CyberAlert -- 04/17/1998 -- Reagan Ignored His Grandchildren

Millionaire, Billionaire Godfather Scaife; Reagan Ignored His Grandchildren

1) Jones and Starr together again on the news. ABC, CNN and NBC all interweave Starr, Scaife, Pepperdine and Hale. Is Scaife "a millionaire...Clinton basher" or the "billionaire...godfather of the alleged right-wing conspiracy"?

2) The New Yorker's Jane Mayer angrily denounced the idea that anyone could consider Linda Tripp a victim.

3) "Al Gore and his wife Tipper are no grinches when it comes to giving of themselves," but they donated just $353 to charity.

4) On its 50th anniversary the CBS Evening News recalled the Reagan years: "We knew that he never saw his kids and he didn't even know his grandchildren. We knew that, but the picture was more powerful."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)The Jones appeal and Starr withdrawal from Pepperdine put the Clinton scandals back on the network news Thursday night, but the tornado touchdown in Nashville blew them out of the lead spot. All went to Jones and Starr after a tornado update, but while ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC relayed Starr's comments on the Hale probe, how the investigation is far from done and how he will not accept the Pepperdine deanship, CBS mentioned only how the probe is far from over, skipping Hale and Pepperdine.

By raising the alleged payoffs to Hale from Richard Scaife NBC Nightly News caught up with all the other networks which had previously highlighted the charges involving Scaife, whom ABC Thursday night dubbed "the conservative millionaire and Clinton basher." NBC's Lisa Myers found him a bit wealthier, describing him as "billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, financial godfather of the alleged right-wing conspiracy against the President."

Here are some highlights from how the networks handled Jones and Starr on the April 16 evening shows:

ABC's World News Tonight. Dean Reynolds checked in from Dallas, opening with a soundbite/crybite from Jones and noting that her lawyers said they are confident of winning the case the costs of which a "conservative foundation" pledged to cover.

Reynolds concluded with the Clinton take:

"His lawyers in Washington said the appeal was an abuse of the legal system driven by people out to harm the President and disregarding the best interests of the American people."

Next, Jackie Judd looked at Ken Starr's press conference announcements, beginning:

"Starr tried to repair his damaged reputation by announcing that even when his investigation ends he will not go to Pepperdine University to fill a position funded partially by a conservative philanthropist."

Following a Starr soundbite Judd continued by running through the grand conspiracy theory:

"Starr attempted to leave for Pepperdine in Malibu California last year, but was so ridiculed he agreed to see the investigation through to the finish. Still critics continued linking Starr to Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative millionaire and Clinton basher who helped finance the Pepperdine post. Recently, even the Deputy Attorney General wrote Starr that he may have a conflict of interest in determining whether one of his key witnesses, David Hale, took money from a foundation funded by Scaife. Starr claimed he has no connection to Scaife."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather once again tagged Starr with a partisan label: "Republican special prosecutor Kenneth Starr said his investigation of the Clinton camp is far from over..."

But before CBS got to Starr, Phil Jones examined Paula Jones, starting his story with her tears:

"For nearly 30 seconds it appeared Paula Jones may not be emotionally up to continuing her legal battle with the President. Finally, with tears in her eyes and her husband at her side she explained why she is appealing."

Like ABC's Reynolds, Phil Jones ended by relaying Bob Bennett's comments about abusing the legal system to harm the President.

CBS then gave less than a minute to Scott Pelley to report on Starr. Pelley covered only the time line, noting Starr said the investigation is far from over which, Pelley suggested, means a May report is unlikely.

-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET. Bob Franken handled the Jones story and was the only network reporter Thursday night to point out how the Jones lawyers insisted that Susan Carpenter McMillan would have a diminished role in this round of the case.

Pierre Thomas covered the Starr story, running through the Pepperdine and Hale ties to Scaife. From Chile Wolf Blitzer checked in with Clinton's non-comment reaction. Blitzer emphasized that the appeal will mean the case will remain with Clinton for the rest of his presidency, but his aides are more concerned about how Starr's probe is far from over.

