CyberAlert -- 06/19/1996 -- Clinton Slick?; Anti-Hillary Smear Attack?

Clinton Slick?; Anti-Hillary Smear Attack?

Three brief Filegate and Whitewater coverage updates.

1) NBC's Tim Russert says filegate could "capsize" Clinton administration, but Bryant Gumbel wonders how Bill Clinton can put behind him "the perception" that he "is a little slick."

2) On CBS This Morning the fill-in co-host acts as a Clinton campaign operative and dismisses the relevance of the Senate Whitewater report. Referring to it and upcoming travelgate hearings she wonders "Are we really wasting money and time when there's already an independent counsel?"

3) ABC's World News Tonight leads show with three stories on Clinton scandals, but Dan Rather again portrays Republicans as the aggressors and Hillary Clinton as the victim.


Tuesday morning on Today Tim Russert declared: "If things are as they say they are with Filegate, there's no problem. But if the President or the First Lady or any high-ranking White House official authorized or condoned gathering files, this small kind of ripple could capsize this administration. It is that big of an event."
To which Gumbel responded: "What's Bill Clinton then, Tim, got to do to put this behind him? As you said, isolated, these various incidents don't mean an awful lot, but cumulatively, they give the perception that the President is a little slick around the edges." Perception?


On the June 18 edition of CBS This Morning fill-in co-host Erin Moriarty interviewed Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari, Hillary friend Lynn Cutler and Washington Post reporter David Maraniss. MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham noticed the very pro-Clinton tilt of her questions. All seven try to dismiss the importance of the Whitewater matter as a whole lot of nothing. Here are her questions, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson:
"Let me start with you, Mr. Maraniss. You know, it's a little bit anti-climatic today. The report's being issued, but most of us have heard so much of what's already in it, is there really anything that spells trouble for the First Lady Hillary Clinton?"
"Well, Mr. Maraniss, when you take a look at this, and I know you've written about this, we're talking about transactions that occurred a decade ago. I mean, can't some of this just be simply forgetfulness?"
"Well, but we've got those questions, then at the same time you've got this House committee that's taking a look at the travel office and of course the suggestions that the First Lady Hillary Clinton may have pressured the firing of some of the agents in that office. Does this add to that, does that increase the problems, or is this, again, just a lot of questions?"
"Well, let me switch back to you, Representative Molinari. You can't help but, and I know a lot of people take a look at this, there have been one hundred hours of hearings by the Senate, on the Whitewater committee, and then now there are the hearings on the travel office. Are we really wasting money and time when there's already an independent counsel?"
"But let's be honest here. I mean, this is an election year. How much of this, as the White House, of course, says, is just a matter of the Republicans piling on in a presidential election year?"
"Well, I think Lynn Cutler probably has a response to that. I mean, you're proud of being a friend of Hillary Clinton. What is your response to the Representative's words?"
"Mr. Maraniss, let me just get to you quickly, just to kind of sum this up. All the way along, this morning, we're talking about Hillary Clinton. What does this mean for the President in his election? I mean, his name has not been raised really in any of this, except in passing."


ABC's World News Tonight on Tuesday night (June 18) led with three stories in a row on Clinton scandals. Peter Jennings announced that the Senate Republican report "is very harsh about Mrs. Clinton above all." First, Jackie Judd provided a story on the Senate Whitewater reports. Second, Michele Norris reviewed the allegations against Mrs. Clinton. Norris pointed out how records contradict some of her claims and concluded: "The Clintons accuse their critics of bombarding them with a never ending stream of questions to keep them on the defensive. But an examination of the First Lady's statements suggest that problems like Whitewater stay afloat because while the questions keep coming, the answers often change."
Third, Brit Hume summarized the FBI file story, noting that Anthony Marceca answered House committee questions, Craig Livingstone went on leave, and that Secret Service officials said the list does not resemble any list their computer could have generated.

On NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw asserted in his top of the show opening: "The White House and those FBI files, the controversy that won't die as the President's men scramble some more." NBC aired a story by Brian Williams on Filegate and a piece by Lisa Myers on Whitewater.

CBS, however, was in a different world, not airing a full story on Filegate. Instead, 12 minutes into the broadcast Dan Rather did a brief item on Livingstone going on leave. Then Rather offered this even-handed assessment: "The more than year-long investigation ended almost the way it began: A Republican offensive targeted First Lady Hillary Clinton. Democrats claim that it's an all-out-election-year-political-smear-attack."

-- Brent Baker