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CyberAlert -- 08/14/1998 -- Dan Rather Linked Bombings to GOP

Dan Rather Linked Bombings to GOP "Cutbacks;" MRC in FNC Ad

1) No Monicagate on ABC or NBC Thursday night. But many specials planned for Sunday. If Clinton lied, a new CNN poll discovered, most think that's enough to consider impeachment.

2) "There is a well-financed group of zealots who want to bring down the President. And this guy has no money," insisted one of several Hollywood celebrities on why he gave to Clinton's defense fund.

3) Blame the bombings on the Republican Congress? Thursday night Dan Rather claimed the State Dept. is trying to improve embassy security "despite drastic budget cutbacks by Congress."

4) Fox News Channel ran ads Thursday, in major newspapers, which featured a Wall Street Journal editorial citing a CyberAlert item.

5) Sunday night Ted Turner's TBS will feature the movie The American President, a Hollywood tribute to a Clinton-like President.

Corrections: It was only Thursday the 13th, but I made a Friday the 13th number of errors in the August 13 CyberAlert. First, I listed the wrong date for the CyberAlert on Geraldo Rivera's exchange on Today with Katie Couric. It's July 30. The correct link:

Second, a few lines below in writing about what Rivera says in an upcoming Playboy interview, I wrote "Rivera's makes issues some hits on his colleagues in the upcoming Playboy interview." That should have read "Rivera issues some hits..." Third, I suggested that to see "a collection of Gumbel's best bias from his NBC days, call up the December 30, 1998 Notable Quotables." We don't quote bias before it's uttered. That issue came out in 1996, but the listed link to the issue was correct. Fourth, I credited the wrong MRC staffer with passing along to me a New York Times article on Bryant Gumbel. It was really Tom Johnson.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) August 13, the calm before the storm. Thursday night neither ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News mentioned Monicagate. CBS ran a field report and an item from Dan Rather on a court ruling rebuking Ken Starr for leaking, FNC delivered one story and CNN actually made room for three pieces, including news that a poll determined that 71 percent think it's relevant if Clinton lied in the Paula Jones case and "56 percent say that alone would be enough to consider removing him from office."

But while ABC and NBC were quiet, all that will soon change. NBC promoted a special In Depth series of stories for Friday's Nightly News on the scandal and ABC has scheduled a special for 9pm ET/PT Sunday night, "Crisis in the White House: The President Testifies." Plus, CNN's Late Edition will expand to two hours and from 8 to 11pm ET Sunday night CNN will feature a three hour long joint effort with Time magazine called "Investigating the President, A National Town Meeting: The Reporters." Three hours? That's nothing compared to FNC which is promoting eight hours of live preview coverage from 3pm to midnight ET on Sunday.

Thursday night all the networks but ABC led with the memorial service for the bombing victims followed by an update on the investigation. ABC flipped the order. Here's what CBS, CNN and FNC delivered on the Monica-front on Thursday night, August 13:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather briefly mentioned how the Clinton defense fund has raised $2 million as he introduced a piece by Bill Plante. With the memorial service out of the way, Plante suspected, Clinton can now spend most of his time preparing for Monday. "There are key facts in this case which Mr. Clinton still does not know," Plante noted. Specifically, did a Secret Service officer actually see Clinton and Lewinsky in a compromising position. An officer once said he did, Plante asserted, but now he's not sticking by that story. And, what is on the dress? Starr will not share results with Clinton, Plante reported.
After Plante, Rather intoned: "Kenneth Starr is also facing tough questions in court. Unsealed court documents revealed the argument Starr made, and an appeals court didn't buy, when it ruled Starr should be investigated for possibly illegal leaks of what are supposed to be secret grand jury and testimony. Starr contended that quote, 'revealing confidential investigative information to journalists is like trading information with confidential police informers.' The court rejected Starr's claim and cited several specific leaks that it said warranted investigation."

-- CNN's The World Today. After anchor Jim Moret noted the grand jury appearance of four Secret Service officers, viewers saw three stories in a row on Monicagate. First up, Bob Franken on Starr and the report: "CNN has been told that Starr is personally pushing his staff to finish its report by the time Congress returns from its recess." But even if he does, Franken suggested, the House will only take initial steps this fall and Newt Gingrich has cautioned Republicans to avoid reckless comments.

Second, Wolf Blitzer ran through the implications of a new CNN/USA Today poll which found that "only 26 percent would lose confidence" if Clinton admitted and affair, but "some 71 percent believe it would be relevant if the President lied under oath in the Paula Jones case. And more than half, 56 percent, say that alone would be enough to consider removing him from office."
Blitzer concluded: "A presidential adviser says these latest poll numbers are consistent with internal White House polls numbers and tend to strengthen the position of those arguing against any full-scale presidential explanation or confession after Mr. Clinton testifies."