-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET allocated the most time to the Jones and Starr stories. From Dallas, Fox reporter Mike Emanuel (sp?) was the only reporter to specify that Jones said Clinton "asked her for oral sex." Brian Wilson filed from Chile with Clinton. Then co-anchor Jon Scott interviewed John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. One of Scott's questions:

"Hillary Clinton, of course, blamed many of her husband's problems on this vast right-wing conspiracy, her words. The fact that yours is a conservative institute, do you ever feel that you are in danger of in some way playing into their hands by supporting Paula Jones in this effort?"

Up next, an interview with Fox legal analyst Stan Goldman. Scott asked Goldman to react to this assessment:

"What this decision said to a lot of people is that you get one free shot. You can drop your trousers one time, if this behavior on the part of the President, the allegations are to be believed, and you're not hurting anybody, it's okay."

Finally, David Shuster delivered a piece on Starr.

-- NBC Nightly News did not air a full story on Jones, instead Tom Brokaw just introduced a clip from her statement. Brokaw asserted: "Today, Jones made an emotional announcement."

Lisa Myers handled the Starr developments, explaining:

"In cutting ties to Pepperdine Starr also bowed to critics who claimed the job was a serious conflict of interest because the school is funded, in part, by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, financial godfather of the alleged right-wing conspiracy against the President. Starr insists he has absolutely no ties to Scaife who is alleged to have given indirect financial aid to a key Whitewater witness against the President."

Starr explained he never met and has no connection to Starr before Myers highlighted signs he's not ending but expanding his probe: he's hired more lawyers, hired a spokesman and plans regular press conferences to explain his side.

Tim Russert came on next to answer Brokaw's questions about Jones. Russert declared of the 8th Circuit: "It is conservative court." But, he noted, it is reluctant to overturn rulings though it did previously overturn Judge Wright by saying the Jones suit could proceed while Clinton was still in office.

As usual, in linking Starr to Scaife or Scaife to Starr, none of the networks pointed out that Scaife ceased funding the American Spectator after it ran a story defending Starr's conclusion that Vince Foster committed suicide.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)While the Fox News Channel last week noted the criminal and fortune-teller background of those involved in accusing David Hale of taking money from conservatives, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC have yet to add that context to their reports on the Hale matter. (See the April 13 and April 15 CyberAlerts) But the networks weren't so reluctant about raising disparaging information about a witness against Clinton. When the New Yorker's Jane Mayer in mid-March wrote a story reporting a 1969 arrest of Linda Tripp, the networks jumped. NBC and CNN ran stories in the evening and Bryant Gumbel invited Mayer onto his Public Eye show on CBS to cast doubt on Tripp's credibility.

Mayer herself is far from a dispassionate journalist, as the former Wall Street Journal reporter made clear in how she recently denounced the idea that there was anything wrong with her checking Tripp's private personnel file to see if she reported the arrest Tripp's lawyer says was expunged. Responding to a Nat Hentoff op-ed piece in the Washington Post criticizing her for invading Tripp's privacy, Mayer let loose on Tripp in a letter that reads more like a prosecutor's summation than a detached journalist defending her ethics. Here's her letter to the editor which appeared in the April 10 Washington Post:

"You know you are living in an age of 'spin' when Linda Tripp, the woman who surreptitiously taped 20 hours of a friend's private phone conversations and then turned the tapes over to federal prosecutors, is portrayed as a victim whose privacy has been cruelly invaded.

"Nat Hentoff ['Linda Tripp's Privacy,' op-ed, March 28] seems to think that it's okay for Ms. Tripp to accuse her erstwhile friend Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton of criminal behavior, but that it is not okay for anyone to know that she herself was arrested on a felony charge of grand larceny and, after posting bail and being held in custody, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of loitering.

"Nor apparently should the public learn that Ms. Tripp, who has said her sole motive for blowing the whistle is an abhorrence of lying, withheld the truth about her arrest record in the course of obtaining a top-secret security clearance that enabled her to work for a classified project in the military and later in the most sensitive office in the White House. Asked in 1987 under penalty of law if she had ever been "arrested, charged, cited orheld by" any law enforcement authority "regardless of whether the citation was dropped or dismissed," she answered no.

"Ms. Tripp had several days to respond to questions about her arrest record, but declined to do so. Instead, her lawyer belatedly protested to others less familiar with the case that she had believed that her record would be expunged and that she need never mention it again. The judge who allegedly told her this is dead. Meanwhile her arrest record never has been sealed, nor marked in any way suggesting any intention that it be expunged. It is available to anyone willing to fill out a Freedom of Information Act form, part of what this country considers the public record.

