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CyberAlert -- 08/18/1998 -- CBS: "Extraordinary" Speech; Hillary as Victim Not Perpetrator

CBS: "Extraordinary" Speech; Hillary as Victim Not Perpetrator

1) Geraldo Rivera disparaged Ken Starr as "the self righteous prosecutor" and Eleanor Clift decided Clinton's speech "perfectly reflects the emotions of the American people tonight."

2) Prime time reaction: Bob Schieffer awestruck by Clinton's "extraordinary" speech, Sam Donaldson and Scott Pelley less impressed. NBC focused on public support for Clinton and Brokaw kept raising his wish that the scandal can now be put aside.

3) Evening shows: "Will Ken Starr let it end here?" hoped Tom Brokaw. NBC passed along Clinton's favorite psalm. Instead of depicting Hillary as active in Bill's obfuscation, CBS & NBC claimed she's a "humiliated" spouse surprised about Lewinsky.

4) Just last week Lanny Davis declared on ABC that Bill Clinton "has a record of being candid" about his sexual liaisons.

5) Eleanor Clift claimed that she "figured out months ago that something inappropriate went on between" Clinton and Lewinsky.


Notes: First, I realize this is an extra-long CyberAlert, but it covers a big day. Second, this CyberAlert was sent to the listserve at 6am ET, so all recipients should have received it by 8am. The distribution of yesterday's edition was delayed for unknown reasons for about eight hours and was received by recipients up to 13 hours after it was posted. For future reference, MRC Web operatives Sean Henry and Kenny Lemay reliably get the CyberAlert up on the MRC home page by 10am ET in the morning.

Correction: There were two items numbered #5 in the August 17 CyberAlert. The second #5 was really #6.

1

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) First up today, a quick one-two punch from Clinton's undaunted defenders: Geraldo Rivera and Eleanor Clift. First, a taste of Geraldo caught by MRC analyst Mark Drake. At the top of his 9pm ET Rivera Live show on CNBC Monday night just an hour before the President spoke, Rivera announced over video of Ken Starr:
"This is the President's pursuer, Ken Starr, the self righteous prosecutor who relentlessly forced today's historic and unprecedented confrontation."

Second, after Clinton's little talk, at about 10:30pm ET on FNC Eleanor Clift told Tony Snow:
"I saw a man who seemed very saddened, he is saddened by these events and he also reflected a certain amount of anger and I think that perfectly reflects the emotions of the American people tonight. I think people are disappointed in this President that he behaved this way, but they are also putting it in perspective and that it is largely a private matter."

2

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) After President Clinton's four-minute address from the White House which began at 10:02 ET Monday night, ABC's Sam Donaldson noted it "was not the speech his aides hoped he would make" and Peter Jennings wondered about his allies left out on a limb. But on CBS Bob Schieffer was awestruck, repeatedly employing the word "extraordinary." His colleague Scott Pelley, however, emphasized how Clinton never "owned up" to his fist-waving lie in January nor how much money his seven months of obstruction cost taxpayers. NBC's Tom Brokaw kept pushing guests about whether the nation can now move beyond the scandal or whether it's time for the nation to forgive so it can heal. In reports from both coasts NBC showcased citizens thrilled with Clinton's comments who hope Starr will now drop his case. One exception: Maria Shriver stumbled upon a Californian upset that Clinton is "too Republican."

Before the speech CBS reporter Eric Engberg treated Hillary Clinton as a victim of a "family tragedy" instead of as an active participant in a seven month campaign of lies and obfuscation. An angry Orrin Hatch made appearances on all the broadcast and cable networks. Barney Frank was almost as popular, but he seemed to move around his home in Provincetown as the background changed for each network.

The quotes below and in item #3 that follows are made possible by the MRC's night beat team of Clay Waters watching ABC, Geoffrey Dickens monitoring NBC, Eric Darbe analyzing CNN, Jessica Anderson checking out CBS, Mark Drake looking at CNBC and Paul Smith observing FNC. Geoffrey and Jessica deserve double mention for stayed past midnight.

-- ABC News cut into a pre-season NFL football game at 10pm ET and rejoined football at 10:26pm, thus offering less than half the coverage time as CBS and NBC.

