court, I think you'd have to look long and
hard to find anybody in this country who has suffered a penalty because of
that....Now Sean, I've been around Washington long enough that I've heard
lots of politicians tell lots of lies. And I don't know that I put lies
about sex in a higher category than lies about public policy that might
affect my life."
-- "He's been a darned good President.
We have peace and prosperity..."
-- "Stonewalling happens to be good
lawyering and I'm glad the President and Monica Lewinsky have good
What a novel concept for a journalist.
Praise news figures and public officials for refusing to talk.
last Goldwater notes: Evan Thomas maintains he really was an extremist,
Brit Hume links Reagan to him and Peter Jennings adds the second half to
Goldwater's extremism/moderation line.
-- On last weekend's Inside
Washington, after Charles Krauthammer praised Goldwater for his honesty
and Nina Totenberg said he treated her with respect when she was one of a
few female reporters, Newsweek's Evan Thomas snipped: "He was all
those good things, but he was also a dangerous extremist."
the "daisy" ad, showing a countdown followed by a nuclear
explosion, the magazine's former Washington Bureau Chief elaborated:
"It was a gross exaggeration and it was demagogic and it was an
effective ad, but there was some truth to it. Goldwater was a guy who was
in favor of unleashing the Strategic Air Command."
Showing consistency in his hostility to all
conservatives, later in the show when the panelists discussed Newt
Gingrich's trip to Israel, during which he simply said Israel should be
able to locate its capital where it wishes, Thomas declared:
assume the worst when Newt opens his mouth but I have no idea on this
issue whether Newt was wrong."
-- The June 1 CyberAlert offered my
recollection of the narration from Lyndon Johnson in the "daisy"
ad. FNC's May 29 Special Report with Brit Hume played it.
Hume: "...What is considered the
original campaign attack ad, showing a little girl counting flower pedals
followed by a nuclear countdown."
Lyndon Johnson in ad: "These are the
stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go
into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."
The CyberAlert also noted that ABC, CBS and
NBC failed to mention Reagan's speech on Goldwater's behalf. Hume did:
"One who thought Goldwater was right was Ronald Reagan, then still an
actor who first emerged as the national political figure in this televised
speech one week before the election."
-- The June 3 World News Tonight included a
brief item on the funeral ceremony for Barry Goldwater. Anchor Peter
Jennings added: "Just one more thing about that phrase that Goldwater
used in his presidential campaign: 'extremism in the defense of liberty is
no vice.' He was flogged by his opponents for that extremism reference. So
many people forgot the next sentence: 'moderation,' Goldwater said, 'in
the pursuit of justice is no virtue.'"
Amongst those who "forgot" the
second half: Peter Jennings who read only the first part the day Goldwater
died. See the June 1 CyberAlert. But Jennings deserves credit for letting
unfamiliar viewers hear the entire quote. CBS Evening News viewers have
not had the same benefit. The May 29 show featured only the extremism part
and CBS has yet to fill out he quote.
the June 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Other
Executive Privileges." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10) Access to Gerald Ford's vast underground collection of Hustler back
9) Use of high-resolution military
satellites to warn when Hillary is coming.
8) Get to call PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat
7) When approaching four-way intersection
President may yell "Yee-Haw!" and barrel through at full speed.
6) The unalienable right to lie your fat
presidential ass off
5) If the President is hungry he may
commandeer a civilian's muffin.
4) Can make pilot of Air Force One buzz
Kenneth Starr's house.
3) $5 discount on Fudgie the Whale cakes at
participating Carvel stores.
2) Veto power on all new Baywatch hirings.
1) The annual NATO wife-swapping party.
> All week I've intended to send the
June 1 edition of Quotable Quotables, but then run out of space. I hope to
get it into Monday's CyberAlert, but in the meantime you can still access
it on the MRC's home page where it's featured right at the top of the MRC
-- Brent Baker
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