ABC & CBS Counter Felt Critics, Contend Felt Had to Go to Media --6/2/2005
2. Journalists Denounced Starr's Leaks to Media, Denigrated Tripp
3. Williams Embraces Bill Clinton, Pines: "Two for the Price of One"
4. Ted Turner Credits Castro with Inspiring CNN International
5. Jones Applauds HRC Nomination, Behar Rejects She'll Hike Taxes
ABC and CBS on Wednesday night devoted stories to discrediting the notion that former FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt behaved disreputably by giving information in a criminal probe to reporters. The stories began with denunciations of him from Nixon loyalists, then took on those claims. "Critics say he should have gone to his superiors through channels," World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson noted before adding: "His supporters point out his superiors were in on the Watergate coverup, that he did the only thing he could to uphold the honor of the FBI." ABC's Dean Reynolds recited a long list of those Felt could not go to, such as: "Felt couldn't go to the special prosecutor. Archibald Cox didn't have the job for almost a year after the break-in. The Senate Watergate Committee also started a year later, and may not have existed at all had Felt not begun guiding the Post months earlier...." CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts plugged the upcoming story: "We now know that he was Deep Throat. Was Mark Felt a hero as well?" Wyatt Andrews countered the Nixonites with how "at the Washington Post, Felt is a hero for all the risks he took."
Unaddressed by ABC's Reynolds: Felt's possible revenge motive when President Nixon chose someone else to succeed J. Edgar Hoover as FBI Director, to say nothing about now treating a Hoover aide as a font of integrity holding off interference from the White House when Hoover used information to blackmail Presidents and suppress their critics.
Gibson soon plugged the upcoming piece: "When we come back, the FBI official and the fall of a President. Quite a debate today. Did Deep Throat do the right thing? We'll take 'A Closer Look.'"
As taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, Gibson set up the eventual story: "We're going to take 'A Closer Look' tonight at the debate that has followed the revelation that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat. In becoming a source for the Washington Post during Watergate, Felt may have changed the course of history, but as an FBI official, did he act appropriately talking clandestinely to reporters? Critics say he should have gone to his superiors through channels. His supporters point out his superiors were in on the Watergate coverup, that he did the only thing he could to uphold the honor of the FBI. Here's ABC's Dean Reynolds."
Of course, there were other courses of action Felt could have taken. He didn't need, for instance, a special committee to be established in order to talk to the Democratic majority staffs or Chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Over on the CBS Evening News, Wyatt Andrews teased up top: "I'm Wyatt Andrews. Deep Throat today is being called a hero, but also a turncoat."
Anchor John Roberts, with "Hero or Villain?" on screen, plugged the story: "Coming up next on tonight's CBS Evening News, we now know that he was Deep Throat. Was Mark Felt a hero as well? That's tonight's 'Inside Story.'"
Roberts introduced the story: "Now that we know who Deep Throat was, what he did three decades ago is getting a new look. Were the actions of the veteran FBI man, Mark Felt, during the Watergate investigation brave and noble? Or were they something quite a bit less than that? It all depends who you ask, as Wyatt Andrews reports in tonight's 'Inside Story.'"
Andrews began: "He helped unveil a scandal and unseat a President, but was Mark Felt, the man called Deep Throat, a hero or an FBI turncoat?"
The liberal media are pouring on the tributes to former FBI official Mark Felt, who admitted he was "Deep Throat," the secret source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during Watergate. But when Democratic President Bill Clinton was being investigated by a special prosecutor for perjury and obstruction of justice, many of the journalists who are praising Felt's bravery were disdainful of any leaks of information that might be seen as damaging to the Clintons. They denounced Ken Starr for talking with reporters and quite a few denigrated Linda Tripp, treating her not as a heroic whistleblower but as a selfish betrayer. The difference: The Washington press corps had little regard for President Nixon and saw those going after him as heroic while with President Clinton they saw him as the victim of an over-zealous independent counsel.