Following Clinton, Sam Donaldson observed: "This was not the speech his aides hoped he would make and believed he was going to make. This was a sort of defiant speech. When he said seven months is long enough, it was echoes of one year of Watergate is long enough....He did not tell the country what that relationship was. That question publicly is still unanswered. We're told that he did before the grand jury, admit that it was a relationship including sexual contact. But he didn't come clean with the country tonight."

Cokie Roberts suggested Clinton just matched what pollsters said the public wanted to hear: "The President touched all the subjects which the polls are telling us the American people agree with him on. They think the investigation is politically motivated, they think it's gone on too long, they think it's time to get back to the work of the country, and the security interests of the country. And they think that his private life should be private."

Peter Jennings wondered about all those who seemed to believe Clinton all these months: "George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Clinton said this evening the Independent Counsel has hurt so many people. What about all those people who've been standing up for the President for lo these seven-and-a-half months, on tape, repeatedly seen on television, defending him because they believe in him. What happens to them now?"


-- In a decision that probably disappointed Clinton, CBS dumped the scheduled 9-11pm ET Miss Teen USA show and ran Everybody Loves Raymond at 9pm followed by a 90-minute CBS News special at 9:30pm ET. CBS allocated part of the first half hour to replaying the January 1992 60 Minutes interview with the Clintons about Gennifer Flowers.

Just before Clinton's speech, Eric Engberg lamented the plight of the First Lady: "Dan, unlike any other scandal in memory, the country has been acutely aware that what it is witnessing is not just a political thunderclap, but a family tragedy. For seven months, she has been the first defender as well as First Lady. Had she not done her job so well, it's not likely the President would have stood up so well in the opinion polls. While other Clinton supporters froze in shock after the initial Lewinsky story seven months ago, Mrs. Clinton went on television to attribute the charges to political foes."
Hillary Clinton: "This vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President."

In other words, she lied. But instead of pursuing her complicity in her husband's fraud, Engberg highlighted sympathetic comments from Jesse Jackson about how they blame Ken Starr:
"In recent days, as Mrs. Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, were told how the President would answer grand jury questions, the Clintons asked to see the Reverend Jesse Jackson, an old friend, who described the President's mood."
Jackson: "He has a sense of, of shame, a sense of self-disappointment, at this moment, in himself. But fundamentally, this family, through this storm, remains strong. What I basically talked with them about was, was having faith during a storm. When these storms come suddenly and come violently, you can't panic and jump overboard."
Engberg: "Jackson says the Clintons are united in their anger against Independent Counsel Ken Starr."
Jackson: "The one thing that kind of connects and binds all of them, is a sense that, the intrusion they feel by Starr, for this investigation to go from a, a failed land, water deal in Arkansas about her, and end up about a dress in Washington about him, they feel this, this unprecedented political journey has been unfair, and they feel connected by that."
Engberg: "Jackson pointed to the fact that Hillary Clinton took part in strategy sessions at the White House as further evidence of her grace and devotion. Referring to the President, he said, the good news for Bill Clinton in this is that he learned that Hillary's love is unconditional."


Following the speech, Dan Rather turned to Bob Schieffer: "Question: Is it enough to keep him from impeachment proceedings in the Congress? We go to CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. Bob, is it enough?"
An easily impressed Bob Schieffer replied: "I'm going to take a deep breath here, Dan [laughs]. That was just an extraordinary statement. I, I don't recall, in all the time I've been in Washington, hearing something quite like that. Is it enough? I don't know....This was just an extraordinary statement tonight, just the fact that the President of the United States would come on television and discuss something like this, that in itself is extraordinary. But to say that he had misled his wife, he had misled his family, you don't hear this kind of thing very often, Dan."

CBS reporter Scott Pelley managed a more thoughtful assessment: "First of all, it didn't seem that the President really owned up to the statement last January when he wagged his finger into the television camera and said, 'I want you to listen to me: I did not have an improper relationship with that woman.' Also, consider this: The President talked about this going on for seven months. Well, the President has been using the White House, the White House staff, White House lawyers, for seven months to defend this lie, essentially. We may never know how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent here at the White House to defend what the President now admits was a lie. All along we were told that this was a vast right wing conspiracy and that it was an attack on the White House and the presidency, an unjustified one. Well, now apparently that wasn't the case and the President is acknowledging that he knew that all along...."


-- NBC News began a special edition of Dateline NBC at 9pm ET and stuck with the news special through 11pm.