"Ms. Tripp and her lawyers have managed to make the issue of her failure to disclose the full truth about her past into a question of her privacy rights. Was it unfair of the Pentagon to have confirmed to me that as far as it knew, Ms. Tripp had no arrest record? Clearly, such an answer was seen as harmless, even exculpatory. Was it unfair for me to write accurately about Ms. Tripp's clouded legal past? I'd argue that when an unknown individual steps forward to accuse the highest elected official in the country of criminal behavior, the public has every right to know as much as it can, not just about the charge, but also about who the accuser is and what sort of credibility she might have.

"No one can claim to look inside Linda Tripp's soul, but it is the press's obligation to let the public see whatever facts are available. Among those facts are an indisputable and previously undisclosed arrest record, which the Pentagon recently told Ms. Tripp she must forthrightly acknowledge from now on."

I think it's pretty clear that Mayer's soul is one of a committed liberal willing to use her professional opportunities to discredit anyone who might damage Clinton.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)NBC's Today actually focused Thursday morning on the Gore's paltry charitable giving, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed. Katie Couric introduced a story:

"As we've been telling you it's the day after tax day. And a single line in Vice President Al Gore's 1997 income tax return is raising a few questions. Here's NBC's David Gregory."

Gregory began by emphasizing how much the Gores give of themselves, but also highlighted how little they gave financially:

"Charity, it's said, comes from the heart. But it also comes from the wallet. Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper are no grinches when it comes to giving of themselves. Touring tornado damage, building homes for the poor, feeding the homeless. But when it comes to giving their money 1997 was a down year. A single line in the Vice President's 1997 income tax return says the Gores gave $353 to charity. $353 out of an income of nearly $200,000. That's less than they spent for example on pest control, $389, and it's raising some eyebrows...."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)Leave it to CBS. They can't even keep their anti-Reagan bias out of a retrospective series marking the 50th anniversary of the CBS Evening News. All this week the show is devoting eight-minute-long pieces to the history of the show. Thursday night: the transition from Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather and the 1980s.

Here's what the Reagan years meant to CBS News:

Lesley Stahl, from a 1980s story: "How does Ronald Reagan use television. Brilliantly."

Stahl currently, recalling the Reagan years: "They just, in a Hollywood way, put together tableaus, pictures, that were so imprinted on the public's brains that they overrode what people were saying because they were so powerful."

Stahl in old story over Reagan on stage with balloons and flags all around and in crowd: "Americans want to feel proud of their country again and of their President and the TV pictures say you can."

Stahl, currently, over video of Ronald and Nancy Reagan walking to and getting onto helicopter: "You would have Ronnie and Nancy Reagan go off to Camp David every Friday on the helicopter from the South Lawn of the White House. And out they would go. She'd give him the gaze. These are all visual images that said, extremely powerfully, what a happy family they are. Well we knew that he never saw his kids and he didn't even know his grandchildren. We knew that, but the picture was more powerful. I think we began to change the way we covered the President after that. I think everybody realized, as I did, that they were using pictures to drown us out."

Without getting into the accuracy or inaccuracy of Stahl's assessment of Reagan family life, how exactly does a husband and wife showing they love each other imply they visit their grandchildren weekly? With Stahl's kind of objective attitude toward them I can't imagine why the Reagan team wanted to "drown out" the media.

But speaking of Presidents creating family images that contradict reality, recall the video every network broadcast, from a week and a half after the Lewinsky story broke, of Bill Clinton with his arm around Chelsea as they walked to the helicopter for a Friday night ride to Camp David. But the March American Spectator noted in its "On the Prowl" column:

"As for the 'family' weekend at Camp David, Mom flew off to Switzerland while Dad logged more than six hours Saturday on the golf course, and then two more holed up with personal attorney David Kendall after dinner. Chelsea left early Sunday to be back at Stanford in time for Monday morning classes."

CBS never reported the reality over the image. Neither did he other networks. Maybe CBS will get to it in 2048 on the 100th anniversary of the CBS Evening News. Don't bet on it.

-- Brent Baker

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