First, some attacks on Starr, for doing just what Felt did -- examples of journalists decrying leaks they would have celebrated during Watergate -- as gathered by Rich Noyes from the MRC's archive:
# "In retrospect, it is clear that there was no substance to the Whitewater allegations and the other White House scandalettes -- the travel-office firings, the FBI files, the death of Vince Foster -- except, of course, Lewinsky. It seems clear that Starr conducted an unseemly and irresponsible investigation filled with 'abuses of power,' as Clinton contends, illegal leaks to the press and barely legal coercive tactics against prospective witnesses. And it also seems clear that the press was way too credulous about Starr's allegations and didn't pay nearly enough attention to his methods." -- Time's Joe Klein reviewing Clinton's memoir My Life in the June 28, 2004 edition.
# "Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And now Gore must do so against the backdrop of a potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated story leak about President Clinton. The story is that Republican-backed special prosecutor Robert Ray, Ken Starr's successor, has a new grand jury looking into possible criminal charges against the President growing out of Mr. Clinton's sex life." -- Dan Rather opening the August 17, 2000 CBS Evening News from Los Angeles. A federal judge appointed by President Carter admitted he inadvertently leaked the news.
# From the February 2, 1999 CyberAlert: The White House once again managed to make Ken Starr the issue as every network showcased David Kendall's complaint that Starr is guilty of "illegal and partisan leaking" in the Sunday (January 31, 1999) New York Times story on how he has decided he can indict a sitting President. Here are Charles Gibson's February 1 questions to Charles Bakaly, Ken Starr's spokesman, which assumed Starr is in the wrong:
- "Why did your office leak this and leak it now?"
For more: www.mrc.org
# "Bill Clinton is paying his own legal fees. Guess who's paying Ken Starr's? Almost overlooked in the midst of the enormous attention being paid to next Monday's showdown, is the fact that the independent counsel tonight is in real peril himself, profoundly threatened by Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's decision that Mr. Starr show cause why he should not be held in contempt for what the judge feels is a pattern of allegedly illegal leaks of secret grand jury information....As to the question of whose paying his legal tab: you and me. It will be piled onto the tens of millions his panty raid has so far chalked up." -- Geraldo Rivera on CNBC's Rivera Live, August 13, 1998.
# "Well I think Ken Starr's candor might actually cost him this time. You can look at this and say, 'What's the big deal? So he's leaking, everybody leaks, the White House leaks.' But the law is very clear. It's okay for the White House to leak, as sleazy as it might be in P.R. terms. It's not okay under the law for Ken Starr or his people to leak. The law is very clear. It says they cannot talk about quote, 'matters before the grand jury,' unquote. And that covers a lot of territory." -- Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, June 15, 1998 Today.
# "Starr's is a shameful story -- as shameful as the conduct of almost all television news programs and some of the press....Starr's leaks, whose purpose is to condition the public to believe in the President's guilt, are of a piece with other practices that reek of abuse....The real spinning is taking place in the graves of our Founding Fathers. When they wrote the First Amendment, they imagined a press corps as a curb on power. They did not anticipate an independent counsel free from checks and balances. They had no role for a chief inquisitor. Nor should we." -- U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief Mort Zuckerman in his editorial titled, "Starr Has Hit a New Low," June 29, 1998 issue.
# "It appears tonight that carefully orchestrated leaks of secretly recorded tapes of Monica Lewinsky, that were damaging to the Clinton camp, may not have told the whole story...." -- Dan Rather on the initial Tripp-Lewinsky tapes, June 22, 1998.
# "Starr has stood Watergate on its head. It is not the President who is doing the taping; it is the prosecutor. It is not the President who is assembling the dossiers and leaking dirt on the intimate practices of an ideological opponent; it is the prosecutor. It is not the President who is involved in the politically motivated abuse of power; it is the politically motivated counsel. It is not the President who is insufficiently accountable; it is the prosecutor." -- U.S. News Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman, April 6, 1998.
# "Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has increased the pressure even further on President Clinton today in what some call the nastiest and most personal clash yet. The Clintons have accused Starr of illegal, false and self-serving leaks of grand jury testimony in a campaign to get the Clintons at all costs, as they see it. Tonight, as CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley reports, Starr is boring in bigger, harder." -- Dan Rather, February 24 1998 CBS Evening News.