Can the scandal now end? Tom Brokaw hoped so. To Senator Orrin Hatch:
"Two of the points that you made that he had refused to cooperate until just today and that he has misled the American public. He has dissembled or lied in the eyes of a lot of people but now he has said that in fact he did mislead the American public and his own family and he did cooperate today. Does that mean in your judgement that this matter should begin to come to an end?"

To Republican Congressman Bill McCullom:
"Tell us first of all do you think that the President went far enough tonight to satisfy your, you at least, that impeachment proceedings will not have to go forward?"
"Congressman McCullom as you know any impeachment proceedings would have to take place in a political context. Do you think that the President with his testimony today, his admission tonight that he was wrong, [that he] had a critical lapse in judgment, that he wants to repair his relationship with his family, that the President has begun to restore at least his political standing in this matter?"

To Randy Tate of the Christian Coalition:
"One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, Mr. Tate, is forgiveness. Does the President deserve the forgiveness of the nation tonight?"
"But once the President does make the kind of critical lapse in judgement, the wrong mistake, as he described it tonight, once he says he regrets that is that not also a lesson for the nation's children?"

Brokaw did inquire of Lanny Davis: "Let me ask you as someone who believed the President for a time whether you felt any sense of betrayal tonight as you listened to his remarks?" But, instead of condemning Clinton Brokaw painted him as typical, asking:
"Why can't Bill Clinton or any President for that matter, Jonathan Alter, simply look into the camera and say to the American public, 'I have put you through a terrible ordeal for the past seven months and for that I apologize?'"
"Jonathan Alter was his attack on Ken Starr and his investigation at the conclusion of his remarks, was that unfair?"
Alter of Newsweek offered a positive spin: "It was honest. People wanted him to really say what was on his mind and this does reflect Bill Clinton's true attitude toward this investigation."

From East to West NBC discovered public joy with Clinton's speech and hope it will all go away. Bob Kur drove to Towson, Maryland to watch Clinton with a cross section of voters which supposedly included Dole backers. Kur told Brokaw: "I must say going in Tom that this group, most of them believed that the President, what he was going to say tonight, should be the last word in all of this."
These voters didn't let any facts get in the way as Kur explained: "There are reports tonight that the President was not completely candid in his responses. He didn't give detailed answers. If that's the case would it bother any one of you? [Chorus of no's] And can I see a show of hands if anyone would want the President to resign. Show of hands please. One out of this crowd of 14 or 15."

Later, Maria Shriver checked in from "the Broadway Deli. Very busy restaurant in Santa Monica, California. When the President spoke here not too long ago you could hear a pin drop in this restaurant. I'm here with Debra Castiglione and Bruce Williams, he's a teacher, she's a sales exec. You said that you were really interested in what the President had to say. Did he come clean enough for you?"
Debra Castiglione: "Yes, he certainly did."
Shriver: "You still proud to have him as the President?"
Castiglione: "I am proud to have him as our President, yes."
Shriver: "Was it enough of an apology for you?"
Castiglione: "Yes I think he owes it to Hillary and his daughter and that should be it. It's over."
Shriver: "Debra said that she was most concerned, at the end of the speech, about Hillary and Chelsea. Bruce you were saying that you are not a Clinton fan but you thought this was remarkable grace under pressure."
Bruce Williams: "Yes I did. I'm not a Clinton fan because actually I think he's become too much of a Republican. But I can't imagine anyone being in that position and I think any of us, any of us if we had $40 million aimed at our private lives would be in trouble. And I think that this pursuit of Clinton has been vicious and is politically motivated...."

Still hoping the end is near, Brokaw plaintively asked Tim Russert: "The last guest that we had from California said, 'Who would go into politics now?' Is this possibly a kind of bottoming out of this kind of compulsive fascination that this entire country has had with this subject and the polarization that it has brought about. And is there a possibility that out of all of this the country will now find a way of healing itself somewhere in the middle ground?"

