CyberAlert -- 01/23/1998 -- Putting the Burden on Starr
Published: 1/23/1998 1:00 AM ET
Putting the Burden on Starr; More Sex = Better President1) ABC's Tim O'Brien demanded that Starr defend going beyond Whitewater; CNN's Bernard Shaw blamed Starr for the media mob.
2) Eleanor Clift attacked Linda Tripp and asserted that "libido and leadership is often linked." Bryant Gumbel asks if Starr is "trying to do with innuendo that which he has been unable to do with evidence?"
After months of ignoring or barely covering numerous fundraising scandal developments and lies by Clinton or members of his administration, the suggestion of sex with an intern launched a media frenzy. We certainly can't complain about lack of coverage of this particular scandal, but below are a few examples of how media doubts have crept into some coverage. You can always count on Eleanor Clift and Bryant Gumbel.
Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's statement in front of his building led to two noteworthy comments from network reporters. One reporter was more concerned with how Starr may have exceeded his jurisdiction than with what he discovered and another blamed Starr for the juvenile behavior of a group of reporters and photographers.
First, as Starr spoke at just past 11 am ET on Thursday ABC News legal affairs reporter Tim O'Brien stood behind him. As Starr explained "that we are acting properly within our jurisdiction," O'Brien didn't let him finish his sentence, never mind his statement, shouting over him: "How could that be, how is this Whitewater? How is this Whitewater?"
Second, a mob of unruly reporters and photographers greeted Starr who needed several police officers to prevent him from being crushed and to create a path so that he could reach microphones set up on he sidewalk. But that mob scene was Starr's fault not the media's, suggested CNN anchor Bernard Shaw. After Starr's appearance Shaw asked reporter Bob Frankin on the scene: "If Kenneth Starr is so concerned about professionalism and decorum, why permit the scene we just saw?"
Eleanor Clift and Bryant Gumbel will never let down bias watchers. Virtually all of their colleagues may be pursuing the Clinton sex story, but not them. They are still defending Clinton or disparaging the investigators.
- A little past 5pm ET during MSNBC coverage on January 21 Newsweek's Eleanor Clift questioned the behavior not of Clinton but of Linda Tripp, the woman who first came forward with the evidence of what Monica Lewinsky claimed:
"Well we talked about how do we know whether Monica Lewinsky is telling the truth. And I think now we are in for an examination of this young woman and her background to test her credibility. And then secondly, the woman who taped the conversations. The fact that she may have had some political motivation I think we will be, you know, investigating that as well....Well, yeah, except Linda Tripp is also the link with another woman who allegedly said in a deposition that the President made improper advances. So you begin to wonder what her role is. I mean we're just gonna look at that more."
A few minutes later, in another portion of her comments transcribed by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Clift demonstrated that there is nothing Clinton could do which would cause her to lose faith. By her logic, the more sex Clinton has with more women the better a President he becomes.
"Well, he's been elected twice with people knowing that he has had affairs. Now is the fact that this woman is 21, I mean she's still of age I suppose. You know, I think that the distaste that people may feel for this will also be because of the fact that the probing into this person's private life has occurred. I think past Presidents, Lyndon Johnson for one, certainly Jack Kennedy, these things went on, I think you know, libido and leadership is often linked. What's new here is the fact that they're rummaging around in people's lives. And, you know, it strikes me as a woman I have a constitutional right in this country to have an abortion if I wanted to have one because my body is my body. And if somebody, some lawyer comes and asks me who I had sex with I have to answer. And, you know, I think there is a whole creepy-crawly feeling about this whole investigation on very many levels here. Not just having to do with the President's behavior which if he did it is extraordinarily reckless."
- Similarly, Wednesday night Bryant Gumbel put the burden on the techniques of investigators instead of the actions of perpetrators. MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski caught this swipe at Starr from Gumbel as he introduced a piece on the January 21
Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel:
"There are some bizarre new charges swirling around the President tonight. Allegations that he had a sexual affair with a young White House intern and that she was pressured to lie about the alleged tryst. These allegations have been spawned by a series of secretly recorded audio tapes, behind the tapes and the charges: Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, the same Republican partisan who has unsuccessfully dogged Mr. Clinton for three and one-half years. With some facts and some perspective, here's CBS News White House correspondent, Scott Pelley...."
After the taped piece, Gumbel took another shot, asking Pelley:
"Scott, as you and I both know, a popular move these days is to make a titillating charge and then have the media create the frenzy. Given Kenneth Starr's track record, should we suspect that he's trying to do with innuendo that which he has been unable to do with evidence?"
Pelley did point out that Starr has won convictions for five people, including the Governor of Arkansas, but somehow I doubt Gumbel really cares.
Gumbel's CBS colleague Dan Rather has spent four years incessantly tagging Starr as "the Republican special prosecutor" so it's no surprise he's still doing it. After airing Vernon Jordan's comments at about 3:30pm ET on Thursday, the MRC's Tim Graham noticed this remark from Rather as he explained the case to viewers:
"With the special prosecutor in the so-called Whitewater affair, Kenneth Starr, a Republican activist from years past leading that investigation."
A few hours later on the CBS Evening News Rather added his partisan label as he introduced a January 22 story:
"Another fast exploding dimension in this story is the role of the Whitewater special prosecutor, long time Republican activist Ken Starr. How did his original mandate to look into a failed real estate deal in Arkansas, wind up with secret recordings of two young women talking about sexual affairs?"
A better question: How did long time Democratic activists like Bryant Gumbel expand their mandate to journalism?
-- Brent Baker
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