# Excerpt from the Tuesday June 15, 1998 CyberAlert:
Network news took on a surreal quality Monday night as all the networks reported as hot news that Ken Starr admitted he and a colleague talked to reporters. Dan Rather ominously referred to his "secret briefings." But the reporters involved and their colleagues knew the contacts occurred, so if they were so troubling and newsworthy why didn't anyone report them months ago? In a way Steve Brill did upset the Washington media norms by putting into play something everybody knew but had decided journalistic rules on protecting sources prevented them from reporting. But if everyone knew the independent counsel's office was feeding information to reporters why are Starr's comments even news?
Monday night CBS, CNN and FNC led with the controversy over Starr's comments to Brill. ABC began with U.S./NATO operations to quell violence in Kosovo and the Dow plummeting 200 points topped NBC. CNN and FNC, but not the broadcast networks, highlighted Steven Brill's record of contributions to Democrats, including the Clinton-Gore campaign. Here are some highlights from the Monday, June 15 evening shows:
ABC's World News Tonight devoted the A Closer Look segment to Starr. Anchor Charles Gibson noted that Judge Norma Holloway Johnson had summoned all the lawyers to her court, then set up the segment: "There are really two major questions at play here. Was it legal for Kenneth Starr or his employees to talk to reporters the way they did? And by admitting he did talk to reporters hasn't Kenneth Starr handed the White House an enormous political opportunity?"
The answer to the second is yes, but only if the media play along as they are and treat his talking to reporters as something improper.
Gibson reviewed Starr's past assurances that his office did not leak or could not comment on a particular matter and how Clinton lawyer David Kendall had filed a complaint about leaks from Starr's office. Gibson asserted: "So despite all his earlier statements Kenneth Starr is now in the position of acknowledging he has given information to reporters in private, although he still maintains he has done nothing illegal. In a statement today Mr. Starr said nothing his office has done violates the law or Department Justice policy. That's is his legal argument. But legal issues aside, Kenneth Starr has really handed the White House an incredible political gift, one they've already started to use against him."
In other words, we won't bother exploring whether he did anything illegal. If he didn't then shouldn't the story die? Instead, ABC stuck to politics. Gibson discussed the impact with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Donaldson relayed that White House officials "believe Starr has turned the dagger on himself." Their strategy is to delay and change the subject and Starr, Donaldson charged, is playing into their game plan. Capitol Hill is baffled about why Starr talked to Brill, Roberts reported.
CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened dramatically: "New and serious accusations about special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's conduct during his investigation of President Clinton are the subject of a special federal court hearing in Washington tonight. Subject: Starr now admits giving reporters secret briefings about details of the case. Starr says he did nothing illegal. Aides to President Clinton have another view."
Scott Pelley summarized the Content story, ran a soundbite from Mike McCurry and relayed Starr's denial of any wrongdoing. But Pelley showed how unnewsworthy the whole matter is, pointing out a historical note the other networks skipped: "There is precedent for this. Former independent counsel Lawrence Walsh says he often briefed reporters so the taxpayers would know what he was up to."
CNN's The World Today. Co-anchor Jim Moret announced at the top of the 8pm ET show: "The independent counsel. Questions about whether his interview with this magazine reveals he broke the law."
Pierre Thomas began with the same theme which put the burden on Starr: "Did independent counsel Ken Starr break the law when he talked to reporters about the Monica Lewinsky investigation? Well, that depends."
After soundbites from experts offering both views, Thomas noted how "former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh agrees, this is a murky area." After a clip of Thornburgh, Thomas allowed Starr to deny any secrecy violations. Thomas then summarized the rules Starr must follow, noting that "a number of courts have issued rulings broadly prohibiting any discussions related to grand jury proceedings." Picking up on complaints from Starr-bashers, Thomas concluded by highlighting their complaints about how Janet Reno hasn't moved fast enough on Clinton attorney David Kendall's charge: "For weeks, Attorney General Janet Reno has refused to address allegations that Ken Starr is leaking to the press. Reno says she's waiting on Judge Norma Holloway Johnson to rule on a complaint filed by Clinton attorney, David Kendall. Democrats have screamed for action, but Reno has held fast..."