3

Jessejcap.jpg (30125 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Over half the August 17 broadcast network evening news shows dealt with Clinton's testimony and speculation about his upcoming address. All three passed along sympathetic comments about the First family from Jesse Jackson and the CBS and NBC line-ups featured stories displaying empathy for Hillary Clinton, portraying her as a victim instead of denouncing her complicity in the seven months of obfuscation.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings interviewed Jesse Jackson, asking: "Mr. Jackson, how are they taking it?" and "You told me earlier today that you thought that Chelsea was a very poised individual. I know you talk to her on a reasonably regular basis. How is she taking this? She's been quite isolated by both her parents and the press to some extent." After Jackson claimed "there's a kind of common resentment that Starr's intrusion has attacked their family in ways that has bound their family as opposed to tearing it apart," Jennings did point out: "There are many people in the country who of course will say that it was Mr. Clinton who brought that on, not the Independent Counsel."

Later Jennings talked with George Stephanopoulos, posing two questions. First, "How disappointed were you, as a friend of the President's today?" Second, Jennings asked: "Can you answer in ten seconds why he waited seven-and-a-half-months before telling the truth?" That allowed Stephanopoulos to deliver this benign spin: "I don't think he wanted to confront the truth about that relationship. It was a very tough human problem and he just didn't want to face it."


-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather portrayed Hillary Clinton as some kind of surprised spouse suddenly angry about her husband's infidelity: "Now for her part, First Lady Hillary Clinton remains staunch first defender. The Reverend Jesse Jackson talked around midnight with Mrs. Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, and also with the President. Jackson said the President, quote, [on-screen] 'would rather face the grand jury and press...with their... hostility... than...face Hillary and Chelsea with THEIR hostility. Fortunately...they are greeting him...with devotion,' unquote."

Bill Plante painted a picture of Hillary the humiliated: "Dan, if there is anyone for whom this day is as difficult as it is for the President, it is his wife. Bill Clinton stands to be embarrassed by what he says today, but Hillary Rodham Clinton stands to be humiliated....Six days after the scandal first broke, the First Lady was asked on the Today show if people should expect the President to resign if he had committed adultery and lied about it. She stood by him."
Hillary Clinton: "If all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true."
Plante: "Friends of Mrs. Clinton say that she probably didn't know back then whether Lewinsky's story was true. Now, however, sources say the First Lady is aware that her husband is changing his story."

Houston to CBS: Does anyone really believe she's so stupid that she just discovered the charges about Lewinsky are true?

Plante concluded: "Their friends say that despite everything that's happened in the past, the Clintons are mortified that their private lives have become a very public moral and legal issue. But they blame Kenneth Starr for that, not Bill Clinton, so that may make things between them a little easier as they head off for two weeks of vacation."

Matching that theme, Rather next asked former Clinton speech writer, U.S. News editor and now CBS News consultant, Don Baer: "Now, there've been these reports, so far as you can tell, true or untrue, that Mrs. Clinton, up to this time, has been urging taking on Ken Starr frontally. True or untrue?"

Doesn't sound like someone so much "humiliated" by her husband as someone excited by an opportunity to use an event to hurl unsubstantiated charges at her political enemies.


-- CNN's 8pm ET special titled "Investigating the President." Garrick Utley wondered what all the fuss is about:
"The reaction I pick up from overseas is: 'Oh you Americans make to much about sex we do this in France we do this in other countries it's never reported it's not an issue.' True enough. But the other and in a way more telling point that they make is that we Americans have lost a sense of proportion. This is not worth this attention. This press coverage. This special investigation. That somewhere we've loss a sense of balance and have lost our senses."


-- FNC's Fox Report. Uniquely, anchor Jon Scott ruminated to reporter Jim Angle: "We heard David Kendall, the President's lawyer, say the President testified truthfully. He didn't add the word that usually follows that which is 'completely,' suggesting perhaps that he didn't answer all the questions as David Shuster has mentioned."
Angle elaborated on how Clinton may not have been forthcoming, an angle not picked up so explicitly by the other networks: "Well, in fact, that is what the White House has been saying, that the President would testify truthfully and completely and you're right, Mr. Kendall did not use completely and we are told that the President did not answer some questions, that he refused to answer some questions. There were even some matters of privilege that were raised. In fact, you know if you look at the timeline here the President, Ken Starr was here for five and a half hours and we're told that the President only testified for little more than four. That suggests that there was an hour and a half here for breaks, which would have been very short, and perhaps for some wrangling between the lawyers over privilege matters, over the kind of questions that were asked and perhaps for the President's refusal to answer some of them."