Third, Pierre Thomas reviewed the steps the FBI is taking to ensure that the DNA test results remain secret to everyone but those in Ken Starr's office.

-- FNC's Fox Report. David Shuster gave a run down of the appearance by four Secret Service officers who finished up on Thursday, how one who once told a colleague he saw Clinton and Lewinsky in a compromising situation is no longer telling that story, that the defense fund has raised $2 million generated by direct mail that named Starr, and how technicians are preparing the video system for Monday.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Clinton's celebrity-funded defense fund. A front page New York Times story on August 13 revealed that in just six months the Clinton Legal Expense Trust has raked in $2 million. That's a bit more than the $10,000 reporter Don Van Natta Jr. learned the Lewinsky defense fund has received or the less than $25,000 given so far to Linda Tripp's fund.

Van Natta explained the reasons for the fund's success, the enthusiasm of one celebrity and who else in Hollywood coughed up the maximum allowed:
"More than 8,000 people have sent contributions to the new trust, ranging from $1 to the $10,000 maximum, the supporters said. Donations came 'from Main Street, Wall Street and Hollywood,' said one supporter who insisted on anonymity. 'The direct mail was very successful.'
"Several officials said the trust's total had been spurred by supporters' anger and frustration with Starr's four-year-old inquiry of the President. The solicitations began in late February, five weeks after Starr's prosecutors began investigating the Lewinsky matter.
"'I would have given more, but they didn't want any more,' said David Geffen, the entertainment mogul who said in an interview today that he had contributed $10,000 to the trust. The President spent several hours with Geffen on Tuesday at his Palladian-style home on his nine-acre Beverly Hills, Calif., estate.
"'I just think this is an incredibly unfortunate situation for the President and for this country,' Geffen said. 'There is a well-financed group of zealots who want to bring down the President. And this guy has no money. He's broke. This is a terrible situation.'
"Fundraisers attracted generous support from others in the entertainment industry. Supporters of the Clintons said the trust had received $10,000 checks from the performer Barbra Streisand, the actor Tom Hanks, the film maker Steven Spielberg, the film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film executive Harvey Weinstein, the television producer Bud Yorkin and Gail Zappa, the widow of the performer Frank Zappa...."

Of course Clinton wouldn't need so much money if he weren't using lawyers who charge $500 an hour and bill for the time they spend talking to the media.


Drathercap.jpg (25924 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)In between August 13 CBS Evening News stories on the investigation into the embassy bombings in Africa, Dan Rather squeezed in this attack on the Republican Congress:
"As for beefing up security at U.S. embassies around the world, CBS's Sharyl Attkisson reports U.S. officials are trying to move quickly despite drastic budget cutbacks by Congress in recent years. Attkisson's sources tell her the State Department is now being inundated with calls from American embassies wanting security inspections and other help."

Really? I checked the "budget outlays in millions" table for each government agency as listed in the Statistical Abstract and found that the State Department spent:
1990: 3,979
1993: 5,384
1994: 5,718
1995: 5,344
1996: 4,951
1997: 5,487 (estimated)

Inflation has run about 22 percent from 1990 to 1997, so 1997 spending would have to be 4,854 to maintain the 1990 level. It's quite a bit more than that. So it looks like it grew wildly in the Bush years and now is down to an inflation plus growth rate. But, as Republican Senator Richard Lugar noted in a story by Andrea Mitchell on the NBC Nightly News, before either branch starts issuing blame, as to why security upgrades were not made, they should realize that "the fact is the administrations plural have not asked for the money and Congress certainly has not pressed it upon them."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)The MRC's CyberAlert was cited in a Fox News Channel newspaper ad. As you may have seen, Thursday's Washington Post and New York Times printed a quarter-page ad for FNC that reprinted the August 4 Wall Street Journal editorial which relied upon this e-mail report to make a point. A full-page version of the ad appeared in the Washington Times.

"ANOTHER REASON TO WATCH FOX NEWS CHANNEL" announced the ad headline over a reprint of an excerpt from the Journal editorial which stated: "Ms. Tripp told Tony Snow of Fox News last Thursday that White House deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey had told her she would be 'destroyed' if she went public. She also reported that Ms. Lewinsky conveyed such messages as, 'You have two children to think about' and that talking to reporters 'is a dangerous thing to do.' "Surprisingly, the Media Research Center reports no broadcast networks except Fox covered these explosive allegations. Why not."

If you were wondering about the details, here's what I reported in an August 3 CyberAlert item:
"Friday night every network noted that Clinton will testify live via video to the grand jurors and all played the entirety ofClinton's four sentence non-answer answer in the Rose Garden about his upcoming testimony. All but FNC, which broke it into three parts with reporter Jim Angle pointedly commenting on each, ran it straight through. NBC's Claire Shipman declared that his non- responsive response displayed 'confidence.' Only FNC's David Shuster, relaying the claims of a leaker he actually named, highlighted how Linda Tripp says she was threatened by Bruce Lindsey."