END of Excerpt
# From the February 22, 1999 MediaWatch: "No Valentines for Tripp 'The Betrayer'; Interviewers Work to Reinforce Negative Image"
For the rest of the article: www.mediaresearch.org
# "They [Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg] wanted to make money on a book but once push came to shove they were perfectly willing to sacrifice the young former White House intern on the altar of greed, on the altar of hatred for Bill Clinton and his administration and I think they're going to accomplish that at least in the short term. But if it comes to trial Linda Tripp will be facing some severe questioning by Monica Lewinsky's very capable counsel. And my God, a first year law student hearing those tapes will be able to make her look like exactly what she is, a treacherous, back-stabbing, good-for-nothing enemy of the truth." -- Geraldo Rivera on CNBC's Rivera Live, June 26, 1998.
# "Tripp lost membership in the family of man when day after day she looked into Monica Lewinsky's eyes as a friend and at night hit the 'on' button on her Radio Shack tape recorder. No, there's enough about Tripp to criticize without getting to the heart of her darkness. While we are trying to make up our minds about the other characters in the drama, she can safely be cast as a villain -- the Mark Fuhrman of the Starr investigation -- because of her perfect rendition of the friend from hell." -- Time's Margaret Carlson responding to Jonah Goldberg in a Slate "dialogue" about Linda Tripp, June 30, 1998
# "Addressing an ungrateful nation from the courthouse beach, as the grand-jury stakeout is known, and shaking like a leaf, Tripp made a desperate effort to humanize herself as a truth-seeking patriot, a 'suburban mom' protecting her kids. 'Who am I?' she began. 'I'm you,' she answered, 'an average American.' I shouted back at the TV, 'No, you're NOT! Take that back!'" -- Time's Margaret Carlson, August 10 issue.
# "Tripp [down arrow]: Says 'I'm you.' We're made-over, illegally-taping, friend-betraying Cruella DeVils?" -- Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch, August 10.
# "Linda Tripp: She vents, Lucianne crows, Monica sings & Bill squirms. It's The Witches of Eastwick 1998!" -- Time's Winners & Losers feature, August 10.
# "And then there's Linda Tripp. Before she fades into history, my guess is you'll see her face at a lot of Halloween parties." -- Bob Schieffer's "final thought" on the fate awaiting players in Monicagate, October 4, 1998 Face the Nation.
# From the November 19, 1998 CyberAlert: The impending Thursday testimony of Ken Starr, Henry Hyde's decision to call more witnesses and White House railing about unfairness topped all the evening shows on Wednesday night. CNN, FNC and NBC all also raised how Clinton has yet to respond to confirm or deny Hyde's 81 questions submitted weeks ago, but not ABC and CBS. CBS's focus: The evils of Ken Starr and Linda Tripp, not the actions of Bill Clinton. On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather highlighted a poll showing, in Rather's hype, that most perceive Starr as "politically motivated and out to get the Clintons." CBS then set out to prove that perception with a Reality Check segment by Eric Engberg on "the Linda Tripp tapes of Lucianne Goldberg, a former member of the Richard Nixon dirty tricks squad and an up front Clinton-basher these days." For a full rundown: www.mediaresearch.org
# From the February 12, 1999 CyberAlert: Today subjected Linda Tripp to a one-sided interview which assumed that she had done wrong and should regret it as "the country has gone through a year of scandal which many people blame you for." Instead of praising her for preserving the dress, which made Clinton admit his activity, Gangel scolded: "It sounds like you're manipulating Monica to implicate the President." See: www.mediaresearch.org
# From the February 22, 2001 CyberAlert Extra: Network stars continue to view Linda Tripp as a "faithless friend" instead of as a heroic whistleblower who provided fair warning about Bill Clinton's sleaze. On Wednesday's [Feb. 21] Good Morning America Charles Gibson matched the pattern and waited to the end of the segment to raise the timely issue of how Tripp was an eyewitness to how the Clintons appropriated gifts to the White House for themselves. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson picked up on how Gibson charged: "This is a difficult question to ask, but one of the problems is, in many people's minds, and you know this, you're the poster child for faithless friend." See: www.mediaresearch.org
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams touted his own questions to former President Bill Clinton, for an interview which aired Wednesday night, as "direct" and "blunt," but they were hardly tough. Williams relayed how "I asked the President directly whether Senator Clinton was right now deciding whether or not to run for President." And, resurrecting 1992 Clinton campaign rhetoric, a giddy Williams recalled: "If elected, what would you do? Remember, two for the price of one." Williams' "blunt question" was about "any regrets he may have that impeachment will always play a prominent role in how his presidency is remembered." Williams brought up how Amnesty International says Guantanamo has "become 'the gulag of our time,'" before concluding with how "going until you just collapse," has "has been a hallmark of your adult life." The headline over the Web version of the interview, "Clinton: 'I paid a big price'; The former President on his legacy, his health and his wife's future."