-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened with a plea to Ken Starr: "The President testifies. Making history at the White House. President Clinton under oath answering questions from Kenneth Starr about Monica Lewinsky. Did the President have sexual relations with her? Did he lie about it? Or ask anyone else to lie about it? Will Ken Starr let it end here? And the First Family. Hillary Clinton and Chelsea. What do they know? When and how did they learn the difficult truth?"

David Bloom relayed how "The President, Jackson said, takes comfort from Psalm 51. 'Have mercy on me oh God, and cleanse me from my sin.'"

Later, like Bill Plante, Andrea Mitchell portrayed a weekend of humiliation and surprise for Hillary:
"Over a weekend of public humiliation and private pain sources tell NBC News she helped her husband prepare first to admit to adultery to Ken Starr, the man they both view as a mortal enemy, then to face the nation and most difficult of all to explain all this to her daughter. How does she do it? Jesse Jackson was with the First Family last night."
After a clip of Jackson, Mitchell continued: "For three days newspaper headlines had telegraphed messages from anonymous advisors. The President was about to change his story. Friends say the Clintons had a difficult, frosty private talk over the weekend when she learned the real details of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. But then she geared up for battle as she has since the scandal first broke."
Viewers saw a soundbite from Hillary Clinton's Today interview denying the charge before Mitchell went on: "Friends say she's known all along something happened but no details so chose to believe her husband's early denials."

So, she knew she was lying on the Today show. But, to believe Mitchell's tale, you'd have to assume Hillary is an incredibly dumb woman. Mitchell contended: "The turning point, Monica Lewinsky's dress. Past accusers were easier to dismiss. This time, say First Lady's friends, there was potential evidence impossible to ignore leading finally to her husband's admissions this weekend. Ironically Hillary Clinton's role in this scandal has boosted her popularity. But tonight with her husband's admissions the First Lady will find it much harder to blame political enemies for creating these problems."

4

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) What a difference a few days make. Just last Thursday Lanny Davis insisted Bill Clinton has a record of being "candid" about his fidelity.

On the August 13 Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee, as transcribed by MRC analyst Clay Waters, pressed: "The President told us that he was speaking truthfully when he denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers. And then last fall he admitted that he did have a sexual relationship with her, and with all due respect, Mr. Davis, to you and the presidency, what will 'truthfully' mean on Monday?"
Lanny Davis contended: "Well, you've just misquoted words, and words are important. What he said in the 60 Minutes interview is not consistent with what you just said. He did admit more to the American people publicly than most husbands admit privately. And I think he has a record of being candid on this subject. He will be truthful and I believe the American people are now in perspective looking at the record of Mr. Starr. Forty million dollars and five years...."
McRee jumped in: "But he did, just to go back, he did mislead us. We were under the impression, as the American people, that he did not have an affair. He said he made mistakes in his marriage, but he wouldn't say that he had an affair with her. And so people are wondering what 'truthfully' will mean."

5

cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Sunday night Newsweek's Eleanor Clift claimed she knew all along that Clinton had done something "inappropriate," but she never bothered to tell anyone earlier. A New York City source not affiliated with FNC alerted the MRC's Tim Graham to her comments on a special pre-testimony edition on August 16 of FNC's O'Reilly Factor.

O'Reilly asked her: "Now, if the President does say tomorrow that he had an inappropriate relationship with Miss Lewinsky, as sources say he will, that is going to go against what you said on this broadcast a number of times that you did believe the President when he said he didn't have any sex with Miss Lewinsky. Does that make you personally feel bad?"
Clift: "Well, first of all, I, like many Americans, figured out months ago that something inappropriate went on between these two people that the President was embarrassed to talk about."
O'Reilly: "Why didn't you fill us in on that?"
Clift: "I never said I absolutely believed no sex went on. I am not that naive."

Compare her sudden realization to what she asserted just three weeks ago. Here's an exchange from the July 25 McLaughlin Group:

Clift: "If he told the truth the first time he should stick with it. If he's got adjustments to make, now's the time."
John McLaughlin: "So you think, you think that he will leave things the way they are because it is your feeling that he told the truth, right?"
Clift: "My feeling is that he told the truth and I know on this set there is an entire presumption of guilt. Read the words carefully. What did he admit to? Read the words carefully. What did he admit to?"

A presumption of guilt now fulfilled. -- Brent Baker


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