Detailing FNC's Friday, July 31 Fox Report I relayed:
"David Shuster found a leaker willing to be identified: 'In a leak to Fox News Linda Tripp says that a significant part of her testimony to the grand jury focused on efforts by Clinton supporters to keep her quiet. Tripp told the grand jury she was threatened repeatedly. She testified it began last summer at the time Newsweek was preparing to report an encounter between the President and Kathleen Willey. In the story Tripp was quoted as saying Willey had emerged from the Oval Office with her lipstick smeared and blouse untucked. Tripp said Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey threatened to destroy her if she repeated this assertion in the Paula Jones lawsuit...'"

As you may have noticed, I was referring only to evening shows but the Journal used the more general term "broadcast networks" which different people my interpret differently as to what that encompasses. So, to be thorough, on Thursday the MRC analysts checked to see what, if any, other coverage Tripp got for her assertion about a direct threat from Bruce Lindsey. First, going beyond just the broadcast shows, MRC analyst Eric Darbe checked CNN's The World Today and Late Edition and found nothing. For the broadcast networks Clay Waters found nothing in the relevant time period on ABC's Good Morning America or This Week. Same for NBC's Today and Meet the Press as checked by Geoffrey Dickens.

Jessica Anderson did, however, discover one mention on the August 2 edition of CBS's Face the Nation. Host Bob Schieffer asked Tripp lawyer Joseph Murtha: "Your colleague Mr. Zacchanini, who is also part of the legal team for Ms. Tripp, the other night was quoted on Nightline as saying that Ms. Tripp got some ominous threats, I believe that's the term he used, in connection with this. We've now heard that perhaps Bruce Lindsey, the President's closest adviser, may have told Linda Tripp at one point that she would be destroyed if she came public with certain things. Can you clear this up, Mr. Murtha?" (The Nightline exchange did not mention Lindsey.)

Murtha confirmed the Lindsey threat, a quote featured in an AP story later that day. But, as noted in the August 3 CyberAlert, neither ABC or NBC mentioned the Lindsey threat that night and neither I now know did CNN. CBS golf coverage pre-empted the CBS Evening News that night in the east, so on Thursday I checked our tape of the August 3 Up to the Minute (CBS's overnight show) to see if I could find the Monicagate story which ran the night before. I found the piece by Sharyl Attkisson and discovered that even CBS failed to pick up on the newsworthy exchange aired on its own show. But Attkisson did run a soundbite from the program.
Referring to the dress, she asserted: "Mr. Clinton's supporters downplayed the importance of the test results." Viewers then saw this clip of Jack Quinn on Face the Nation: "This is a matter of sex between consenting adults and the question of whether or not one or the other was truthful about it. That doesn't go to the question of his conduct in office and in that sense it's trivial."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Those not interested in watching CNN's Town Meeting about Clinton's testimony Sunday night can flip over to CNN's sister operation, in the Time-Warner empire, TBS which will offer multiple showings across all time zones of the movie The American President, a Hollywood dream of all they wish Clinton could be.

As reported in the May 14 CyberAlert, Rob Reiner directed and produced the 1995 film starring Michael Douglas as Democratic President "Andrew Shepard," a widow with a teenage daughter. Just like Clinton sans Hillary. He falls in love with environmental lobbyist "Sydney Ellen Wade," played by Annette Bening. (Read no further if you wish to be surprised by the movie.) At one point in the Oval Office "Wade" lectures "Shepard": "Global warming is a calamity, the effects of which will be second only to nuclear war..."

The unmarried President carrying on an affair provides an angle for the Republican candidate for President to attack. The Republican: Senator "Bob Rumson" from Kansas. Sound familiar? Richard Dreyfuss plays "Rumson," an odious man bent on twisting the facts to make character an issue. Planning strategy with his staff, one asserts that they will not be able to get the media to take up the character issue. "Rumson" counters: "Reporters like him. Networks and newspapers like ratings and circulation. For all the bitching we do about liberal bias in the press when it comes to a good character debate..." Another aide continues the thought:
"...the press is an unwitting accomplice."

Naturally, by the end of the movie the wavering "Shepard" comes to his senses and becomes a forceful liberal. Responding to "Rumson's" attacks "Shepard" goes to the press room and declares:
"Yes, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is why aren't you Bob? Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the bill of rights, so it naturally begs the question why would a Senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?"

Next, he announces, "White House resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction in the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years" and a crime bill getting rid of assault weapons and handguns because they are "a threat to national security."

Somehow, I think this movie explains Hollywood's never- diminishing support for Clinton, as most recently demonstrated by the defense fund donations. They still dream that Clinton might just someday step up to the microphone and be transformed into that ideal crusading liberal portrayed by Michael Douglass. -- Brent Baker

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