In response to the question about impeachment, Clinton went on an unchallenged rant against the media for siding with Ken Starr and doing a poor job "of reporting for years all the innocent people he persecuted and indicted because they wouldn't lie and the assault on the American Constitution that he waged or that I was acquitted. And that the charges that the House sent to the Senate were false."
(Thursday's Today played much of the same portions of the interview, though not, from what I recall, the "two for the price of one line.")
On the June 1 NBC Nightly News, Williams introduced some highlights from his sit down with Bill Clinton at Clinton's home in New Castle, New York, a session Williams trumped as "exclusive" even though Clinton appeared on CNN's Larry King Live a couple of hours later, which touted their interview as a "CNN Exclusive":
For the version of the interview, as posted on the Web page for the NBC Nightly News, which does differ a bit from what NBC aired: www.msnbc.msn.com
Turner's comments came during a June 1 session emceed by Christiane Amanpour at the Techwood Drive lawn in Atlanta of the building where CNN was started in 1980. CNN on Wednesday played excerpts throughout the day and I saw one excerpt with the Cold War claim, but did not see any video of Turner crediting Castro for inspiring CNN International.
[Web Update, 3:30pm EDT: MRC intern Kyle Drennen looked for Turner's Castro
comment and found it was played Wednesday night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360,
though it does not exactly match the quote provided by the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. Turner actually asserted:
An excerpt from Vejnoska's June 2 article:
....In 1985, CNN International launched globally, thanks in part to a conversation Turner had had with Fidel Castro.
"He said, 'Ted, the whole world needs CNN. I watch it all the time and it's very important to me,'" Turner said. "And I thought, 'Well, if Castro needs it, certainly the capitalists around the world could use it, and perhaps some other Communists, too."
Speaking of Communists, Turner also credited his international Goodwill Games with helping end the Cold War.
"I thought between sports and news and television and friendship that we could end the Cold War, and by God, we did," he said, calling the Games "an important straw" in ending the conflict....
END of Excerpt
For the news story, "CNN at 25 brings out tender side of Turner," in full (particularly annoying registration process may be required, but I think this link [unlike the one the MRC's Rich Noyes passed along to me in alerting me to this article!] will bypass that requirement. If a string of characters is added after the ".html" in this link, delete them): www.ajc.com
When Bill O'Reilly, appearing on Wednesday's The View on ABC, predicted that "Hillary is going to run and she will get the nomination," former NBC News reporter Star Jones, along with the audience, clapped enthusiastically. That prompted O'Reilly to suggest: "All you guys clapping, I hope you want to pay more taxes, because that's what's going to happen" if Senator Clinton becomes President. But assuming a liberal Democrat will raise taxes didn't sit well with former Good Morning America staffer Joy Behar, who demanded: "Wait a second! No, how do you know that?" Jones and Behar are two of the five quad-hosts of the ABC daytime program created by Barbara Walters.
The MRC's Jessica Barnes took down the exchange on the June 1 edition of The View which occurred as O'Reilly sat on a sofa with Jones and Meredith Vieira on one side, and Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the other.
Hasselbeck: "What do you think about Senator Clinton? I mean, why won't she just come out and say she's going to run in '08? And if so, I know that Larry King actually mentioned the other
ABC's page for The View, with pictures and bios for Jones and Behar: abc.go.com
-- Brent Baker