Now Starr's Too Fast; Silberman's "A Righty;" Russert's Misread
3) Even after every judge has dismissed the Secret Service's argument, they have an advocate in NBC's Jack Ford who highlighted the argument that "we're giving up this very important tradition of confidentiality" just so Starr can look at "a sexual liaison."
Liberal news media champion of the weekend. The last exchange from the "One on One" segment on the July 18 CBS Evening News:
Paula Zahn to Lani
Guinier: "How many years is it going to take for you not to be called
the Quota Queen?"
It's nice to have a political advocate on your side at a network.
Ken Starr can win every court battle over the Secret Service, but he can't win over the networks. Friday and Saturday night all emphasized the unprecedented nature of his request for testimony, without one story presenting either on camera or off any comment from his spokesman, Charles Bakaly. The July 18 Washington Post quoted Bakaly: "We have never intended to question Secret Service agents about privileged conversations they may have overheard between the President and his private lawyers." Not one broadcast or cable network story Friday night nor broadcast story Saturday or Sunday night relayed that assurance. Instead, on ABC reporter Mike Von Fremd stated that Starr had called agent Larry Cockell in order to discover what Clinton told his lawyer.
For months the media line has been that Starr is moving too slowly, but his decision to immediately bring the officers before the grand jury Friday prompted NBC's Pete Williams and CNN's John King to highlight White House complaints about his swiftness. Williams focused on how Clintonites called it "an outrageous power play" while "some legal experts found it partly theatrical."
Sam Donaldson concluded his Friday story by telling viewers how one White House staffer denigrated Starr's operation as "Keystone Cop Central." And remaining consistently biased, for the fifth night in a row on Friday, Dan Rather claimed Starr is poking into Clinton's "personal life."
Here's are some highlights of coverage from Friday July 17 through Sunday, July 19 on the network evening shows.
-- Friday, July 17: All led with the noontime decision by Justice Rehnquist to allow Secret Service testimony.
ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Forrest Sawyer opened: "Good evening. For the first time in history a Secret Service agent testified today before a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation of a sitting United States President."
recited the dramatic decision at high noon and how Starr was "so
anxious" he didn't wait for the regular grand jury to reconvene
next week. Next, from the White House Sam Donaldson reported:
"Forrest, reaction among presidential aides over today's turn of
events ranges from anger to resignation. They still say they think the
courts are wrong, but they know there isn't anything they can do about
it." After clips from Clinton and Cockell's attorney, Donaldson
ended with this swipe at Starr:
CBS Evening News.
Dan Rather intoned: "Good evening. At least three active-duty Secret
Service employees were forced today to appear before special prosecutor
Ken Starr's grand jury to give testimony. This happened after Chief
Justice William Rehnquist cleared the way for Starr's unprecedented push
to make the Secret Service tell him at least some of what it knows about
the President's personal life."
CNN's The World
Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken ran down the day's events and Charles
Bierbauer detailed Rehnquist's decision. In between, John King checked
in from Clinton's trip to Little Rock. After showing Clinton defending
the Secret Service and noting that Brian Stafford had replaced Larry
Cockell at Clinton's side, King concluded:
FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. David Shuster pointed out: "Starr promised the courts he will only focus on events that occurred before this week, leaving the White House without the Starr investigation as an excuse if President Clinton in the future really chooses to push the Secret Service away."
NBC Nightly News.
Tom Brokaw ignored Bakaly's assurance, declaring at the top of the show
that "not long after" Rehnquist's decision, "for the
first time ever, agents were talking about what they saw and heard while
guarding the President of the United States."
After Williams Jim Miklaszewski provided a profile of Larry Cockell, the first black special agent in charge, recounting his climb from the St. Louis PD to the President's side.
Every judge who has encountered the case so far has dismissed the claim of protection function privilege. It seems that every journalist, however, finds it not only quite reasonable but portrays any other view as dangerous. The latest example: On Saturday's Today, the morning after Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision, co-host Jack Ford hit Major Garret of U.S. News and Democratic consultant Peter Fenn with questions the Secret Service lawyers would appreciate.
While Ford did ask
Fenn about the argument that the evidence trail took Ken Starr to the
officers so he must question them, his other questions came from an
anti-Starr point of view. Here are his other three somewhat convoluted
inquiries made during the July 18 interview:
The liberal tag team of the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt and Time magazine's Margaret Carlson spent Saturday night disparaging Ken Starr and dismissing Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman's opinion as irrelevant since he's a "right-wing hit man" and "a righty."
On Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN Hunt issued the usual attack on Starr, declaring: "He's inept...He's totally incompetent."
suggested that he "thought that was a terrific opinion by Judge
Lawrence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals where he said that the
Justice Department has become the personal lawyer for the President.
They're not representing the United States because the independent
counsel, which Judge Silberman said was unconstitutional, has precluded
the Attorney General and when the President of the United States on Friday
said what about this decision? He said we'll consider the source, the
source, I think, is one of the really distinguished appellate judges in
Tim Russert's perception versus reality. Near the end of Sunday's Meet the Press of July 19 moderator Tim Russert asked guests William Safire and Doris Kearns Goodwin about a report released Wednesday by a commission which concluded a long-range missile attack on the U.S. could occur within five years.
Safire was impressed by Russert's decision to raise the topic, exalting: "This is an amazing moment on television. We're talking about the most important thing that happened in the past week." After Safire went on to contend that most people don't realize our vulnerability and assume the U.S. has a missile defense system, Russert jumped in: "Let the good times roll and the people are building second additions and these kind of stories don't seem to concern the American people."
Goodwin offered a
comment and then Safire inquired of Russert: "Why isn't this
covered more on television? Is it dull?"
"Not been on the front page of anything"? How about the front pages of the newspapers in Russert's hometown, Washington, DC? Let's take a look. Above the fold on the front page of the July 16 Washington Times: "No-Warning Attack on U.S. Said Possible in Five Years." Well, maybe we can't expect Russert to read the Washington Times, it being considered a right-wing newspaper. Certainly he would not have missed something on the front page of the Washington Post. But he did. Not above the fold, but still on the front page, a July 16 headline announced: "Iran, N. Korea Missile Gains Spur Warning."
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